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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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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

Determine the quality of your life – today!

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.
~ Tony Robbins

Do you agree with Tony Robins – do we determine our own lives by how we communicate?

 Communications impact our lives

I included that quote in my June newsletter* (which was themed on quality) because I think we can control our lives to a certain extent by how we communicate.

If you are always sad and complaining, you’re unlikely to be inundated with invitations to parties and fun events – and you’re therefore likely to feel sadder.

If you are friendly and polite, showing respect for others no matter the circumstances, people will respect you and be more likely to help you. Never underestimate the power of a smile or a thank you…

If you complain and can’t see the silver lining anywhere, you may stop yourself from being creative and finding a solution or an innovation to change (your) world.

If you take no care in how your business communicates in writing, some potential clients will judge you poorly and go elsewhere for a professional service. Thus the effort (or lack thereof) determines how many clients you have and your business income and overall success.

If you always frame things in a positive way and take care what you communicate about (eg avoid gossip and criticisms), the odds are you will feel better and attract interested and interesting people. You will also have a positive mindset and spot more opportunities.

These are simplistic examples, but no less true for that.

It is a choice how we communicate. And how we communicate does influence our lives.

Should communications replace 42 as the answer?

Effective communications above 42 as the answer

Which way do you weight effective communications?

Well, it’s hard to implement 42 so communications is certainly a more actionable answer to life, the universe and everything!

We can choose to communicate better – by learning new words, more about expressing words (from grammar to using ‘you’ more than ‘me’), developing our listening skills and practising our writing skills as good starting points.

However, I don’t think communications alone makes a great life. There’s also hard work, learning and being a good person.

What do you think are the important factors in ensuring you have the best life you can?

Do you have any examples from your business on how communications directly affected the outcome or quality of an outcome?

 

* If you like reading inspirational and/or thought-provoking quotes, I include one  every month when I write my newsletter, business writing ideas. To keep the quote company, I also write some tips on business communications and improve a real life example of bad writing. Subscribing is simple – just fill in the form on my site.

 

Consistency over stats

consistency for baseball battingIn baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.” – Tom Seaver

I rediscovered this quote from my August 2009 newsletter, along with my article on consistency, and thought it worth highlighting again.

What is consistency?

Before discussing what consistency means within a business, here is the definition:

consistency: applying to the same principles or guidelines, not contradicting

mussaman curry is the same everywhere

Mussaman curry has a consistent taste & ingredients

In simpler terms, consistency means made up of the same things. So being consistent in a restaurant means always using the same ingredients for a dish – swapping fish into a beef curry gives a different result and is not consistent.

How would a restaurant survive if some dishes are made with care while others are put together quickly? The lack of consistency would confuse diners – and those getting a poor dish the first time may never return.

For business communications, consistency means making all the words, images, layouts and messages work together with the same look and feel, the same overall style. If everything is consistent, the background message remains the same regardless of the specifics of each piece of writing.

Consistency over stats

It’s easy to get distracted and try something new in the hope of fast results.

For example, some people get caught up in the number of visitors coming to their blog and hear that more posts means more traffic.

So they write two posts a day instead of three a week but time is limited so many posts are written fast with less care. Traffic may rise initially with the more frequent posts, but people won’t come back as often if they can’t rely on the quality of posts.

It may be slower, but three consistently good posts will attract more loyal readers than one good and nine poor posts a week.

Have you ever worried over the numbers at the sake of quality and consistency?

Maybe you have been a customer of a business that got distracted from consistency – how did that affect your relationship with the business?

Editing guest blog posts

Accepting guest blog posts for your blog can be a win-win-win situation if they are good quality posts.

Sometimes you will receive guest blog posts that are pretty good but not quite at the standard you want for your blog.

I know I have read blog posts that have great ideas and tips but are poorly written or posts that seem good but don’t quite develop the ideas enough to be useful.

The temptation is therefore to edit the posts so they also read well or make their intended point.

Is it ok to edit guest posts?

Yes and no!Adapting blog posts to suit he blog

If the guest blogger has made a simple error or two (for example you instead of your, busniess instead of business, or copywrite instead of copyright), then I would fix it for them.

A good writer would prefer you to fix that (or ask them to) then let them have public errors. And may not realise you have made the changes if they don’t go back to their original.

However, it is still polite to let them know you edited their work.

On the other hand, if the post has numerous and/or more serious issues, it is not ok to edit it without the author’s consent.

Remember that the guest blogger’s name will be with that piece so they have the right to know it is in their words – and you also enter into legal issues for what is called moral rights.

