Promote Your Blog Effectively with These 12 Easy Steps

There are thousands of blogs out there making the web a very noisy place. If you think you have something that is unique in your blog, you should make the effort to promote it. These days, the old saying that “If you build it, they will come” does not apply.

Promoting is all about gaining exposure and it is much easier to do if you optimize your blog first (10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Business Blog).

In a noisy place such as the web, you need to promote your blog in order to be heard.

Now that your blog is optimized, let’s go through some of the ways you can promote your blog yourself, and help your fans do the same.

1. Leverage your existing connections. Ask your exiting network of friends and clients to share your posts with their own networks via email or social media. People are more likely to take a recommendation from a friend over that of a stranger or advertisement.

2. Connect with influential bloggers in your industry. Mention them and their work in your posts and on your social media sites. Doing this will encourage them to check out what you have to say as well, and maybe get them to share your posts with their own networks.

3. Promote your posts on all social media sites as soon as they are published. Also, make sure each of your posts includes sharing buttons to enable readers to easily share your content.

4. Include website banners with calls-to-action on your website. These carefully crafted statements should invite visitors to subscribe to your blog.

5. Include a link to your blog in your email signature. Doing this will drive a surprising amount of people to click and check out what else you have to say. But don’t stop there, include this link on your business cards, stationary and all your social media profiles as well.

6. Make a video and post it on YouTube. A creative video that describes what you write about is a great way to attract a new audience.

7. Increase your blogging frequency. In a noisy place such as the web, you need to ensure you stay top of mind with your current clients, and get noticed by new potential clients. Nothing will do this better than blogging regularly and frequently.

8. Make it easy for people to join the conversation. Avoid making visitors register before they can leave a comment on one of your posts. You want to start a conversation and if you put up barriers, it will significantly affect the number of people who join in.

9. Register yourself with other bloggers’ commenting systems. First, this will create a link back to your blog. Second, by commenting on other people’s blogs you are joining their conversation circle which builds your credibility and visibility.

10. Promote your older posts. Identify your most popular posts, make sure the information contained within is still relevant and share them again. Your new followers may not have read these yet.

11. Include a list of your most popular posts on your “About” page. New visitors to your site will be prompted to read your best work first which will increase the chances that they will become subscribers.

12. Respond in a timely fashion to comments on your posts. This is what social media is all about – developing relationships and connections. Your blog should be an invitation into a conversation. Not responding to comments makes your readers feel as though they are listening to a monologue and they will quickly lose interest.

Patience is a virtue that all bloggers must have – or develop. It takes time to build a following. If you want results, you must be consitent and determined. Start promoting your blog with these 12 easy steps and you will soon begin to see your following grow.

All you bloggers out there: do you have any other tips on how to effectively promote a blog? What has worked for you?

10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Business Blog

Blogging is good for business and most companies know it. According to Hubspot’s  annual State of Inbound Marketing Study, in 2012 81% of businesses indicated that their company blog is USEFUL, IMPORTANT or CRITICAL to their business. The reasons for blogging are plentiful but most businesses will agree that a company blog will:

  • bring more high quality traffic to your website and more qualified leads
  • position you as a thought leader in your field and gain you the trust of your audience
  • increase your visibility and keep you top of mind in your industry
  • be a great platform to showcase your expertise
  • help with Search Engine Optimization by creating more indexed pages on the web for your company website
  • be the first thing that a potential customer sees about your company
  • be the least expensive way to generate leads

So now you know that a blog is imporant to your business. But how do you create a quality blog that people will want to read, and subscribe to?

Here is a list of 10 tips for how to optimize your blog and make it a great resource for your customers, and a great source of leads for you:

1. Post frequently. Data shows that the more often you post, the more likely you are to acquire a new customer through your blog.

2. Create anticipation. No matter how often you blog, you should post your content at the same time and on the same days of the week. This will create anticipation from those readers who are active followers.

Put together, these tips will help optimize your business blog.

