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Blog Business World

Blogs in business, marketing, public relations, and SEO search engine optimization for successful entrepreneurs

Friday, October 31, 2003

 

Improve your marketing: three ideas

Marketing your products and services is an ongoing job.

It never ends. Marketing is an continuing process that should become part of your daily business activities.

No one can simply get up in the morning and say, "I'm going to do some marketing today", as if that will bring clients and customers to their door.

One way to market your business is to provide superior service. Over the long term, strong customer service will keep your existing customers happy. It will also add many more new ones.

A strong track record for going that extra mile for your customers will attract new business like a magnet. In effect, you are saying. "Try us and we'll provide service that no one else will!"

A second idea is to "customize" your products and services to fit your individual customer's needs. You may be offering much the same items and services that your competitors do, but you can make yours as specific to the customer as possible.

Phone or visit your existing customers, and ask them about your products. Find out what they like about them. Ask what they don't like, and how they would like them changed and improved. Perhaps they may have suggestions that would make your product or service more convenient or easier to use.

Put this do it yourself market research to work by redesigning your products, adding new ones to your sales list, and dropping items that no longer are uselful to your customers. You will not only find happier customers, but more of them!

A third concept is to build strong customer relationships. Develop a personal bond with your customers. Make them feel they are part of your business family. Emphasise their importance to your company, and how you are there to help them in their lives. Treat every customer and client as important and they will reward you with their loyalty and referrals.

By employing these simple but ongoing ideas, your business can grow without spending a lot of money. In place of cash, you are sharing yourself and helping your customers meet their personal needs.

That's the best marketing system of all.


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Thursday, October 30, 2003

 

Relationship marketing and blogs

Relationship marketing.

You've often heard the term used, but were never really certain what it meant. It does sound kind of touchy feely, doesn't it? Really all it means, however, is building good long term customer relations.

To turn your present marketing system into relationship marketing, you have to change your outlook somewhat. Traditionally, marketers have located their target market segments, made their offer, and made the sales. It's always been a single step process.

Relationship marketing looks at customers and clients over a longer term. It takes into account the lifetime value of a customer. Many experts think it costs anywhere from six to ten times as much, to find a new customer, than to sell to an existing one. With those financial realities in mind, the approach makes some sense, and some real dollars.

Relationship marketing is based on the idea, that people prefer to do business with people, they know and like. After all, it's easier to buy from a friend, than from someone you've never heard of before. The focus is on a multi-step marketing system that works for the lifetime of the customer. It's said that people need to hear an offer about seven times before they buy. That concept certainly works against the single step marketing method.

That is where a business blog can be really helpful.

As you write your daily blog entries, your readers get to know you and your business on a more personal level. Your blog begins that all important relationship with your prospects and current customers. As they read about your daily business activities, your problem solving ideas, your business advice, and your various products, they begin to think of themselves as a part of the company.

They are!

The prospects for your products and services begin to turn into customers over time. Since they already know about you and your organization, it naturally follows that they will buy from you.

Your existing customers will remain loyal to your business, through the regular personal contact of your blog. Your customers will not only stay loyal, but they will often bring tons of valuable referral business to your company. Happy customers are your best marketing friends.

By creating a business blog, you can develop strong bonds with your existing and future customers. Instead of treating them as numbers, you have formed a long term relationship with them. Their purchases, of your products and services, are a natural response to your blog entries. It is certainly not a one step sales system!

Creating a relationship with your customers and clients doesn't just pay off financially for your company. It is also rewarding personally for you; and for them.

Start your blog and build those long term relationships.

You'll be glad you decided on a blog for your relationship marketing!



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Business blogs vs E-mail newsletters

As recently as a couple of years ago, people looked forward to receiving your company's opt-in newsletter.

Is that the case anymore?

Opening an e-mail box, only to see hundreds and even thousands of e-mails, is a sight that scares off even the most e-mail loving person. Included in that batch of unread messages are many good informative newsletters. You may have specificially signed up just to receive them.

Unfortunately, they often get lost in the flood of spam e-mails you most certainly did not request.

Many times, installed "spam filters" will block out your fully authorized permission based newsletter entirely. Your message never reaches its intended audience. You may never know.

While fully permission based opt-in newsletters are still welcomed by most recipients, there is another alternative.

It's business blogging.

The great thing about maintaining a business blog is there is no need to worry about it being blocked by spam filters. Since a blog is not sent by e-mail, it can't be blocked.

A blog can't be accidently deleted along with unwanted spam sales pitches either. Newsletter recipients often set aside some requested e-mails for later, but instead wind up deleting them in the end. Unread, with dozens of other "saved" e-mails.

Barring a failure of your internet server, your business blog is available at all times. All it takes to read it is a click of a bookmark.

It takes time and effort to build up a permission based e-mail newsletter subscriber list. That is no different from adding more readers to your business blog. Both require strong marketing and promotional efforts to be successful. There are no easy methods for gaining more readers in either case.

In many ways, a blog is more timely than a newsletter. The blog can be updated several times a day, while a newsletter is more likely to be sent every two weeks. Even a weekly newsletter can't be as immediate as a daily blog.

That is not to say that a fully opt-in, permission based newsletter is a bad idea. In fact, it is far from it. Properly used, a newsletter can provide great information and product offers to your subscribers right on their desktops. They still have a powerful place in your marketing and customer relations programs.

The main purpose of an e-mail newsletter is the same one as a business blog. Their role is to build up a relationship of familiarity and trust with your readers. In that capacity, as a customer relations vehicle, both have their places in your business.

While most entrepreneurs look to the conventional e-mail newsletter, perhaps it's time to look at the less used blog approach. The e-mail newsletter is an established method of reaching customers. That's why it's popular. That's also why it has been invaded by spammers.

Properly used, an e-mail newsletter campaign can remain effective. You can reach your customers and maintain a steady relationship with them.

On the other hand, a business blog can be equally effective at communicating your message to your customers.

Because the business blog is still in its infancy, it's on the cutting edge of business communications and public relations.

Isn't that where you want to position your business?




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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

 

Blogs as news sources

Business blogs help create news stories for the mainstream media.

