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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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Finding value in old content

I’ve written a lot of blog posts and newsletter articles. Hopefully I’m not the only one who thinks there is valuable information amongst my writing and that people have learnt a thing or two from me!

So to reshare some of that past information, I see two options – copy it to make it appear recent or refer to it.

Copying old content

It is an interesting question – should you grab old content and just paste it in as a new blog post or newsletter article?

I prefer to offer new information so someone could theoretically read back through all my posts and not read the same piece twice.

I guess I’m a bit of a purist as pretending old content is new seems like cheating to me, but I accept that most of us need to save time – and it isn’t always easy to think of new things to write about.

However, I see bigger reasons to not copy old content forward. For one, my old content is still available where it is so anyone can search for it if they’re after that topic. It seems a little silly to copy it across so it could show up in twice in a search – and wouldn’t do my credibility much good, either. Then there is the duplicate content punishment it could potentially get from Google and friends.

Writing by quill and candle light

Old content still has value despite technology advances

If we’re talking about a post from at least a couple of years ago, I would think an update is often a good idea anyway. Things change quickly in this technological age – an article on online marketing five years ago would have excluded Twitter and Pinterest so that article would be out of date and less valuable now.

Referring to old content

I much prefer referring back to old content.

In fact, I do it all the time by adding links to my blog posts and newsletters that lead back to older posts so people can get further, related information.

Instead of copying across an old post, I think it’s more valuable to link back to that post and expand on that topic or give an update. Going back to out online marketing example, I could write a new blog post along the lines of “Back in 2007 I wrote about online marketing. With the introduction and growth of new social media channels, it is now time to update my list of marketing options.” I don’t have to rewrite all of the old content because the link does that for me.

Social media itself provides another way to reshare old content – it is just as easy to tweet a link to an old post as a new one, for example.

Resharing my old content

At the start of each month, I send out my newsletter.

Starting now, at the end of each month I will look back at some old content from that same month (for example, in May I will refer back to something I wrote in May in a previous year).

Some of that content may need updating, other bits won’t as grammar and good writing doesn’t change the same way technology and business practises can.

So look out for some reshared ideas on Thursday…

And you?

How do you share your old content?

What do you think about seeing old content?

Is copying content across as if new a time saver or not-quite-right? Would anyone even notice?

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?

Tell others about you

There are two main reasons people visit a website – they want information on a topic or they want information about the business behind the site.

So why do some sites avoid sharing anything about themselves?

Add an about us page to your website and blog

About us page Word ConstructionsAs Chris Lake wrote, an about us page “is surely one of the only true rules of doing business online. I can think of no good reason why you wouldn’t have one.”

An about us page can be very simple but it can make a huge difference to people thinking of doing business with you.

For a stand alone blog, it lets readers know who is writing the posts – for instance, is it a business or an individual, is it by an expert or someone learning the topic, or is the blog focussed on a specific topic or just a collection of ideas.

For a business website, it can build enough credibility for me to do business with you – or not.

How ‘about us’ can build credibility

  1. you are being open and transparent compared to making me wonder why you are hiding things – no name on a website instantly makes me suspicious
  2. providing history shows the business is more than a fly-by-night – if you’ve been in business for a few years, you must have done something right!
  3. explaining how the business began or the passion behind the business will certainly give me a believe in the intent of the business and its owners
  4. introducing team members can give me an idea of what skills are available for me as a potential client
  5. listing values or just writing a personal story can show the company culture

I have an about us page on my website and as part of my blog, even though they are on the same domain, so it is easy for people to read about me and my business. I wonder if I’m brave enough to ask if you have read either of them!

How important is an about us page when you are assessing a potential supplier or service provider?

Blog editing policies

The editing of guest blog posts is a perfect example of a blog policy.

It gives the host blog some control over the standard of posts accepted. The host blogger can accept great post ideas and make sure they read well.

Specific policies are more effective

Many blog policies include something like

All guest blog posts may be edited before publishing.

As a potential guest blogger, that makes me nervous. What will they edit? Will they tell me they have edited it before it is published? What if their edits include poor grammar/expression so it looks like I made those mistakes?

As a host blogger, I would feel uncomfortable taking advantage of such a policy and making huge changes to someone else’s post. I would also start to think it would have been easier to write my own post on the topic!

I prefer a more specific policy, such as

Guest blog posts may be edited for spelling and basic grammar.

For full transparency and relationships building, I would add an extra sentence, too:

We will get your approval on any edits other than typo corrections

If you’re submitting guest posts, which blog would you choose if the only difference was in their editing policies?

Blog policies

Blog policies (or guidelines) are simply a set of rules that control your blog.

A blog policy does not have to just be for guest bloggers – it is just how your blog operates. If you do accept guest blog posts (regularly or periodically), make a specific section for guest blog policies.

Having policies can

  1. help you make decisions
    For example, if your policy is to be wholly Australian, it is easy to decide against international advertisers
  2. save people asking you questions
    Policies stating you don’t have advertising or guest blog posts mean fewer people will ask if you will accept their ad or post
  3. reduce arguments
    A no profanity policy is all you need to point out after editing the swearing out of someone’s comment or guest blog post
  4. give comfort to someone looking for information about your and your business
    For instance, if you offer lessons to children, I will trust you more to see your blog is family friendly and moderated
  5. add to your professionalism
    A policy shows you have thought about your blog and what it represents.

Have you made decisions about any blogs based on their policies?

Blog update preferences

How do you like to be updated about new blog posts from your favourite posts?

