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Blog Business World

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

Sunday, October 31, 2004

 

Blogs and search engine relevance

The most recent Google results, whether involving incoming links, Google PageRank levels, or positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs), there is one common denominator.

That similarity lies in the value that Google is placing on theme and topic related content. The watchword of the day, in the land of Google, is relevance.

The Google algorithm, which is the mathematical calculation that determines a site’s position in the search results for any given keyword or phrase, has been revised to stress the importance of relevance.

That importance not only affects the search results that are found in the SERPs, but in Google’s PageRank and link valuation formulas as well.

With the need for more relevant content and linking partners, website owners are looking for a possible solution.

The requirements for help include theme and topic relevant content and linking partners who are also theme and topic related. While there are several ways to achieve relevance, one such method is adding a blog component to your website.

Blogs are regularly updated postings of information, usually related to the theme of a website, and includes incoming and outgoing links on the same topics. Once thought to be merely online journals and diaries, blogs have moved far beyond the personal realm and into the world of business and information.

Blogs are becoming an important component in many business owners’ toolboxes for marketing, public relations, and search engine optimization.

Businesses in almost every industry can benefit from the blog boost in the search engines. There is little doubt that all websites will receive a healthy injection of relevance, simply by posting regularly to a business blog.

Since the posts will be on topics, related to the overall website theme, and incoming links will arrive from similarly themed blogs, relevance is an obvious and natural result.

In the early days of the internet, it was thought that related sites would link naturally to one another. Little thought was given to placements in the various search engines at first.

It was generally agreed, that good content would attract natural related incoming links, from similarly themed websites. In fact, what was being described was what is currently happening with blogs.

Blog posts are generally written on one, but just as often on two, three, or even more related topics. If the topics are not related, they become so by virtue of there being a large number of posts on those formerly unrelated topics.

On occasion, the unrelated topics will even appear in the same post. The important aspect of the blog is the overall development of powerful theme relevance.

Bloggers are also free and generous linkers.

By regularly linking to interesting blog posts, bloggers provide value to their own readers, by offering them the best of other bloggers. These added incoming links provide additional Google PageRank, as well as boosts in the search engine rankings from the link.

The clickable links are often rich, in the receiving blog’s most important keywords, and are contextually surrounded by theme related content as well. This combination of strong link anchor text and theme relevant content gives the blog exactly what the search engines are seeking.

The Google algorithm could have easily been written with blogging in mind.


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Saturday, October 30, 2004

 

Blog Chamber of Commerce: Can it work?

Blog Chamber of Commerce

A few days ago, I wrote about the possibilty of some enterprising blogger forming a Blog Chamber of Commerce.

The purpose of the Blog Chamber of Commerce would be to help organize business, marketing, public relations, economics, human resources, employment, and other related blogs into a mutual assistance and promotional organization.

Since I first wrote of this potentially powerful marketing device, a few bloggers have mentioned the idea on their blogs.

Will Pate of Will Pate.org was hoping for more information on the concept. I took that to mean he wanted to see some nuts and bolts. I hesitate to say that he thinks the idea is just nuts, but I digress.

The ever creative marketing mind of Trudy Schuett of WOLves expressed a strong interest in developing the idea further.

I see the organization working along the lines of starting out as a membership group. Each blog joining the Blog Chamber of Commerce would have a button on their blog, linking to the main membership. Perhaps the various member blogs could link to one another as well.

Helping one another, with individual blog promotional and marketing efforts, would certainly be a part of the plan. The overall Chamber of Commerce could be marketed and promoted as well.

Forming an alliance for furthering the cause of business blogging, in all of its forms and variations, provides a solid service to the business community. One way to help the internet business community is by promoting the use of blogs.

We know that a blog component helps a business and their internet website achieve higher search rankings and higher traffic volumes.

Blogs within the Chamber of Commerce alliance would also work, to further the cause of business and entrepreneurship, as a viable career option.

By working together to help one another, and to assist the internet business community as a whole, the Blog Chamber of Commerce would provide a valuable service through the advocacy of blogging.

Working together to achieve our personal goals, and those of the online community, is a worthy cause.

Now all we need is a linking button.


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Friday, October 29, 2004

 

Resume wiki to help job seekers

A resume wiki, where prospective employees can post their resumes, sounds like a great idea to me.