In a similar fashion to press releases, blogs provide journalists with potential articles and story "angles."

In fact, blogs are often written in an editorial style, similar to the opinion pages of the newspapers. In that sense, blogs are close enough to the standard media formats, that their acceptance should eventually be assured.

As with any new delivery medium, not everyone will be up to speed. Some members of the mainstream media may need to discuss the goals of your business blogging efforts. You must eliminate any confusion with the better known personal journals and online diaries.

Business blogs are often the first place where company news and new product ideas are seen. Because of their ability to serve as early alert systems to the business press, blogs are right on the cutting edge of journalism.

With that public role in the business's public and media relations efforts, solid working relationships with journalists and editors must be cultivated and maintained. That cooperation often involves getting to know some of the media people in your business's field of endeavour.

To establish a professional relationship with the media, contact them. Find out who is the editor who would be assigning the business stories. Meet with them and with the appropriate reporters. Get to know them, their story preferences, and their deadlines. Let them know about your blog, and that you are available to discuss its content at any time. If your blog contains good useful information, the editors and reporters will read it.

Be available to answer any questions about your industry in general, and your business in particular. Should a reporter call you when you are out, have someone in your office page contact you immediately. Call back as soon as you can or the reporter, pressed for a deadline, will simply call someone else.

If you are completely unavailable, arrange for someone else in your company who can answer questions fully. Often a team works best, with one member finding the needed facts and figures, and the other talking directly to the press. The important thing is to be professional and show respect for the journalist's time.

Don't just call your media contacts when you have a story on your own business either. Provide solid leads to other potential articles in your industry. They don't have to involve your company. Develop a reputation for honesty and a source of strong story ideas, and not one as a shameless self promoter. Over time, you can submit news stories involving your own company as well. They will certainly be written about as newsworthy.

By following these tips, you will establish yourself as an authority in your industry. By making yourself available to give quotes, on a moment's notice, you are helping the journalists to do their jobs.

They will appreciate that.

They will also read, and refer to your blog articles, providing your company with tremendous media exposure.

Isn't that what you want?



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Monday, October 27, 2003

 

Business blogging: is there a downside?

I have been recommending that businesses start a daily blog to add content to their web sites in general, and their company as a whole.

Along with the fresh daily content, so loved by the search engines like Google, MSN, Inktomi, and AltaVista, comes an improvement in their search results for your keywords. Your business can use the daily blog to increase your marketing efforts, their public relations work, and their relationship with their customer base.

That's all great. So what's the catch?

There is a downside to everything, and blogging is no exception.

First of all, a committment must be made, by one or more individuals in the company, to post articles on the blog. That is often easier said than done! Busy schedules will often take precedence over what may be perceived as "just the blog". There may be simply not enough time left in the day, to devote to a meaningful posting, about the company's activities.

Secondly, there may have been a lack of proper internal company communications, about the value and importance of the blog. Its place in the overall business goals may not have been well defined by its supporters. Failing to spell out to employees, the results expected from maintaining the blog, the entire project may find itself abandoned.

Thirdly, the personnel selected to write the regular posts may not be skilled writers. While no one expects Pulitzer Prize level prose, the written articles must make some sense to the reader. Very bad writing will doom the blog to oblivion. Care must also be taken to ensure the entries don't turn into jargon laden, unreadable tomes, understood only by specialists in the field. Readership by the target customer audience will drop dramatically, making the blog useless in achieving its goals.

Fourthly, disgruntled employees must not use the blog for venting their frustrations with the organization. While blogging entries that discuss current challenges facing the company are often healthy, vindictive rage is not. The blog is not a scandal sheet. On the other hand, some other staff may use the blog as a personal diary, detailing their lives outside of work. Again, that is not the purpose of the business blog. Individual diaries fall under the umbrella of the personal journal, kept separately from company issues.

As you can see, there are some potential problems with setting up and maintaining a business blog. If neglected, those potential difficulties can end the blogging program before it begins.

The difficulties mainly stem from a failure, on the part of company management, to state clear goals for having the blog in the first place. Proper communication and honesty with the staff, about the blog's purpose, can go a long way to resolving those problems. With the employees on board with the blogging concept, strong writers with a dedication to the daily work of posting, can be found.

With a little planning, and a well defined set of goals, the blogging effort can avoid the downside entirely.


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Sunday, October 26, 2003

 

The Blogshares game

My friends Jeremy Wright Of Ensight, Tristam Bielecki of Noo Meeja, Allen Smith of Computer Diaries, and I are all playing a fantasy stock market game called Blogshares.

As Blogshares says in its description:

"BlogShares is a fantasy stock market where weblogs are the companies. Players invest fictional dollars on shares in blogs. Blogs are valued by their incoming links and add value to other blogs by linking to them. Prices can go up or down based on trading and the underlying value of the blog."

Anyone can sign up to play, whether they have a blog on the net or not. If you do keep a blog, you can "claim" your blog, and receive 1000 free shares in your own blog or blogs.

Okay, you say, fine. What does that have to do with blogging? You guys are buying and selling various blogs for imaginary profits. So what?

The very fact that there are enough blogs out there to create a full scale stock market simulation game is a testament to the growth of the blogging phenomenon. There are simply a lot of people doing it.

Notice as well, that blogs are evaluated by the game based on their number of incoming links. That method of counting incoming links is one of the ways that the search engine Google ranks all web sites. It is based on the theory that each incoming link amounts to a "vote" in favour of the site. The more important the site doing the linking, the more highly valued the vote.

On the other hand, the types of blogs are splitting into two camps. One part of the blogging community writes columns like this one consisting of mainly original material. These bloggers also comment upon and link to interesting news and opinions articles around the internet.

The other part of the blogging world is that of the online journal variety. In that group are daily writings that some people compare to online diaries. Deeply personal in nature, these online journals or diaries are very different from the business and news type blogs.

Despite the differences in the blogging goals and techniques, the idea of writing a regular blog is a growing one. There are more blogs appearing on the internet daily. On the other hand, there are many being abandoned just as quickly.

In this column, Blog Business World, I attempt to provide assistance and advice to people wanting to add a blog to their business strategy. I outline the various uses of a blogs, and how to promote them.