3. Include key terms in your blog titles. Think of words or terms that people searching for information about your industry would enter into search engines.

4. Make your title attention-grabbing. People read blogs because they want to learn about something. Posts with titles on “How to…” or “What not to do when…” are a hit. Also make sure your title is clear and that it reveals what the post is about. Don’t keep your readers guessing.

5. Categorize and tag your posts with key words. This will make segmenting your audience easier. People will search your blog for content using key words and this will reveal only the posts that are relevant to them.

6. Include social media buttons on every post. This allows readers to share your content among their own networks and it helps spread the reach of your blog.

7. Include a visual in every post. Readers’ eyes will be drawn to it and it will help entice them to read the written content.

8. Make the text visually appealing. Online reading is different from reading a book so you must break up the text. Readers need to be able to scan your content for the important points so use bullet points, highlighted text and bolded or bigger fonts. Also, make sure there are some key takeaways and actionable steps to take in order to solve a problem.

9. Be creative. Boring subjects don’t have to be presented in boring ways. Humour always helps but you can also use visuals to add interest to your posts. Fun photos, cartoons or infographics are all ways to create interest in the written content.

10. Ask readers what they want to read about. Develop a survey that you can send to your existing customers to get their perspective on topics they want to know more about. You can also ask about the type of content delivery they prefer (ie video, audio, text, etc).

Starting a blog does not mean you will automatically have an audience. Since so many businesses now see the value of blogging, it becomes harder to be heard among all that noise. The key is not to get frustrated if the quality content you are developing does not get the attention you hoped for. Start by implementing the above tips for optimizing your blog. In the next post, I will cover how you can promote your optimized blog to increase readership and followers.

Why Write?

Many small business owners still struggle to embrace social media as part of their marketing strategy. In particular, many of them resist the idea of writing original content and they are adamant that they could never find enough to write about in a blog or that they do not have anything useful to say. I am always shocked to speak to an accomplished individual who runs a successful business and claims to not have anything of value to share with the world!

Of course, I do understand that sometimes it is uncomfortable to have your opinions out there for anyone to read and to subsequently critique. You can worry about how you may look, what others will think of you and what will happen if someone happens to disagree with you. But these worries are extremely self-limiting!

A lack of self-confidence can also be a problem. There are some people who prefer not to speak up if they feel that they do not have enough knowledge on a topic. They are afraid that someone who is an expert on the subject will call them out on it and it will be embarrassing. But one only needs to read a few op-eds written in the major newspapers to see that often the author of an editorial has merely an opinion on a subject and not any special expertise.

Small businesses will benefit from writing original and relevant content frequently.

Small business owners shouldn’t be so modest or afraid to speak up. Here are 5 reasons why writing will help your business – and ultimately your confidence:

1. Writers gain visibility in their industry. By producing fresh and quality content for their website, business owners will be rewarded with frequent search engine visits that increase their number of indexed pages on the web. Customers conducting a search on the internet are therefore more likely to find the website. If the content on the site is inspiring, this will also make people want to share it with others via numerous social media sites. This is like free advertising!

2. Writing increases your credibility which then allows you to price yourself higher. The best way to position yourself as an industry expert is by writing and sharing quality content. It shows you keep up with what is going on in your industry and it communicates this to your audience. Everyone knows that “experts” – real or perceived – will charge more for their services, often because they are in high demand.

3. Written pieces lead to speaking and teaching engagements, book and sometimes even movie deals. Even if you are not looking to star in the next Hollywood movie, speaking at a conference or teaching a workshop is certainly a great way to make extra income, as well as build your business or brand.

4. Writing ensures that you get your voice heard. This is especially important if you have a minority voice – if you are a woman in a male dominated industry for example (or vice versa). By writing and sharing your opinions, you will help minorities get an equal share of voice.

5. Writing unlocks your expertise so others can benefit. Afterall, writing shouldn’t always be about self-promotion. But being selfless with your knowledge will probably pay off for you too…not only with more customers, but with more LOYAL customers.