As with many useful and creative ideas, the ResumeWiki flows from the creative blogging mind of my friend Jeremy Wright of Ensight.

A wiki is a community blog where anyone can create a post. In this case, the post would take the form of a standard employment resume.

All job seekers would be allowed to post.

Jeremy describes the ResumeWiki this way:

ResumeWiki is a community edited resume centre. You post your profile (goals, etc) and resume the community of peers will give you comments and possible edits. It is about harnessing the power of lots of eyes to help you get your job. It is kind of like Open Source’ing your resume. Less bugs, more potential, less work for the individual (you).


Should this concept help any bloggers find interesting and rewarding employment, ResumeWiki has performed an admirable service for both employers and potential employees.

Along with the wiki, for posting resumes, the site also includes tips on all aspects of resume writing, to job search, to helpful employment resources.

It's time for career seeking bloggers to update their resumes.

A richly rewarding career might not be too far away.

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

 

Where was I anyway?

For those of you who were seeking your daily semi-wisdomic (is that word?) words of inspiration from Blog Business World, I was not on the internet.

I was having major modem problems. It wasn't painful so much as it was frustrating. I wanted to write a blog post, whose topic I have now forgotten and never had the presence of mind to write down.

Oh well.

I am back on "high speed" dialup until they can rectify the problem next week. I get a service call next week to install a new ethernet card, to make the dsl modem work.

I talked to two different tech support people at my ISP and got two different answers. They were so different, in fact, that they were actually contradictory.

Tech guy one said to do A and not B.

Tech guy two said the opposite.

I like their mixed messages. Hooray for modern employee training methods!

Probably my old and dusty computer is killing off their modern modem technology.

I guess that would be a new form of virus.

Techno-bug.

Anyway, I am almost back to being beind in my internet work.

I might even have a column idea.

If only I remembered to make a note to myself, to write my ideas on a piece of paper, which I would probably promptly lose anyway.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 

Blogshares: Finding blogs by playing

Blogshares is an online stock market simulation game for bloggers.

As Blogshares describe themselves:

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
.

I have been playing the game for about a year, excluding a month long close down of the game in late 2003. The game changed ownership at that time, and was revived.

My net worth is just over 5 billion Blogshares Dollars, composed of cash on hand and equity in various blogs.

I am struggling to stay in the top 500 players rankings, despite being a "free" player. As such, I'm restricted to 20 transactions, inlcuding both purchases and sales of blog holdings, per day.

While Blogshares presents a nice diversion for bloggers, it's also a great way to find many new and interesting blogs. I like to visit many of the blogs I own, to find out what interests the blogger.

Blogshares encourages blog visits by allowing for "Industry" voting. By visiting and reading through the blog, a player then "votes" on the "Industry" or topic of the blog.

Voting provides players with "karma" points that translate into "chips". Gaining chips is a good idea as they can be traded for ads on the Blogshares site, fees for onsite raffle entries, or sold to other players for cash or shares.

I have found a number of very interesting new blogs, as a direct result of playing the game.

At the same time, I have also purchased all of the available outstanding shares, in many blogs I have linked in my Resources section.

All blog owners can "claim" their own blog by displaying a personalized Blogshares button on their blog. You will notice that I have a special button on this blog. You will also see Blogshares buttons on blogs all over the internet, as their owners have claimed their own blogs.

The button used for a blog claim is personalized to your blog and your game account.

Claiming gets an immediate reward of he 1000 shares (of an initial total of 5000 shares) of the blog. Those shares are reserved for the owner to keep or sell. They can't be sold until claimed and released by the blog owner. It's then up to the blogger to purchase the remaining publicly available 4000 shares.

I own all of the 5000 total outstanding shares in my own blogs.

I also have the distinction, of introducing a number of other bloggers, to the joys of playing Blogshares.

Surf on over to the Blogshares and have a look.

It's an interesting game that might quite possibly hold your attention.

It might also introduce you to some brand new blogs.
















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A Big Picture Carnival of the Capitalists

The constantly growing in popularity, travelling business show, recognized by one and all as Carnival of the Capitalists, makes a stop at a blog that is all about markets, economics and business (well, mostly).

This week's posts have a decidely financial air about them, as we visit Barry Ritholtz'z highly informative business, economics and financial marketets blog, known as The Big Picture.