So where does that fit in with playing the Blogshares game?

Blogshares reflects the growing number and importance of Blogs on the internet. Blogs are still on the leading edge of internet business and news information transfer. Starting a blog for your business will place you on that cutting edge.

Isn't that where you want to be?

Oh, and how am I doing at Blogshares?

As of this writing, my total Net Worth has grown to just over $24 million Blogshare Bucks. I started with the base amount of $500 in cash. In addition to that dollar amount, I had the 1000 shares granted to the owner of each of my blogs as a reward for starting the column itself.

I also now own all of the ouststanding shares in Blog Business World and my other roller derby blog Wayne's Derby World .

I have had a few people visit my two blogs from the Blogshares site as well.

I guess that's worth something in itself!

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Saturday, October 25, 2003

 

Getting your site into the search engines

You must get your blog or web site, into the various internet search engines, to really increase traffic to your site.

The most important search engines include Google, Yahoo and AOL Search which use Google's results, Inktomi, AltaVista, Alltheweb, MSN, Lycos, and ExactSeek. There are many others as well.

Internet surfers enter their desired search terms, called keywords, into the engine's search box. A series of search engine result placements appear on the screen. You want your site or blog listed among them.

The question then, is how do you get your site indexed by the search engines?

One method is to submit the site to the various engines. Each one has a Submit URL (your site's name and identification) page. Most allow for free submissions. The weakness of submitting your site is the time it takes to index it. That may take from several weeks to months. Some search engines charge a fee for "faster indexing". For the record, I do not support the use of the pay for inclusion option. I prefer to use the free methods for everything.

Be sure to add your URL to the search engines one by one. Manually. I don't recommend the use of the various submitting services. While some services are free, many charge a fee. While they say they are sending your site to "hundreds" and even "thousands" of search engines, only the most important engines will yield traffic. The smaller ones will crawl your site, and add it later. In any case, they won't send many visitors your way, as they are not heavily used by internet surfers. Don't worry about them.

A better method than submitting your site, is to have the search engines discover you, on their own. To do that, you need incoming links from other already indexed web sites. Find other non-competing sites that have something in common with yours, and exchange links. You may find your site crawled by the search engine spider, and indexed within a week or two of the link swap.

Another method is getting into the various internet directories. In a previous column, I wrote how to get into the important Open Directory Project, commonly called DMOZ.

The other important directories include Zeal, Joe Ant, Gimpsy, GoGuides, and Yahoo's free version. There are literally hundreds of specialized directories, often set up by industry or geography, (plus many directories exclusively for blogs). You want to get into as many of the free ones as possible. They get crawled regularly by the search engine spiders. Your site will certainly be found in one of them!

Posting in various internet discussion forums will get your site indexed as well. Find some discussion boards relating to your area of interest, and sign up to post. The technique there, is to create a signature file for your posts, that links back to your site. The spiders will follow that trail back to your site for indexing as well. Of course, to get listed, you need to post!

There are various ways to get your site included in the search engine results.

Be sure to use them all to ensure your blog or web site gets included!




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Friday, October 24, 2003

 

Blogging as public relations

Your standard public relations practices are not finding their target audiences. The media doesn't pick up your news stories and run with them. Your public relations time, effort, and dollars seem to be going to waste. Your customers don't see you as a person, but merely as another company among many.

Is there any other way to get the company message out the media, to your business associates, and to the general public?

Try blogging!

Starting a daily blog, and updating it with regular posts, can have a positive effect on your company's public image. By writing personalized entries into the blog, your various reading audiences will get a sense that there are real people in the company. That beats being thought of as The Faceless Company.

As you, and perhaps others in the business, write about various topics within the organization, you will develop a relationship with your audience. Many will become regular readers, and will very often recommend your blog to their friends and business associates. As a bonus, many of those who bookmark your site, will be loyal customers as well.

For the media, your blog is a constant source of potential news stories. Various journalists will occasionally find solid news "angles" from your posts. Where you never thought an interesting story existed, the reporter can spot a gem. As a result of your blogging efforts, your business can become the topic of some great press coverage.

Having journalists pick up story ideas from your blog creates free publicity. What that means to your company is coverage that carries the "endorsement" of being newsworthy. People tend, not surprisingly, to place more credibility on media coverage than on paid advertising. Being highlighted in the local newspaper, or on the evening news, is free publicity that money can't buy!

Of course, to get your blog posts turned into news articles, you need to work with your blog, and be patient and persistent. It will take time to build up your visitor traffic.

You have to keep your blog updated regularly. I recommend daily entries to build up your audience. There are some exceptions to that rule, however.

My friend Jeremy Wright at Ensight.org disagrees with me on posting frequency. He believes, and quite understandably, that one person blogging can become boring and tedious. As a result, the quality of the postings may suffer, and readership will drop. In order to prevent "blogging fatigue" (I may have just coined that phrase!), perhaps a blogging team can be created to share the posting fun. That way, blogging fatigue can be avoided, and strong posts maintained.

In any case, your company blog can help get news stories to the media. Your blogging efforts can also help your regular customers feel closer to you as a person, and to your business as a whole.

Those positives not only help your company bottom line, but they make you feel great as a person too.

What can be better than that?


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Ever have one of those days?

If you are looking for cute little web page about a day in the life of a humble web server, check this one out.

Be sure to read the entire thing!

It's worth it!

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

 

Posting in forums: getting the word out

You are familiar with business web forums. They are the sites where members post messages to one another, often asking questions and seeking advice.

Business related internet forums are a great source of helpful information. Whether you are talking about marketing, public relations, search engine optimization, or blogging in general, there is a business forum out there for you.

A great example of a forum, by bloggers and about blogging, is Blogger Talk. As a blogger, you will want to become a regular visitor and poster at that great message board. I am a regular poster, and serve as a Moderator, at Blogger Talk.

Some other helpful forums include Web Pro World which has a section on blogs, and Best Practices Forum where they promise to answer every question. You will also want to visit Top25Web where I often post answers to various questions, mainly relating to search engine optimization.