If you own and run a business that you claim has a unique selling proposition, you probably have a lot to share with potential customers. You are an expert in your field and it would be a shame if you didn’t share this with the world. Someone out there is listening…or reading…and wants to know more – go ahead and give them the answers they are searching for.

Book Review – “Platform” by Michael Hyatt

When I bought this book, I was hoping to learn about how to grow my following on my blog, Twitter, and also how to help my Realtor husband do the same on his social media platforms. I am a Twitter and blogging “newbie”, but in the last few months I feel that I have caught on to the basics fairly quickly. I felt ready to try some specific tactics in order to increase my number of followers.

I chose Michael Hyatt’s book “Platform” because it promised to help the reader attract the right audience for anyone who is wanting to say or sell something, and who wants to get noticed in a very noisy world.  It is about social networking.

I felt the beginning of the book was geared to “creatives” – artists, writers, etc. This almost lost me as a reader and if I wasn’t on vacation in the land of no Wifi, I admittedly would have downloaded another book to enjoy. But I am glad that I persevered and got through the first couple of sections because the advice on blogging was excellent.

Michael does a great job illustrating why blogging is such an important part of your personal brand.  It helps establish your credibility, grow a following of fans, and gives you the opportunity to connect with those fans regularly by providing them with useful content.

He also offers a lot of advice and step by step guidance on how to grow your following, how to make your blog better and more interesting to readers and what pitfalls to avoid. I have already implemented some of these ideas into my blog and although the results are not immediate, I feel better organized and focused with my efforts.

I also liked the portion of the book which focused on Twitter, though a lot of the tips and tricks are meant for those who are very new, or are not yet, Twitter users. Having been a Twitter user for a few months now, I found very little useful advice to implement here. To his defence, the author does mention several times that he assumes the reader knows nothing about Twitter.

I was disappointed with the lack of material about Facebook pages for business however. Michael mentions he does not see Facebook as an important part of a successful social media strategy so he chose not to cover that topic in detail.

In short, I think there are better resources out there if you are looking for Twitter help, or more comprehensive social media strategy advice or tips.  In fact, I would almost edit the book entirely to focus the entire thing on blogging and take the other sections out since the book did not do these subjects justice.

I would however, definitely recommend this book for anyone who is looking to grow their blog following. Michael’s advice is written in short, concise sections, it is easily implemented and has a focus on quality and patience – and you need plenty of both when trying to grow a solid and substantial blog following.

If you are interested in reading Michael Hyatt’s book Platform, you can order your copy HERE.

Why I’d Like to See More of my Friends on Twitter

I started using Twitter a few months ago while I was on maternity leave, but it didn’t take me long to become an addict. For a long time I didn’t think I needed to be present on yet another social networking site. But I quickly found that the culture of Twitter is very different from Facebook or LinkedIn – both of which I use and enjoy for different reasons.

I go on Facebook to see photos of my friends’ kids, their vacations and other events because Facebook makes it easy to scan visuals. I go on LinkedIn to get career and professional updates for my work connections and industry. I now use Twitter to get the real time information about the people and things that I find interesting.

Image

Twitter is a great way to stay connected with friends and family.

The only thing that is disappointing about that, is how few of my friends and family members actually use it.  So if you are not yet posting on Twitter, here are some reasons why I think it is a great place to meet up:

It’s about what is going on NOW.  Following someone on Twitter allows you to see what is holding their attention at the moment. What article or book they are reading and what they think of it, what restaurant they are experiencing, what is making them laugh, or think, or crazy right now. It’s a great way to get to know a different side of someone.

It’s quick and responsive. It can feel a lot like a conversation.

A 140 character limit forces everyone to be concise and to-the-point. There is no room for pontification or one-sided conversations which makes it easy for introverts like me to have an equal share of voice!

Easy to keep up with friends and family. Everyone is busy these days which makes it hard to stay in touch with each person individually. Twitter makes it possible to have multiple conversations going at the same time and have multiple people involved too.