When Barry is not writing about business related themes, he takes a breather and discusses his passions for film and music.

This week's edition of Carnival of the Capitalists features some of the best bloggers writing on the internet today.

Blogging topics presented include entrepreneurship, management, legal issues, regulation, the media, internet commerce, the national and global economies, and Alan Greenspan.

As you would expect from The Big Picture, there are business, economics, and political entries everywhere.

It's always great to read and discover the many high quality blogs out there in the blogosphere.

We don't always get to them all, and this edition of Carnival of the Capitalists has introduced many of us to some brand new ones.

As I am always privileged to do, I have an entry in this week's Carnival of the Capitalists as well.

My entry post this week is entitled "Convert Visitors into Customers" where I discuss various methods and ideas of turning visitor traffic ito paying customers and clients for your online business.

If you wish to submit an entry to next week's, or any Carnival of the Capitalists edition, e-mail your entries to the new address:

cotcmail -at- gmail -dot- com

If you are searching for new and exciting ways to expand your blog's readership, you should seriously consider sending an entry to Carnival of the Capitalists.

Merely being included in the company, of the first rate regular Carnival of the Capitalists contributors, will enhance the reputation of your blog.The extra visitors can't sent to your blog won't hurt either!

The growth and staying power, of Carnival of the Capitalists, is beginning to catch the attention of people outside the blogging community. Each hosting, brings a fresh assortment of new readers, to the various blogs involved.

The visitors aren't only bloggers anymore.

Readership is expanding to include the mainstream media, various government and private organizations, many businesses, and other interested people from beyond the blogging community.

Many people are introduced to some tremendous blogs that they might otherwise have missed.

Next week's Carnival of the Capitalists moves over to Will Pate's informative technology and entrepreneurial blog called imaginatively enough Will Pate.org. Will says his hippie friends will disown him as a result.

In the meantime, click that mouse over to this week's The Big Picture hosting of Carnival of the Capitalists.

If the great posted entries don't convince you to click, the possibility of finding some brand new blogs to read Carnival of the Capitalists certainly will.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

 

Towards some new alliances

Blog alliances.

The blogosphere contains many such groupings and organizations of bloggers and their respective blogs.

There are numerous political affilations, representing liberal, conservative and libertarian political blogs.

There are groupings of legal blogs and associations of blogs by city, state, and country.

Business blogs remain unaffiliated, except as part of the above alliances.

The closest association for business blogs is the well known, but very loosely affiliated, Carnival of the Capitalists.

It's time for a closer affiliation of business and economics blogs.

Perhaps we need to develop a Blog Chamber of Commerce, in support of the bloggers who recommend entrepreneurship as a career choice.

As business and economics bloggers, we are helping new small businesses take flight, and become successful.

Small businesses are the backbone of any economy, and the largest creators of jobs.

Every entrepreneur creates a job for himself or herself, and potentially for several to many other employees as well.

Perhaps a Blog Chamber of Commerce, formed through an alliance of business and economic focussed bloggers, could carry that message to the wider public.

At the same time, the Blog Chamber of Commerce could provide a support and networking group to help other bloggers form their own businesses.

Starting your own business is possibly the single best road to ensuring independence for you and your family.

It's time a Blog Chamber of Commerce was formed to help you with achieving your business goals.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

 

Periodic Table of Blogs

The Periodic Table of Blogs is part of The Humbug Journal blog, and a brainchild of a mysterious baseball fan and poet known as Score Bard.

His poems are known to grace the threads, that run through the baseball blog and discussion forum, known as Baseball Primer.

Naturally, the primary reason for the Periodic Table of Blogs was to emphasise baseball related blogs. Along with blogs devoted to America's National Pastime, are politcal blogs, science and technology blogs, cultural blogs, and et cetera blogs.

Included in the Periodic Table of Blogs are some of the leading blogs in the blogosphere.

We are all familiar with most of them, and link to many of them.

Buried deep in the lowest level of the Periodic Table of Blogs is Blog Business World, marked with the chemical symbol "Bi".

Also included in the listings are some of our favourite business blogs.

I was pleasantly surprised to be included in such auspicious company.

More importantly, being part of a truly unique and interesting concept as the Periodic Table of Blogs, is exciting. The concept that Score Bard created underlines the various creative ways, that blogs can be used, beyond the ordinary.