Often overlooked by many bloggers, is the fact that posting in forums is a tremendous marketing vehicle for your blog.

Most forums allow for, and often encourage, the use of a posting signature. In the signature, you are able to place a link back to your blog, and provide a brief blog description. That signature, or sig line, is attached to every post you make in the forums. If you provide good helpful posts, many people will click that link, and discover your site to read more of your advice.

By posting good informative answers to questions, you develop a solid reputation for being knowledgeable in your industry. Be sure to be polite in your posts, and don't become angry or hostile, if someone disagrees with your advice. They may simply looking at the question from another point of view.

Many sites include a section that lets you post a notice about your blog. Take advantage of that opportunity, because many people look through those threads, for new sites to visit. Your blog may as well be one of them.

If there is a "site review" section, don't be afraid to let your site be considered for review. There might be a few problems with your site, or it may have design or content shortcomings. If so, it's better to hear about them from other posters in the group, than have the general public avoid your blog. Otherwise, the problems could go undetected, to your detriment.

Many forums, but not all of them, are designed to be crawled by the various search engine spiders. If your blog is having difficulty into getting into Google, for example, the forum is a great way for the spider to find you. The link in your signature line, back to your site, provides a good path for the spider to travel.

Be sure to register at some business related forums today.

I look forward to reading your posts!










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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

 

Team blogging: will it work for your business?

What in the world is team blogging?

Well, it's not the same as baseball, but does require teamwork and cooperation to make it work properly.

Let's say you have a great new project in the works. Your company plans to revolutionize the widget market by introducing the oval widget. Since the marketplace has only supported round widgets before, your plans are groundbreaking. How can you use this new product concept to your company's advantage?

You set up a team blog.

You can set up the blog by adding blogging software to your site. You then make the blog password protected. That way only registered members of the blogging team can post. With a password required for blog entry, you can be control the message to some degree.

It doesn't hurt to be cautious about who has access to posting in the team blog. You certainly don't want just everyone to write their thoughts online for everyone to read. The object is to keep the blog personal, yet imformative about the company and its products. Disgruntled and unhappy employees will not help your company image, by placing their grievances in a public forum.

A major advantage of team blogging is the number of different points of view that can be expressed. John in Industrial Design will post about the problems and challenges in developing a workable prototype of the oval widget. Bill in Production will write about the difficulties in the manufacturing process. Lisa in Marketing will describe the approach to getting the oval widget to the retail outlets, and into the consumers' hands. Other key departments will write about their special areas of the project. You get the picture.

If the team blog is written as an ongoing saga of an exciting new product, from its design conception to your local store, the blog can develop an eager audience. The potential customers for the product will read your team blog. They will get to know both the value of the oval widget, as well as the people and process behind it.

Don't overlook the potential media exposure that can be gained from a team blog. The posts are all possible news "angles" that can become major stories, in both the specialized industry publications, and in the mainstream media. To assist the reporters in their jobs, be sure to post good contact information on the team blog itself; and on your site as a whole.

The very creation of a team blog can greatly help boost morale within a business. Employees will feel they are part of a very important public relations exercise, that enhances the company's image. They will accept the trust given them in writing about the new product, whether it's our fictitious oval widget, or the latest service offered by your firm.

When the Company President steps to the podium to announce the new and exciting oval widget, the regular readers will already know all about it. A major first step, in the product's successful entry into the market, will have already taken place. The news media and the general public will have been spreading the word prior to the official announcement. Thanks to the team blog!

A team blog has many advantages for a business.

If handled correctly, a team blog can give your company a leg up in the marketplace.

Give it a try!


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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

 

Updating your business blog: how often?

Once you decide to begin a weblog for your business, you will need to keep it updated on a fairly regular basis.

The question then becomes: how often is regularly enough?

A blog needs to have frequent posts to maintain the interest of the readership. Your daily visitors will grow to expect to see at least one post per day. Many successful business oriented blogs have several daily entries. Some bloggers choose a less frequent timetable, of about three articles per week.

In the early stages of your blog, I would recommend a daily post routine. There are several reasons for that idea. They all relate to building up your traffic flow and search engine rankings.

To build the trust and respect of your readers, and to build a steady visitor base, there needs to be some reason to surf to your site. A steady stream of useful articles, as well as links to other great sites, will establish confidence in your blog.

Since your blog is new, you need to develop its content. On the internet content is king. Providing good solid advice is one way to build up a library of articles in your archives. A check of your site counter's visitor logs will show heavy readership of previous columns. People seeking good reliable information will bookmark your site as a primary source for that knowledge.

Adding content also helps your site rise in the search engine results. When you have many keyword filled articles on your site, Google and other search engines will index them. When net surfers enter your keywords in the search box, your site will appear. The more entries in your blog, the higher your blog's search engine ranking will rise.

Search engines love blogs!

The search engines love the fresh content blogs provide. The search engine spiders, like Google's well known Googlebot, are constantly searching for freshly updated web sites. Your daily entries are exactly what they are seeking. Feed the spiders and they will visit you almost daily.

Search engines consider incoming links to be very important to their ranking calculations, known as algorithms. Bloggers are nonstop linkers. With so many links, passing back and forth between so many weblogs, the bloggers benefit greatly. The search engine robot spiders simply follow the links back and forth. High search result rankings soon follow.

To illustrate how much Google loves blogs, they purchased the blog host Blogger. The Google management wanted to get in on the potential growth of blogging. Since writing and maintaining a blog, especially for a business is such a new concept, Google is in on the ground floor.

Because of the importance of building a stable base of regular visitors to your blog, it is a great idea to post at least one new entry per day.

You and your blog will benefit from higher traffic, as a result of appearing higher in the searches, for your important keywords.

Your business benefits from the new clients and customers.

Keep your business blog updated daily.

Your readers and the search engines will thank you for it!


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Monday, October 20, 2003

 

Promoting your site with internet articles

***Update***

***This column has just been reprinted in the popular Blog Search Engine blog.

Be sure to check out that great business blog too. ***


Getting more traffic to a site or blog, at little or no cost, is something everyone wants. I'm sure you do too!

It also is a fact the people surf the internet looking for information.