Get blog post updatesYou can just visit the blog regularly in the hope of finding new posts and not missing anything good, or you can make use of technology to let you know about new posts:

  1. RSS feed will collate all new posts from your listed blogs in one place
  2. tweets from the blogger
  3. an email sent from the blog
  4. Facebook, Google + or linkedIn status updates
  5. links in the blogger’s newsletters
  6. updates from places like Google Alerts and Wotnews

Does your preference change for different types of blogs or different frequency of posts?

PS I offer all of points 1 to 5 to keep readers informed about my blog as I like to make it easy for you to learn about good business communications. So follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook, subscribe to my newsletter, sign up for emails (form at the top of right hand column) or grab my RSS feed!

Blog post linking

In a recent blog post, Anna Cairo stated that many links to other blogs can theoretically make your blog successful – rather than just the blog itself.

Working together through linksSo how does linking to other blogs help your blog?

  1. you provide additional information for your readers which they will appreciate – especially if you link to someone who gives a different perspective or technical input to your blog
  2. you can support your opinions and knowledge with other posts to build your credibility
  3. search engines give you credit for outgoing links when assessing your blog’s ranking so linking to others, especially other good blogs and posts, is good for your SEO
  4. the people you link to will probably appreciate your links. Many of them will leave a comment in your blog or return the favour by linking to your blog
  5. others’ blog posts can inspire ideas for your own post so why not link back to the post that inspired you? Either as a courtesy or as a means of introducing the issue you are posting about (i.e. it saves you writing out a detailed background for your post)
  6. your blog is more interesting if it has variety and links off to relevant materials, whether on your site or elsewhere – and people are more likely to share interesting posts and blogs than boring ones!

So when is the last time you linked to another blog within one of your blog posts?

Replying to blog comments

Speech bubbles are part of conversationBlogging is part of social media and is about communication. The only way it can become a conversation, however, is to encourage comments about the posts in the blog.

Comments are sometimes just as acknowledgement that you are reading the post but often people leave comments that enhance what was written in the post – the conversation and comments can sometimes teach  and entertain as much as the post itself.

So here are some basic guidelines to replying to comments:

  1.  in your own blog, a key to encouraging more comments is to reply to every comment you get. It can be a short ‘hello’ or thank you’ but it shows you appreciate comments and the people behind them
  2. always be respectful and polite in comments – you don’t have to agree every time but respect the fact that others have a different opinion to you
  3. before replying to a post, read through the existing comments – apart from the fact you may learn something, this gives you the opportunity to discuss the issues with others and to not just repeat a comment made by someone else.
    If here are a LOT of existing comments that you don’t read, acknowledge that to show you have noted that and may be repeating what someone else has said.
  4. When replying to another commenter, make it clear that is who you are talking to – threaded comments make this easy but otherwise use the person’s name
  5. it isn’t always possible, but try to make your comment interesting and useful – give a personal example or opinion about the topic, answer a question asked in the post or give some additional, relevant information. This expands the conversation, builds your credibility and makes it less likely your comment will be considered spam
  6. if you  write guest blog posts, treat it like your own blog – aim to reply to every person who comments on your post. You have written the post as the expert so need to be available to answer questions; blogs are about people and community so it comes across as arrogant to not reply to people discussing your ideas. From a business perspective, doing guest posts is about building relationships and expertise, so not answering comments is loosing an opportunity.
  7. never make a comment an ad for your own business/services/products. It just annoys people and makes it likely your comment will be deleted as spam. Give tips and advice, mention you have expertise and link to your site but remember that  this is someone’s blog, not your personal ad directory, and that people don’t read blogs and comments for ads.

From comments you’ve seen and blogs you admire, are there any other guidelines to add to my list?

Social media choice

Which social media platform(s) do you find useful for your business?

Twitter or Facebook?

I have seen a number of discussions on this topic recently, in blogs and forums, and most people have answered in favour of Twitter or Facebook, with some being against the other. Other sites get little mention or are listed as additional channels.

It intrigues me that people still consider Twitter to be about what someone had for breakfast and won’t look at it while swearing by Facebook as a business tool. Both sites can be used seriously or frivolously – you can choose to not like/follow anything you think is nonsense.

My personal experience is that business people share a lot of information and resources on Twitter while Facebook is great for products and consumer services that people can relate to in ‘their time’ rather than in ‘work time’.

I heard it summed up nicely by Tom Webster (of Brand Savant) recently when he said (paraphrased) “Facebook is for sharing with people you know while the other platforms are for sharing with people you don’t know.”

Benefits to business

As a B2B business, having my information shared widely is valuable so Twitter suits  that need. I also like reading what other B2B people share as I can learn from it. Reading what friends share on Facebook may be interesting or fun, but generally doesn’t teach me business skills or knowledge.

One set of  statistics* I found interesting is:

Comparison of social media platforms for B2B and B2C results

B2B 39% & B2C 53% have acquired a customer via Twitter
B2B 41% & B2C 67% have acquired a customer via Facebook
B2B 61% & B2C 39% have acquired a customer via LinkedIn
B2B 55% & B2C 63% have acquired a customer via their business blog

It clearly shows that LinkedIn is more about professional links rather than leading to consumers. But more relevant for now is that Facebook works much better for B2C than B2B, and Twitter and Facebook have produced similar results for B2B users.

Those figures also make it obvious that a blog is still a very useful tool for both B2B and B2C – with the advantage of complete control of the blog and content (social media platforms can and do change).

Your social media experiences

How do you use social media as a consumer/client? Where would you look for a business in social media?

What results have you seen from social media for your business?

*From HubSpot State of Inbound  Marketing Report 2011 (2012 version due out soon)