We tend to think of blogs as consisting only of daily postings.

We usually think of blogrolls as little more than a listing of blogs.

The Periodic Table of Blogs knocks those ideas right out of the park.

By applying some creativity to blogs, and adding elements of traditional websites as Score Bard does, new blogging concepts will arise.

Score Bard, and all other bloggers, should rename their links page something else.
Google has begun to penalize sites that use the term "links" in an attempt to cut down on undesirable linking practices.

Many honest sites and blogs are getting caught in the crossfire. To prevent becoming a casualty, simply use different terminology for all links lists and pages.

Think outside of the box and look for ways to make your blog fresh and exciting.

In the meantime, break into a home run trot over to the Periodic Table of Blogs, and check out this paradigm breaking idea.

Your blog might even be listed!


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Saturday, October 23, 2004

 

E-Mail Newsletters: Adding Subscribers

Johnny was frustrated with the lack of subscribers to his new e-mail newsletter. He had taken care to make it a double opt-in type, and was always careful to avoid any hint of spamming.

He believed his e-mail newsletter contained a nice balance of valuable information, along with some great special offers for his subscribers.

The problem for Johnny was no one was becoming a subscriber. He didn’t know what to do to improve his subscription numbers. If your e-mail newsletter is suffering from low readership numbers, there are many remedies you can use to cure the problem.

What is needed is a little marketing creativity, and a willingness to test the results.

Most e-mail newsletter subscriber efforts make the mistake of being entirely online. More good quality names can be added through offline marketing as well. In fact, some of a business’s most profitable customers might arrive from one of many offline sign-up vehicles.

While many new subscribers can be added away from the internet, most businesses gain the bulk of their newsletter readership from online sources. The many tried and true techniques can be coupled with many imaginative new concepts, gaining many new names in the process. The company website itself, is an often underused resource for recruitment, demanding special attention.

Consideration must be given to privacy issues, as the trust barrier must be passed, for a potential customer to provide their name, e-mail address, or any other personal information that might be required.

After the names have been collected, each name adding technique should be tracked for volume of recruitments, and tested for improvements in effectiveness.

With proper attention to every aspect of e-mail newsletter subscriber recruitment, a business’s customer mailing list can grow larger than ever imagined.

Onsite sign up changes get more subscribers

The business’s own website is the most logical, and the most profitable, place to start an newsletter subscriber campaign. Simply making some changes to the structure and content of the website, will add many more new newsletter readers, without any other marketing efforts. Making the company website more newsletter subscriber friendly should be the first place to start.

Any onsite efforts to increase subscriber enrollments should begin with the on page sign up box. The box should be prominently placed on every page of the website. Since visitors enter a site at many different pages, the opportunity should be available to become a newsletter subscriber.

Restricting the sign up box, to only one on the home page, loses the visitors who land on another web page. A chance to enrol as a subscriber, by signing up from every page, increases the number of subscribers.

Often, there is so much interest in what is offered on a page, that the sign up box is overlooked. By simply presenting them, with a way to join the mailing list from an inside page, captures those people who may have clicked away from the home page.

Placing the sign up box, high on the right hand side of the page, is usually better eye placement than on the left hand side of the page. While that location might vary for some people, many researchers have found it effective placement for the majority.

Take advantage of natural eye movement, to ensure that your sign up box gets seen by as many visitors as possible. Note that placement on every page, picks up those potential subscribers, a quick home page scan might have missed.

Some sites do have opposite scans, based on the placement of their most eye catching information. Testing the box on both sides, and measuring the results from several locations, will provide the ideal sport for your site.

Be sure to place the subscriber box above the fold on the page. That means placing the box as close to the top of the page as possible. While you don’t want to crash the sign up box into the top banners, or whatever might be required in that prime real estate, you don’t want to have anyone need to scroll.

To prevent dropping below the fold, where scrolling down the page will be necessary, take into account the average size computer screens of 15 and 17 inches. Don’t forget that some screens have been reduced in size from the installation of one or more browser toolbars.

Use the thank you for purchases (you do have one of those, right?) page to offer a subscription to the newsletter, prior to leaving the shopping cart and the website. Many strong buyers will be motivated to add their name and e-mail to the subscriber list. Those who have already bought, are likely to do so in the future as well.