By combining those two ideas, you can increase your visitor traffic to your site. One proven way to achieve that traffic is to write articles in your area of expertise. You not only gain potential new customers, but you also become recognized as an expert in your field.

There are literally hundreds of internet magazines, called "e-zines", who would love your article. They have literally millions of information hungry subscribers, waiting to read about your ideas.

It's not as hard as you think.

The first step is to think of a useful piece of information, that you know people want to read. Think "5 mistakes to avoid buying cars", or "10 great ways to make money from home", or "How to find a great real estate agent". You can come up with many more, I'm sure. Simply find a problem, and prepare a short essay that helps the reader to solve it. Voila!

Once you have your idea, it is surprisingly easy to prepare your research materials, write some notes, and prepare a first draft. Once that first rough copy is written, set it aside and don't look at it any more that day. After a day or two have passed, pick it up again, and read it over. You'll find a lot of sentences to add or subract, change around, or rewrite completely. Great new ideas will pop into your head, making your article much more powerful than before.

After you finish polishing it up, your shiny new feature is almost ready for submission.

All it needs is a signature line and blurb. Write a short factual sentence or two (called a blurb) about yourself and your business. Include a hot link back (called a signature line) to your own web site or blog URL. It is a good idea to provide a "copy and paste" html link, to make it easy for the editor to include it.

You may also want to provide an extra line, giving permission to freely reprint the article anywhere; provided full credit and a link back are provided to your site. That is optional, of course.

Now, where do you send it?

Internet magazines, commonly called e-zines are hungry for free content. You can really help them out.

Lists of e-zines can be found at:

http://www.site-city.com/members/e-zine-master/

http://www.list-city.com/

Look for e-zines in your field of interest, and check out the types and length of articles they publish. Be sure to find out the name and proper title of the editor or publisher, and show them you have actually read their e-zine. You would be amazed how many people don't check first. Professionalism on your part is important, as it helps you to stand out from the crowd.

Once you have found some likely candidates, you are ready for the final step.

Send them a copy of your article, as part of the body of an e-mail. Because of potential viruses, many editors and publishers will not open an article sent as an attachment. Don't send attachments. Within your introductory e-mail, provide the one time rights to publish the article, provided your informational signature line is printed in full.

You'll be surprised how many editors and publishers will want to print your masterpiece. Seeing your name and URL as part of the e-zine is a thrill as well.

The next pleasant surprise is finding many of the people who read your article, will click on the link to your blog, to read more of your work. Many of them will stay, and become regular readers of your site's content. A lot of them will be long term customers for your products and services.

Writing internet e-zine articles is a great free method to get new visitors to your site. It also establishes you as a leader in your industry. That translates into new customers, as people like to do business with folks they know and trust.

What could be better than that?

Get those keyboards clicking.

Your reading public awaits!







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Sunday, October 19, 2003

 

Keep up on the latest internet news

You are using the internet.

Because technological changes happen so quickly in the modern world, timely information and commentary is a must. You have to keep track of the latest trends and developments in computers, search engines, and the internet itself; or get lost in the shuffle.

Here are a few great sources of internet news and commentary, written by people I trust, to give you the straight goods.

For honest, straight from the hip computer news and technical assistance, log onto Computer Diaries.

Computer Diaries owner Allen Smith isn't fancy, but he tells it like it is, without pulling any punches. He is also more than happy to help out with any computer and internet problems you may have encountered. He has often helped me. A lot!

For regular news and opinions on the world of high technology, on both sides of the Atlantic, check out Noo Meeja.

Noo Meeja (get it? new media) owner Tristam Bielecki brings a wealth of technical experience and passion to his daily, and often humourous, looks at the wired world around us.

The prestigious Search Engine Journal is a must read for indepth news and opinions on the world of search engine marketing and optimization.

Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal provides insights into the ins and outs of the world of search engines, that are helpful and informative.

Loren Baker also owns and operates the tremendous Blog Search Engine and the Blog Search Engine Blog, where many of my articles are reprinted.

If you are marketing your writing, get some hands on news and advice from Trudy W. Schuett of WOLves - Writers On Line.

WOLves - Writers On Line provides news, ideas, and links to some great help in writing and maintaining your blog and online presence.

There are many more great sources of internet news, but these blogs are written by people I know and trust.

That's why I recommend them.

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Saturday, October 18, 2003

 

Bored with your blog?

You know the feeling.

You've been writing your daily blog entries for what seems like an eternity. Every day you faithfully write a new post or three. Your topic ideas are getting few and far between. You think you can only write about gardening for so long, right?

Wrong!

Stop and think for a moment about what you are doing with your business blog. What is your blog's purpose?

You are attempting to build and maintain a relationship with customers; present and future. They want to hear from you. Whether you realize it or not, you and your business are of interest to them. Otherwise, why would they be reading your blog?

Just because you have written, about growing and caring for roses before in your blog, doesn't mean that everyone has read it. Brand new readers arrive at your web site every day. Those new visitors have never read your tales of gardening pleasures and problems before. Your ideas and posts are all fresh material to them.

Look for new twists on previously used ideas. In journalism, they are called "finding the angle". Look for different approaches to the story your blog is telling. Growing roses can include articles on planting, fertility of the soil, diseases, insect pests, and where to best place the bushes in your yard for effect.

Look carefully at what I just did with just one topic of growing roses. Five separate articles were created, in one sentence, simply by breaking the idea down into bite sized pieces. Even then, I barely scratched the surface. You can certainly find many more topics, in your specific area of business, by doing the same thing.

The more useful content you post on your blog, the more reason there is for visitors to bookmark your site. Turn your blog into a "must read" every day ritual. To be successful at blogging, you need regular articles. They don't have to be all your own stories either.

Feel free to link to other blogs and web sites that are of value to your readers. After all, bloggers are constant linkers to other sites. Your regular visitors will thank you, for finding great information elsewhere for them. Instead of abandoning your blog for greener pastures, your customers will return to your site, as their chosen source for news and ideas.