It’s even faster than texting. And with the ability to have other friends or family included on the conversation, it makes everything that much faster.

You see a new side of the people you know or follow. Sometimes you only see certain friends when doing certain activities (running with your running group for example).  It’s nice to see what happens in their life outside of running. This is a great way to accelerate a budding relationship.

Grow your network and your friendships. That running partner you see twice each week has a really nice husband that you don’t get to meet. Twitter can allow you to “meet” and maybe even become friends with him too!

Keep up with what others are talking about. I have already found out about great books to read, great blogs to follow, great restaurants to try (and the best items on the menu to order) as well as places to avoid! I respect the opinions of my friends over the reviews of strangers because I know that these opinions are authentic.

It’s great entertainment. Twitter is like watching reality TV with your friends and family as the stars. You get to know people you care about from a completely different perspective and context.

I am not suggesting that Twitter is a substitute for real relationships – nothing can replace personal time spent together – but it can enhance the relationships you have and create new ones as well.  So, friends and family – meet you later on Twitter?

Social Media for the Small Business

Many owners of small businesses are finding themselves in a tough spot.  It’s not enough that they have to juggle all the responsibilities of running their operations, but they are now being increasingly bombarded with messages that pressure them to have a presence on social media sites.  Although most people will know about, or have their own personal Facebook account, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding Facebook Pages.  And then there is Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram among many other social networks everyone seems to be talking about.  How to make sense of it all?  And how does a busy business owner find the time to use all – or even some – of these networks.

The hard truth is, that social media is not magic.  It is hard work – but it certainly has its payoffs.  The benefits of social media include increased exposure, increased traffic, gaining marketplace insight, generating leads and developing loyal fans among many others.  Developing an online presence through social media marketing is as important now for small businesses as adopting “electronic mail” was a decade ago.  So if you are a small business owner and you would like to start working on a social media marketing strategy, you should know that each network has unique features.  Here is my take on the positives and negatives for small business owners of the big 5 – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.

POSITIVES

1. Facebook is HUGE.  As of December 2011, Facebook has 845 million monthly active users worldwide, and 483 million daily active users worldwide. Chances are that if your target client has 1 social media account, it will likely be a Facebook profile.

2. Good content has the potential to go viral quickly.  This happens when someone likes, comments on or shares your post, answers a question or responds to an event and spreads it to their own network.  Other people who are not connected to you will get exposure to your content.

3.  Photos are easily uploaded, displayed and browsed. This is very important since a 2011 Facebook study showed that links with a corresponding photo received 65% more likes than those without.  Visuals grab your audience’s attention and Facebook makes it easy to share them.

NEGATIVES

1.  EdgeRank Algorithm means posted updates reach only a portion of your fans’ news feeds.  Facebook does this because with all the friends people have and pages they like, it would be overwhelming to see all of the activity generated by these connections.  The algorithm therefore ranks and shows content based on the likely interest of a given user.

2.  The Promoted Posts feature is not available to everyone and is not clear how it works.  It is meant to increase the percentage of fans your organic content reaches, but Facebook makes no indication of exactly how much more that percentage is.  It is also a paid offering only available to pages that have 400 fans or more – which can be challenging for a small businesses to achieve, especially if they are just starting out on social media.

3.  Advertising on Facebook disadvantages the small business.  It works either by a cost per click (CPC) or cost per impressions (CPM). The minimum CPC is $.01 and the minimum CPM is $.02, but Facebook will usually recommend that you bid higher than that. This is a big disadvantage to small businesses who have smaller budgets -if other advertisers bid more, their ads are more likely to be shown.

POSITIVES

1.  Twitter is easy to use. If you can type something into a search bar, you can tweet. No tech acumen required.

2.  Twitter can drive traffic to your blog or website.  A post that gets retweeted by a few people with a large following can go viral quickly which will send visitors to your site.