Taking care of subscribers nets more of them

A plainly worded and easy to understand privacy policy is essential for higher subscriber rates. Make available, at a single click, a highly visible privacy policy page as well. At the sign up location, tell the potential subscriber that their name and e-mail address will never be sold, rented out, or given away. Ever.

On the privacy policy page, repeat those promises, and guarantee them again. Don’t let your legal department use their legendary confusing terminology. That will only frighten people away, as they will suspect all sorts of loopholes, letting their e-mail address become a spam target. Make certain that a spam concerned visitor can enrol from the privacy page, once they are comfortable with your privacy guarantee.

Make certain that any newsletter is what is called “double opt-in”. By that, a subscriber must submit a working e-mail address to the site. A response will be sent back to the potential recipient, who must confirm the request. The method assures the newsletter was wanted and is not likely to be considered spam. While not required by law, double opt-in is considered a best practice.

Sending the sign up response immediately, with a personally written and not default message, will reassure the potential subscriber of the quality of the product. Delays cost the site many subscribers. While at the double opt-in confirmation page, other site’s newsletters can be offered as well.

Such exchanges, of similarly themed e-zines, can gain more subscribers for everyone. Check each newsletter partner, prior to entering into an exchange arrangement, to be sure they also adhere to best practices. Look especially for double opt-in and a strong privacy policy. Avoid anyone who violates those principles.

Be certain that along with making it easy for a subscriber to be added to the list, make it easy and problem free to unsubscribe from the list. While that idea might sound counterproductive, it really helps enrollment.

If a potential recipient believes they might never be able to remove their name from the list, in the event the newsletter is no longer useful, that person won’t join in the first place. Easy enrollment, coupled with simple and problem free unsubscription will add more readers than it will lose.

Other handy ideas for adding subscribers

Offer a free download or a gift to every new subscriber, simply for enrolling. With the ease of creating an e-book or PDF file, any webmasters can turn their knowledge in their area of business, into a book consisting of several pages. For those who prefer to not create their own downloadable book, there are many such items available on the internet. It is better for your online business, however, to use your own informational materials.

Develop your reputation as an expert in your industry. By posting helpful information, at the various internet message boards on your topic, you can become known as an expert in your business area. If the message board permits a signature, use it to recommend signing up for your newsletter. Visitors to your site, seeking additional information, will also find your sign up boxes.

Don’t overlook the obvious benefit of providing high quality content on your website itself. If the website provides useful information to the visitor, that person is highly likely to want your e-mail newsletter as well. The newsletters can also be archived, on the website itself, to provide additional content for both the site visitors and for the search engines.

Subscribers can help add even more enrollments. Make sure there is a link to “forward to a friend” on every newsletter. Many people will pass along the newsletter to their friends and associates, resulting in more new subscribers.

Providing prizes to subscribers for sending a certain number of new enrollments works as a powerful incentive to forward the newsletter. The use of such viral marketing and endorsement techniques is often one of the most powerful list builders available.

Current subscribers, who enjoyed your newsletter information and its special offers, can help get more readers by providing testimonials. Get the permission of satisfied customers and subscribers to print their comments, along with their name and address.

Testimonials are one of the most powerful techniques to build any business. Potential subscribers are much more likely to believe the words of a site’s customers, than those of the business owner.

Add some subscribers offline

While online subscriptions might form the largest numbers of subscribers, many businesses have found their offline enrollment efforts produced many of their best buying customers.

A business with a bricks and mortar location can offer a sign up offer right at their point of purchase location. The business owner can offer a subscription to the newsletter to product or service buyers.

These already existing customers and clients provide some of the best subscribers, from a sales conversion standpoint. A person who has bought from a business in the past is very apt to do so in the future.

Trade shows create a tremendous newsletter recruitment point for adding subscribers. Many interested people will be delighted to join a company mailing list, especially if they have shown interest in the business’s products and services.

The newsletter can supply much needed followup to trade show attendees, as an article can easily be written about the show itself.

Place an offer to subscribe to the company e-mail newsletter in all purchases, on all invoices, business cards, and any other materials, that leave the doors of the business.

Along with adding subscribers, who may click through newsletter offers, many current and potential customers may simply go directly to the website as buyers. Either way, a new customer is born, or an existing buyer retained.