I think there are three ways you can get an edited post:

  1. Return it to the author with an explanation of what is wrong and ask if they are happy for you to edit it – offering to get their approval before publishing of course
  2. Edit it and return it to the author for approval before publishing it – make sure you introduce the subject nicely as some people will be offended at you doing this
  3. Ask them to edit it (and ideally explain why it needs editing so they have an idea of what to change)

Some blogs have a policy stating that they can edit the post before it goes live. Even with such a policy, I would not advise doing heavy edits to someone’s work without giving them the power to accept/reject those changes.

If you submit a guest post, how would you like the host blogger to deal with your work if it contained errors?

Recognising an ineffective guest blog post

Good guest blog posts can be a great tool in your blog. However, as I wrote last week, low quality posts can be detrimental.

So what makes a low quality blog post low quality?Fail key for bad content

Here is a list of errors and faults I have seen in recent blog posts:

  1. the post is simply poorly written – I’ve seen poor sentence construction, multiple ideas squeezed into one confused sentence, changes of tense (future to past, etc) and lack of flow from one sentence or paragraph to the next
  2. poor use of sub-headings and bullet points – one I recently saw had bullet points appearing as sub-headings that didn’t actually make sense (maybe that is another blog post for me to write!)
  3. rambling – we all ramble a bit when we’re talking to friends, but rambling in a blog post wastes people’s time and often indicates you don’t know the topic well. It certainly shows you didn’t plan the post nor edit it well.
  4. using unnecessary, impressive words or misusing words makes the post very hard to read and understand
  5. rehashed content that is boring – using the same content over and over is not interesting. The post needs to contain new information or a new perspective on it
  6. using inaccurate data is not good for credibility at any time, but using incorrect data that the audience will spot as incorrect is just stupid or lazy. If you get the basics wrong, why should anyone trust your ideas and opinions?
  7. support of illegal/immoral/stupid things to do. I don’t like reading blog posts encouraging spinning articles (using the same content over and over with just enough changes to make them appear different), spamming people or using black hat (i.e. generally disliked by search engines and people) SEO tactics – there’s no way I would let a guest blogger put something like that in my blog as I value my honesty and credibility.
  8. A combination of the above! If one factor makes it look bad, imagine my response to multiple factors…
What other things have you noticed in poor guest blog posts? Or poor blog posts in general for that matter!

Cheap writing services

Pen writing on a blank pageI was just reviewing the Love Santa blog for my client, including cleaning up the spam folder. In amongst the other spam was one offering a writing service based on one cent per word ($5 for a 500 word article!) from (apparently) US residents.

It annoyed me on a number of levels:

  • who would think they will get quality results from a $5 article? Those prices are just cheap and nasty
  • implying that because someone lives in the USA they have good English and can write professionally is just ridiculous – what about immigrants for starters? And even those who speak and understand good English may not be any good at writing it
  • nobody should be paid such low wages and my conscience wouldn’t let me buy such work. A 500 word article on a topic I know well would take me at least 20 minutes – and I write fast. A topic that requires more thought and some research would obviously take longer. So at best, they are offering $15 an hour and not many would make that much is my belief.
As a business person, I also don’t think much of their marketing. If promoting your services to a blogger, why not offer blog writing instead of article writing? Promoting your service will generally do better if you give some benefit or value to your offering, not just listing a very cheap price.
How about you – would you grab such a cheap offer if it was presented to you as an unrelated comment in your blog?

Making your blog quality

Often, I read about the importance of quantity for blog posts – that is, there is a message to write frequently in your blog to make it successful. And I have to disagree with that message.

Oh, there is no argument that a certain number of posts and some regularity is necessary to get traffic to your blog and search engines ranking you. And for regular readers it does help to have a pattern to posting or at least multiple posts a week.

But having five or more posts a week that are boring or trashy is not going to get you a lot of repeat visitors either.

Good quality blog posts that engage people is what will bring people back to your blog. That can be done in many ways (informative, descriptive, entertaining and so on) as long as people are interested in what you are writing. Quality posts may or may not generate a lot of conversation (ie comments), but they will achieve the usual aims of a blog – sharing ideas, showing expertise and communicating with real people.

I would much rather read an informative blog post once a month than visit a blog every day to read some drivel churned out – how about you?

How does this affect your blogging time? Well in reality writing one good post shouldn’t take much longer than three or five short, nonsense posts so don’t assume quality means more of your precious time. Remember a quality post can also be short…