If you are not feeling up to creating a long involved article on the joys of begonias; dont! Write about how much fun you had at the local flower show instead. Inject some fun into the blog. Tell your readers about how you met the mayor, who actually mentioned reading your blog! Your readers will share your delight.

As an added bonus for your freshly blogged content, your web site will get listed higher in the various search engines. Google's spider will crawl your site almost daily, devouring your information. As you post more, you get the fun of watching your site move ever higher on the search results, for your keyword search terms. That means even more potential customers will find your goods and services.

As you continue to write your daily business blog, you are establishing yourself as a trusted information source in your industry. Your customers, old and new, will seek out your knowledge. They will want to get your assistance, from your blog, or face to face.

Oh, and dont forget this little tidbit. While they're at it, they will be buying your products and services.

There's certainly nothing boring about that!




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Friday, October 17, 2003

 

Finding readers for your business blog

You've started a blog to help promote your business but a quick check of your site visitor counter shows that worst possible fate. No visitors!

What do you do?

Well, it's time to start promoting your new business blog everywhere you can.

Blog promotional expert Trudy W. Schuett has some simple and no cost ways to get your blog noticed.

She starts with the obvious, and often overlooked idea of just telling everyone you know, and then some.

"Once you've got your blog up and running, and ready for viewing you tell everybody you know. That includes not only customers, past subscribers to any e-mail list you may have had, and business associates, but also friends, relatives, and even your local newspaper." said Trudy W. Schuett, in her widely read article "Blog Promotion For Newbies"
.

Trudy continues, "Make sure your blog's URL appears on every piece of paper that leaves your office!"

Trudy is very correct in her assessment. Everything that leaves your office should have a link to your web site, and to your business blog. Be sure to include a signature line on your e-mail as well. Many clients and customers will click on the link to read your blog; so will friends, acquaintances, and family members.

Trudy also recommends getting reciprocal links from other blogs in your area of business. You need not go to competitors for links either. For example, if you are selling bridal gowns, your natural linking partners would be florists, jewellers, and gift shops, to name just a few.

"Make a point of looking around for blogs that complement yours. Ask the blog publisher for a reciprocal link." said Trudy.

One of my favourite promotional ideas is participation at various message boards and forums relating to your area of interest. Be sure to be helpful and not blatantly pushing your product. Answer questions fully and politely and freely provide solid information. Develop a reputation for being knowledgeable and helpful, and you will be regarded as an expert in your field.

Don't forget to place a link back to your site in your signature line. Most forums encourage the use of signature lines. They often provide space for some additional information on your site as well. You will be pleasantly surprised at how many people will click on your sig line link.

Trudy agrees, and offers some further advice as well.

She says, "Find forums and discussion groups on the subject of blogging, such as the Blogger Talk Forum, and participate. Don't just show up one day, announce yourself, and figure that's enough. You're looking for name recognition here, so even if you're very new to all this, you can still ask questions."

As you can see, getting more visitors to your blog need not be expensive and time consuming. In fact, it can be a very enjoyable and rewarding experience, as you meet new friends and potential customers online.

I'll offer some additional free and low cost promotional ideas in future columns. In the meantime, start with these ideas and watch your readership grow!




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Track your keywords with Google Alert

***Update***

***This column has just been reprinted in the popular Blog Search Engine blog.

Be sure to check out that great business blog too. ***


Bloggers should be aware of a great free tool called Google Alert

Google Alert has the advantage of being entirely withing Google's Terms of Service. I consider that an important feature in any internet or search engine optimation tool. The use of any tool outside of Google's TOS can get your site banned from Google. We don't want that to happen to you!

While not affiliated with the Google search engine, Google Alert will track your blog's URL and chosen keywords. Updates are sent to you via e-mail on a
regular basis, as Google is updated, and as new results of your keywords and blog URL appear.

Google Alert can also send your results through html, RSS 1.0 or 2.0, or by TrackBack feeds. These are new options that have just been added very recently. For sites and blogs with an RSS feed, this is a great addition to the service.

Search updates also contain a direct link to the page cache (snapshot of the page) where the update happened. That is very handy for finding where your URL was mentioned, or where your keywords appeared.

Signing up for Google Alert is very easy. Simply go the the Google Alert web site. Provide a user name, a personal access password, and a working e-mail address to receive your updates.

You're in!

Once you log in, you just fill in the blanks of the URL and keywords you want to track. Be sure to be specific about the keywords you are following. For example "sports football Chicago" is much more specific than "sports" or "football".

By following the appearances of your keywords, you can check their popularity. If your blog's specific search terms are being found on many other sites, and not on yours, it's time to add them to your content.

The best way to provide that valuable content is to add some articles that highlight those keywords. They will get your site noticed when Google searches are conducted. The higher your site or blog are listed in the search engine result placings (SERPs), the more likely your site will be seen. Most searchers don't look beyond the first two or three pages of results.

An advanced search feature lets you limit your results by geography. If you are only interested in placements in England, you can specify that in the search. For different languages, the same narrowing of the advanced search also applies. You can set the results, to only include French language search terms, if you like.

A great feature you certainly want to include is the "Link Search". Found at the bottom of the advanced search page, it enables you to keep track of who is linking to your blog. You can also keep tabs on who is linking to another site if you choose.

Google Alert can be found here:

http://www.googlealert.com

Be sure to get tracking your site and keywords today!



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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

 

How to get your blog in the DMOZ Directory

Everyone talks about getting their site listed in the Open Directory Project, better known as DMOZ, but not everyone knows what to do about it.

Here's some help.

The Open Directory Project is probably the single most important internet directory. Its listings are used by Google, and by many other search engines and directories, all over the internet.

http://www.dmoz.org

DMOZ is an entirely volunteer edited directory, where every site is examined by an editor for suitability. To get a listing in DMOZ, is to have several legs up, in the race to the top of the search results.

The first step to a listing, is to check the various directory categories, and find the appropriate one for your site. Be very thorough here, as submitting your site to the wrong category can result in very long waits, and possibly even rejection.

When you have narrowed your target to the most appropriate category, go to it, and click on "add URL". Be absolutely certain to read the instructions very carefully. They are not merely a suggestion. They are an absolute requirement. Be sure to submit just your home page to only one category. Multiple page or category submissions will likely be treated as spam, and your site rejected.