By combining elements of improved website design, with good online and offline marketing techniques, the subscriber list for an e-mail newsletter can be rapidly enlarged.

Add those new subcribers today!


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Friday, October 22, 2004

 

Linking benefits in the new search engine world

Linking is great for your blog or website.

Of course, you knew that already.

Note, however, that not all incoming links are created equally.

The new search engine climate rewards links that come from and travel to related sites.

It's all about relevance.

Adding incoming links to your blog or website helps to add more visitor traffic, better search engine rankings for your most important keywords, and stronger Google PageRank.

Adding incoming links will help visitors to other sites find yours. That is quite obvious, and doesn't really require much explanation. If possible, along with the name of your blog, have the link contain the topic of your blog to let the visitors know what your blog is all about.

Search engines, and in particular, link obsessed Google love incoming links to a blog or website. The more links your blog has pointing its way, the more important the search engines consider it to be.

That importance is reflected in higher search engine placements when people search for what is also the contents of your blog or traditonal website. Your blog or site will simply be ranked more highly as a result.

Be sure to have some of the links to your blog or site contain your most important keywords and search terms. Technically, this is referred to as link anchor text.

What link anchor text is, in plain language, is the wording that appears on the clickable link itself. The search terms appearing on the clickable link give an extra search engine boost, especially from blogs or websites discussing the same topic as your blog.

Google PageRank is Google's numerical representation of a site's importance on the internet. That importance is solely based on incoming links to a site. The more the better, and the higher their PageRank the better. Remember too, however, that to get their full power, the page sending to your blog must be discussing the same topics as you.

Search engines have gone to relevance and themes.

By that, I mean they reward links from related sites and blogs to the receiving page. Links from unrelated pages simply are not worth nearly as much anymore. The reason for that was to discourage the sale and trading of entirely unrelated links.

For example, a site about flowers exchanging links with a site about polar bears makes little logical sense. The sole purpose of such a link exchange would be to get link benefits from the search engines. With the addition of relevance to their search calculations, that sort of linking is now almost worthless.

One way to ensure your links remain relevant is to think of whether they are of interest to your blog visitors. If you have a blog about horses, links to blogs and websites about horses, animal health, and related topics are what your visitors want to read.

Think of what is relevant to your visitors.

And you won't ever have to worry about what's relevant to the search engines.


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Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

Random thoughts on blogs and business

Blogs and random thoughts.

Could there be any worse concept!

Especially for a business blog.

I've been busily providing so much information this week that I decided to play hooky for once.

Instead of writing a substantive and informative business blogging post, I thought I'd take the easy way out and write some randomness, just for the fun of it.

After all, if you thrilled to avoiding bad linking partners, and drooled over the idea converting your visitors into customers, you've arrived at the right place.

An oasis is needed after all of that desert of dry reading.

It's always said, and even by me in my more introspective moments, that blogs need a personal touch. Getting in conversations with your readers, not only makes your blog more interesting, but your ideas more accessible.

If your readers get some picture and idea of the person behind the keyboard, your thoughts expressed in your posts will be more readily accepted.

Of course, I am largely guilty of not following my own advice. I'm usually to preoccupied with helping all of you with achieving your blogging goals, that I neglect personalizing my own blog.

Physician heal thyself!

Well, let's search for some good usable excuses first. You see, it was like this. The dog ate my homework. Okay, that one is used a bit too often. Not having a dog at the moment doesn't give it much credibility either.

I'll search around for another excuse...I mean logical and rational explanation. As you know, in real life, anything can happen. When dreaming up fiction and excuses, they have to make sense and be half way believable.

How am I doing so far?

You've already clicked away to the blogs on my Resources list?

That's okay. They are all great blogs for your reading enjoyment. You are making a great choice by reading any of them.

It's time for a brief digression.

In business news, I added a couple of great new websites to my search engine optimization (SEO) business. I am very fussy about what websites I consider in my business.

I only accept one site from any business sector. That way, I have no conflicts of interest, and the site gets the full attention for its most important search terms. It would be unfair, in my opinion, to have two competing sites in the same industry.

One thing I look for in a new client is the staff behind the site. I care about the people. If they are great to talk to on the phone, and genuinely interested in good above board SEO, they are people I want to work with for a long time.