3.  It is FREE.  All users get all services for free – which puts everyone on the same playing field.

NEGATIVES

1. Posts can be a maximum of 140 characters in length.  In fact, if you want to leave enough room for links and increase the opportunity for retweets, the character limit is even lower. Tweets between 120 and 130 characters have the highest click-through rates.

2. Viewing photos, images and videos takes time and effort.  Users must click the link to see it.

3. Twitter moves fast. Maintaining activity can be challenging unless you pre-schedule some of your tweets.  This also means that it is difficult to determine the amount of tweets your business should be posting for optimal engagement of fans.

POSITIVES

1.  A large, affluent and infuential membership.  LinkedIn has over 70 million users around the world, most being business professionals with an average annual household income of $109,000 and nearly 50% have decision-making authority for their companies.

2.  Thousands of “Groups” for like-minded professionals from all industries.  LinkedIn “Groups” allow for engagement and networking with peers in the same profession by sharing challenges and solutions that affect your market.

3.  LinkedIn allows for company page recommendations. These will not only increase the likelihood that you will show up in a search, but are also a great way to get new clients. Satisfied customers are a great source for new business, so having them recommend you to the entire LinkedIn network can be a great advantage.

NEGATIVES

1.  LinkedIn has very little visual content.  This can be a deterrent to users looking to browse.

2.  There is little room for content that is not related to business.  This means that it may be harder for a small business to show a personality – especially if their brand is more fun or quirky.

3.  Establishing a presence and reputation can be time consuming.  While not a necessity, active participation in “Groups” and crafting replies on “Answers” builds credibility. This means following the threads of a chosen group and not just stopping in once in a while.

POSITIVES

1.  Increased search visibility. Google uses Google+ to gain valuable user data. It gathers info about what people like, which then helps in search rankings. By adding a +1 button to your content or actively publishing content to Google+, you can improve your company’s search results.

2.  Ability to target your content. Circles in Google+ can help you target content for specific audiences. Instead of blasting your updates to all your followers, you can identify topics that resonate with particular circles and tailor your updates accordingly. Doing this can result in a more engaged audience and leads to higher click-through rates.

3.  Emphasis is on being social. Google+ has an interface focused on social widgets. This provides lots of opportunities for small businesses (with smaller budgets) to become visible.

NEGATIVES

1. It’s complicated. Many people abandon Google+ quickly because it can be confusing, difficult to navigate and time consuming to master. This could mean that your target audience has checked out before getting any of your messages.

2. Google Ghost Town. Data shows that users of Google+ are only spending a few minutes a month on the site. As a business owner with limited time and resources, you may find it difficult to justify the effort required to have a presence on a social network that’s visited so infrequently.

3. Pin, Not +1. Visual content is king in social media.  But even though Google+ allows for sharing photos and other visuals, it still ranks a distant fourth after the newcomer Pinterest in a recent analysis of social networks. The “pin it” button is showing up more often on websites along the Facebook and Twitter icons than the +1.

POSITIVES

1. It is growing at an exponentially mind-blowing rate.  The time spent on the site per visit is also growing quickly with a large majority of users being women.

2. It sends referral traffic to your website. Obviously, this is very important – especially to retailers.

3. Easy to figure out and to customize by users.  You can set up an account in minutes and start pinning your favourite stuff creating a visual bulleting board online.  You can follow other pinners or their selected boards and it is easy to search boards based on topic, theme or subject.

NEGATIVES

1. Users come to LOOK not read.  Even brilliantly written content is not well received.      Instructional material must be put into video or an infographic.

2.  Service businesses may find it challenging to use as a marketing tool. How can you effectively promote the services of a lawyer through images, for example?

3.  Still a relative newcomer to the social media scene.  Some social media experts are not sure if the site’s growth is sustainable in the long term.

Social media is an important part of promoting a small business and there is much evidence that it also helps customers make buying decisions:

http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30239/71-More-Likely-to-Purchase-Based-on-Social-Media-Referrals-Infographic.aspx

Choosing the right strategy for a small business owner can be difficult however, when there is so much available information.  The key is to remember that every business does not need to be present on every site.  Doing research on your target demographic will help you prioritize which sites to target with your messaging, but you should also consider choosing based on what you enjoy doing.  If you love Facebook but can’t get into Twitter, do an awesome job of developing a killer business page on Facebook instead of forcing yourself to find things to tweet about.