You will be asked to write a brief description of your website. This is not the place to be flowery and biased. Be as objective as possible. If the editors think your description is too promotional, they will certainly change it on you. Your site may even be rejected entirely.

Your site has finally been submitted. Now what?

Since the website submissions are accepted on a first come, first served basis, you wait. The waiting period can last anywhere from one week to six long agonizing months. Whatever you do, don't decide to resubmit your site. At best, your submission will be moved to the back of the line again. At worst, your site may be rejected.

In the meantime, you won't hear from DMOZ one way or the other. Keep checking their site each week for results. Keep updating and adding content to your website. The editors will like your site a lot better, and your chances of approval go way up.

Be sure you have no pages "under construction", as the editors will reject any sites that aren't ready for prime time.

If you have an "affiliate sales" site, be absolutely certain your site contains several pages of useful articles for your visitors. A site simply consisting of links and banners will almost always be rejected. Good relevant content is a must.

If you can't stand the wait, you can contact the category editor about your site's status, directly through their Feedback link. A better route, however, is to ask a polite question on the DMOZ public forum.

http://www.resource-zone.com

You don't have to be registered to read the forum, but you must register (free) to post a question. As always, be sure to read and follow the posting guidelines.

Happy submitting.

It's well worth the effort!

***This column originally appeared in Search Engine Journal where I wrote it as a guest blogger. The column has also been reprinted in the Blog Search Engine blog.***

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Blog linking and other fun sports

***Update***

***This column has just been reprinted in the popular Blog Search Engine blog.

Be sure to check out that great business blog too. ***


Bloggers are linkers.

One of the features of almost every blog is the large number of links it contains. There will be links in the posts to articles and to other blogs. There will be permanent links to various web sites, including other blogs. There are many outgoing links found on every blog.

For your blog to get higher search engine rankings and more traffic, you need some incoming links.

Where do you find them?

Of course, one of the easiest ways, to build your link popularity, is to simply swap links with your friends. If they have a web site or a blog, they are very likely to trade links with you.

Once that resource is exhausted, now what do you do?

One method is to look for your probable search keywords. Enter them into a search engine like Google, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, or AltaVista. After the keywords you are targeting, type in "add link".

Let's say you are searching for flower shops links. You type in the following: "flower shops" "add link". There should be a number of sites appear that will let you add your link. You can also try "add free link" if you are wanting to narrow your search to free links.

Another method is to contact the owners of other blogs and web sites by e-mail, and request a link exchange with them. Before you do so, however, you need to do a bit of basic research.

Actually go their web site or blog and read it. Learn about their content. Find out the name of the owner, blogger, or webmaster. In your trade request, mention some things you liked about their site. Let them know how you think linking to your site would provide useful information to their readers. Use their name in your e-mail. Don't laugh, you would be surprised how many people don't do any of those things!

Just today, I received an offer to swap links with a site who wanted a reciprocal link. They sent me a form e-mail that was sent to "Dear Webmaster". If they had been to my blog, they would have known something about my blog. My subject is in no way related to their site's content. My name is on the links, and is easy to find. They had never even looked at my blog.

I clicked their link to their obscure links page. My site was not listed there, as their form e-mail stated. It is considered good linking etiquette, to first place a link to the site, with whom you are requesting the exhange. They wanted me to give them what amounted to a free link!

When you are looking for link exchanges, stay away from those so-called "free for all link exchanges" and "link farms". A free for all link site will bring you very little if any traffic. Your blog will appear there for a very short time, and then be replaced by new links. You will have to link back to them, and agree to receive a mega load of spam. Bad idea!

Link farms are even worse. They are sites that are nothing but links. They contain almost no useful content and will get a link back from you. They also will send you a boat load of unwanted junk e-mail.

Even worse, search engines like Google, consider link farms to be very bad neighbourhoods for your site to frequent. Google will penalize your site for adding a link to a link farm. They may even ban your site from their listings.

Google won't penalize your blog, if a link farm adds it to their links section, because you have no control over who links to you. Google will, however, punish your site if you link to any bad neighbourhoods. After all, you control all of your outgoing links. Avoid links farms!

Natural linking is best. By that, I mean other blogs and web sites will link to your blog, if you provide good useful content. Again, we are back to a major theme for all web sites, including blogs. Content is king on the internet.

Good useful content gets your blog listed higher in the search results. Getting more incoming links, to your great content, gets you ranked higher in the search engines.

Constantly adding content benefits you both ways. One major advantage of a blog is its regularly updated content. That new information is certain to gain you extra incoming links.

Links are a big part of what blogging is all about.

Happy linking!

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Monday, October 13, 2003

 

Blog Directories: get your blog listed

Blog promotion takes many forms. We will examine them all in detail.

First of all, there are internet directories that only list blogs.

Blog directories contain thousands of blogs. Don't let that discourage you or frighten you away from them. Directories have many categories that suit your site perfectly. You are not really competing for space with the many personal diary type blogs. They have their own sections.

Don't confuse blog directories with the more general web site directories like DMOZ, Joe Ant, Gimpsy, Go Guides, and Zeal. The more general type directories are extremely important too, however. We will discuss them another day, as they have some special requirements all their own.

Some of the most important blog directories are:

Blog Search Engine http://www.blogsearchengine.com
Blogwise http://www.blogwise.com
Eatonweb portal http://www.portal.eatonweb.com
Blog Universe http://www.bloguniverse.com
Popdex http://www.popdex.com
Blogarama http://www.blogarama.com
Blogdex http://www.blogdex.com
Blo.gs http://www.blo.gs/
Globe of Blogs http://www.globeofblogs.com
Blizg http://www.blizg.com
Online Marketing Links http://www.onlinemarketinglinks.com

There are many more as well. You get the picture. There is no shortage of great directories to list your new blog.

There are two important requirements for most blog directories.

One is having a good short description of your blog content. It shouldn't exceed 150 characters. Any longer and it may get cut; or even ignored.

A second requirement is a good list of keywords that you expect people to enter into the search box. A list of about ten to twelve search terms is ideal. Any more and you are either redundant, or keyword spamming.