In the SEO field, a professional becomes almost like a part of the business. The content and search engine positioning of the website is only part of the equation. Knowing and understanding the business's goals and objectives are equally important. After all, I'll be working with them, and their website, for a long time.

I believe in personalized service and I talk to, and e-mail with my clients very frequently. By providing first class customer service, I believe I fill a strong business niche in the SEO field.

Along with search engine optimization advice, I also assist my clients with search engine and other online internet marketing. It's a full service package.

Okay, I've bored you to tears by talking about my professional life and business.

It's fine to yawn.

Just don't tell me you did.


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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 

Linking: Avoiding Dirty Tricks

It’s a nightmare scene for any webmaster. Johnny found a website owner who wanted to exchange links, to help one another with traffic exchange, and perhaps a boost in the search engines. Johnny and the evil webmaster even had sites that complemented one another, by sharing similar, but not competing themes and topics.

It looked like a great arrangement for everyone involved. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Johnny’s link trading partner didn’t play fair. Their site’s alleged return link was worthless at best, and perhaps was even doing you real harm in the search engines, at worst.

When Johnny checked for the link back to his site, he couldn’t find it on the evil webmaster’s link exchange page. It wasn’t anywhere to be found. Johnny checked the page, and discovered the link was hidden. The page didn’t display the link at all, as it was turned into hidden text.

No wonder, thought Johnny, that he wasn’t getting any traffic from that site. How could he? No one could ever find his supposed link. It was invisible.

The link trading partner was eventually banned from Google, for many other uses of hidden text on his website. Johnny was assessed a penalty for linking to what Google considered a bad neighborhood.

Johnny was the victim of one of many dirty tricks employed by unscrupulous website owners.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Identifying the problem

If you are like most website owners, you want to increase your number of incoming links. The additional links will enhance your rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

To varying degrees, all incoming links will provide a boost to your Google PageRank. It’s quite understandable that webmasters might want to enter into link exchanges with other online business owners.

The problems arise when not everyone is entirely honest in their dealings. Many less than lily white webmasters will use any number of unethical linking techniques to prevent providing you with the promised benefits.

It’s best to know the possible underhanded tricks that some unscrupulous website owners will utilize against you, and what you can do to prevent being cheated.

Not all of the techniques mentioned here are evil in and of themselves. In many cases, they are legitimate website building methods. What we are concerned with here is their use in supposedly fair exchanges and agreements with link partners.

By agreeing to be an honest link partner, it’s implicit that both parties to the arrangement supply fair and equitable exchange. These questionable techniques cause the agreement to favor one side, either very heavily, or even completely.

Don’t concern yourself that I’m providing ideas to unscrupulous webmasters. The dishonest ones already know every single one of these underhanded tactics, plus many more besides. They are getting nothing new, that they won’t readily use against you, at the earliest opportunity. What you need to know are the possibilities, so you can avoid the pitfalls.

Whether to avoid sending you traffic, or to ensure no Google PageRank transfer, there are many shady tactics frequently used, by the link partners from somewhere well below Heaven. You need to know a few of the dirty tricks employed by many dishonest link exchange partners.

Forewarned is definitely forearmed.

Some unscrupulous tactics often encountered

One of the most commonly used questionable tactics, is the writing of partner links in java script, rather than the more standard html. There are times when using java script, to possibly prevent PageRank transfer, has a proper and useful role in website architecture. That is not what we are talking about in this case.

The whole idea behind this practice, in the hands of a double dealing website owner, is to prevent the passing along of any Google PageRank. The unscrupulous webmaster is operating on two possibly outdated and counterproductive assumptions. They are a classic example of a little SEO knowledge being a dangerous thing.

First of all, some search engine optimization experts believe search engine spiders are crawling java links. In the second place, Google may even be transferring PageRank along java links. What is important to note here, is the intent. The link partner used a technique, where it was deliberately the goal, to not pass along PageRank so as not provide equitable exchange.

A similar tactic to java script links is to reroute your link to prevent spidering and transfer of PageRank. What is especially bad about this practice is the link often is coded so it appears to be a standard link. Watch for reroutes, and avoid link partners who use them.

Some dishonest webmasters don’t mind the transfer of PageRank. Their main concern is sending traffic away from their site via outbound links. This is even more true if the link goes to a competitor’s site, or perhaps to a complementary business, that may also contain competitor’s links.