If you are just starting to build a presence on social media, also remember to identify your goal, pick a strategy and avoid getting distracted by what others may be telling you to do.  If you are working on developing a complete LinkedIn profile with a large network of connections, don’t get derailed into thinking you need to start on building boards on Pinterest because that is where the action is.  Finish your current task and once you are comfortable maintaining your presence on that site, you can think about doing something else.  Otherwise you will have a bunch of accounts on a number of sites which will have no impact on your business.

Social media can be fun and it can help grow your business.  So get out there, get connected and grow your networks.

Build a Stellar Reputation

You’ve finally taken the plunge and parted with your employer to open your own business.  Or, you’ve decided to follow your passion and leave your current industry to do work you really love.  You’ve done your homework, so you know who your target market is.  You have spent time researching what this audience needs and you are sure that with your unique skills and abilities, you will be able to meet those needs more effectively than anyone else you know.

Step by step, you can build your stellar reputation.

So how do you communicate your value proposition to potential clients or employers? How do you get clients or job interviews if you don’t have any (or very little) experience in your new line of work?

Start with BUILDING your reputation.  To do it effectively, remember these 2 important points:

  1. Be amazing at what you do.
  2. Let your clients or prospects know that you are amazing at what you do.

The first point underlines the importance of continuously honing your skills. Stay current by comitting to continuing education through courses, seminars, industry meetings, self-teaching through reading and keeping in touch with colleagues in your industry.  But this article is specifically about point 2.

How do you communicate to the world what YOU only know about how amazing your skills are?  Here is a to do list that will help you spread the word.  Your goal should be to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

If you DO have some (or even a significant amount of) experience, be sure to communicate this to your prospects whenever possible.  Include this information on your website, your marketing materials or during pitches or interviews.  Think of any transferrable skills that you are bringing from your previous work – such as selling skills, writing or presenting.  A phrase such as “With 5+ years of experience in sales” will draw attention to the skills you already have, and away from what you don’t.

Get formal qualifications.  This relates to point #1 above, but is also important for point #2.  Being able to state your credentials – the more impressive the better – on your business card, website and other materials can make a difference when a client has to choose between 2 experts.

Join, and be active in, your field’s trade organizations.  If you are a graphic designer for example, you can join the AIGA which design professionals use to exchange ideas and information, participate in critical analysis and research, and advance education and ethical practice.

Be visible on important social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook pages, Google+ and Pinterest.  If you share relevant content regularly with followers (whether it is your own or not), you will be seen as someone who knows, and stays current in, their field.

Teach on your topic.  There are many venues depending on your field of expertise, but you could try universities or colleges and see if you can offer to be a guest speaker. Or, join your local Chamber of Commerce and see if there are any groups looking for speakers on your topic.  Local libraries hold free lectures on a variety of topics as well.  Volunteer to speak there.  Any of these will allow you to state in your bio or credentials that you “Lectured on <topic> at <location>”.  It sounds impressive and it is true.

Write, write, write, then write more!

  • Write a blog that contains articles on topics in your field
  • Get published. Write an article for a trade magazine, a newspaper column or even a local paper
  • Sign up for the newsletter Help a Reporter Out (HARO) http://www.helpareporter.com/ and become a subscribed source for journalists looking for experts.  3 times each week day you will receive a listing of journalist requests on every topic imaginable and if you can help any of them out with your expertise, you could be quoted in their article.

Obviously, building the reputation of an expert in your field will take some time and diligent effort on your part.  The good news is that anyone can can implement the steps discussed in this article.  You therefore, have control over how hard you work and how quickly you see results.  Remember that “Rome was not built in 1 day.” – and neither is a stellar reputation.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.