All directories require your blog title, URL, and an active e-mail address.

Some will request more information including your name and location. They may also require a link back to the directory itself. Give them the link. It often results in some preferential category listing, promotion, or placement. That means more traffic for your blog.

You can find many other blogs, to share reciprocal links right there in your blog category. They share your interest and are not likely competitors either. We will discuss trading links, an important aspect of blogging, in another column.

Get started on those directory listings today!






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Sunday, October 12, 2003

 

Blogs and search engine optimization

Blogs have an advantage on the search engines over traditional web sites.

You are all familiar with the various search engines. They include Google, AltaVista, Inktomi, Ask Jeeves, Exact Seek, Yahoo, AOL Search, and many others.

As you know, when you conduct a search on the various engines, your own web site may be far down the list of results, if it can be found at all. The process of getting your site moved higher in the search results, commonly called search engine result placements or SERPs for short, is an industry of its own. It is called search engine optimization or SEO.

Attempting to get to the first page of your site's most important search requests or "keywords" is an ongoing challenge. To be Number One on Page One in the SERPs, for your search terms, is the holy grail of search engine optimization.

Blogs give you a distinct leg up in that quest.

First of all, the search engines like Google love fresh content. Since a blog is updated at least once a day, there is always fresh material for the search engine spiders to crawl. New keyword filled articles are great "spider food". The search engines gobble it up like candy.

Because of the frequency of new blog posts, the search engines will return more often to your blog, than they will to a static traditional site. On the internet "content is king", and blogs provide abundant and regularly updated content.

In effect, every new blogging entry adds a brand new article to your web site. As each entry contains new keywords, your site can gain visitors searching for previously unused terms. The fresh posts add new content and extra roads into your site. That means customers, who had never been to your site before, can find your business in new and exciting ways.

Another bonus of blogging is the links. Bloggers are linkers; almost addictively so. Incoming links to your blog boost your search results in the engines. Outgoing links connect your blog to the online world. In a future article, I will discuss linking more fully; as I will examine every aspect of blogging. Links to other sites' content are what the internet is built upon. Blogs provide exactly that requirement.

As you begin your blogging adventure, you should find your site moving up ever higher, in the search results.

That means more visitors to your site. They are looking for what you have to offer to fill their needs.

That means potentially many new customers for your business's products and services.

All because of a blog!









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Saturday, October 11, 2003

 

Getting visitors to your blog

Once you decide to start a blog, you will need readers.

Writing and talking to yourself might be fine in diary. That is not what you are trying to do with a business blog. You are building a relationship with your readers, to help them get to know and understand you and your business better.

Over the next little while, we will look at some easy and inexpensive ways to increase your visitor traffic. Many of the same ideas can be used with any web site, and not just for a blog.

We will examine directories, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, blog marketing, publicizing your blog, press releases, and other ways of building traffic. My advice will usually always be for the most cost effective ideas possible. Most are free!

You will have access to many new and exciting traffic building concepts. Some are indeed old reliables. A few methods are not used by many people on the internet.

Business blogging itself is a leading edge concept. That means there is a lot of new territory to be discovered.

As your blog begins to take shape, and as you add new entries, more ways to use your blog will open up. There will be more uses for your blogging ideas come to the forefront. That will lead to more readers as well.

Your customers and clients, who will form your readership base, will thank you for it.

More visitors means increased business for you.

That leads to a successful business.





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Your first blog: what you should do?

You have decided to take the plunge, and are starting a blog for your business.

Now comes the hard part.

What do you write about?

In your very first entry, you should tell your customers and clients why you are starting a blog. The main reason, is to help further your business relationships, by injecting a bit of yourself into your writing.

Tell the readers who you are. Give them some background on yourself and your business. This is not the place to give your customers and clients the hard sell. In fact, the blog is more of a way for you to connect, with everyone with whom you do business, on a more personal level.

A business blog is not a "one step" sales tool. It is a longer term investment in yourself and everyone who reads your words. The benefits come later, but are so much more powerful.

Your readers become closer to you, and to your thoughts and ideas, creating a solid bond that is difficult to break. Your customers and clients will feel more a part of your business. As a result, they will evolve into more loyal and long term supporters.

As we discuss how a blog can help your business, keep in mind that we are looking to the long term. We are thinking of the lifetime value of a customer. The true value of a customer or client is over a longer period of time. That is the value of the blog in financial terms. Good long term customer relations translate into a more successful business.

A blog is not a short term quick fix.

It's a lot better than that!






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Friday, October 10, 2003

 

Blogs mean business

What is a blog and what can it do for your business?

A blog, which is short for "weblog", is a regular series of thoughts, ideas, and opinions on any number of topics.

Many people are familiar with the personal diary type of blog. Those weblogs are maintained by individuals who wish to share various aspects of their lives with others. Their writings may include their thoughts, their ideas, and their daily activities.

That is not the type of blog I am discussing here.

This column is about using blogs as part of a business and its marketing, publicity, and promotional activities. This type of blog takes the form a daily column about business.

We will examine how starting a daily blog, updated as often as you like, can help to create a closer relations with your customers and clients. People like to conduct business with people they know. Writing a blog is one way to start and continue that relationship.

You can either host your own blog on your own web site, or you can use a blog service. I recommend that you get your own domain name for your blog, if it's not hosted on your site. I am using this free blog service, provided by the Google owned Blogger, as an example.

Now who am I?

My name is Wayne Hurlbert. My background ranges from sales management and marketing, to market research, to government lobbying. I also do marketing and public relations consulting, search engine optimization, and freelance writing.

I have a couple of decades of hard earned business experience, that includes some good days, and some bad ones. I'm sure all of you recognize those!

For those who want to get an early glimpse into my thoughts, I write another daily column about roller derby. In that blog, I discuss the sport of roller derby from a business perspective. I also provide daily news on the happenings in the sport.

That blog, called Wayne's Derby World, can be found here:

http://www.waynesderbyworld.blogspot.com

Be sure to check out that blog.

You'll want to return here daily for my latest discussions of how a writing a blog can help your business.

See you later.


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