To avoid having a visitor click of an outgoing link, the link doesn’t appear visually on the page. It’s hidden or cloaked. The search engines can read it, but no visitor traffic will find it. As with all hidden text, highlight the entire page with Ctrl-A. If your link is cloaked by hidden text, it will show up with that keyboard command.

Occasionally, you will find a not quite above board linking partner will code the robots.txt for the page to No Follow. With that command, the search engine spiders will not crawl the page.

If that non-indexed page is where your link resides, it will never appear in the search engines. The page will never be spidered. You will not only not get PageRank transfer, you will not get any incoming link popularity benefit either.

A variation of the robots.txt theme is to place your link on a frames web page, that doesn’t have coding requesting the search engine spiders to crawl and index the page. Once again, your link provides less than the agreed upon value. You should, in both cases, receive some visitor traffic from the link, however.

Another trick to watch for is the non-linked orphan link page. Often, an underhanded link partner will dutifully place your link on the alleged links page, as agreed. There is only one problem. The link page can’t be reached from anywhere inside the website. The supposed link page is not part of the site map.

The page is also usually a challenge, of epic proportions, to locate in any of the directories or sub-directories. Because the page is an island on the internet, it will have next to no value as an incoming link, either for traffic or for link popularity.

There are a few basic tricks that most people can readily spot with minimal difficulty. One of the most common is simply never receiving the return link as promised. The linking partner never puts it up at all. The hope on their part is that you won’t ever check. They usually know from experience that many link partners don’t look for their link.

Often, the one sided link partner will indeed place your link on their page. Of course, your link disappears from the page after about a month. Your link get deleted. As with the case of never being linked, the disappearing link artists depend on you never checking your link partner pages.

When your site has thousands of incoming links, you are especially vulnerable to having your links vanish, or never appearing in the first place.

Protecting yourself for all occasions

Avoiding the traps and pitfalls, that await the unwary linker, is an essential requirement of any careful website owner. While the overwhelming majority of your link partners will be entirely honest, and any problems with your links will be unintentional, there are many people on the internet completely lacking in scruples.

Here are some steps you can take to avoid future problems for yourself and your online business.

While it would appear to be common sense, many website owners are so excited and anxious to find a possible linking partner, they throw normal caution to the wind. You simply don’t accept every offer of links that come along.

Remember, many of these sites are going to be tacitly recommended by you, as their links will be found on your site. Check them out first. Link later.

Go to their sites. Examine their link pages. Check the Google PageRank. If it shows a PageRank 0, check out the possibilities for that level. If the page is orphaned or set to not be crawled by spiders, you don’t want to have anything to do with that site.

In fact, Google could even have them under a penalty for cloaked pages and hidden text. Hit Ctrl-A and highlight the entire page, checking for that possibility.

Look over the links on the page. Are they theme and topic related to you site. As you know, properly themed pages carry much more link value than non-themed pages.

In fact, you could even be looking at a situation, where you provide the link from a well themed high PageRank web page, to one where there is little value to be passed along. That is not really a helpful trade to you.

You may find a partner who wants proper anchor text, but isn’t interested in using yours. Ignore those partners too. They don’t offer fair exchanges. To enhance your chances of receiving strong anchor text, simply provide the already written coding, complete with keyword phrased link text. That action usually solves the problem either way.

Finally, if a potential link partner doesn’t provide value to your own site’s visitors, it’s not a site you want to work with anyway. Think of value for your visitors first and foremost, and you won’t go too far wrong.




















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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

 

Accidental Verbosity continues CotC anniversary

The first anniversary celebrations continue as the travelling business show, recognized by one and all as Carnival of the Capitalists, begins its second year of providing the best of business blogging from around the internet.

This week's posts have a double anniversary air, as we continue the start of the new year at Jay and Deb Solo's insightful political, personal, and occasionally verbose blog, known as Accidental Verbosity.

When Jay and Deb are not working on Carnival anniversaries, they are writing about politics, the various blogging memes, and of course their lovely new daughter Sadie Rose.

This week's edition of Carnival of the Capitalists features some of the best bloggers writing on the internet today.

Blogging topics presented include entrepreneurship, management, legal issues, regulation, the media, internet commerce, the national and global economies.

As you would expect from Accidental Verbosity, there are eclectic and surprising postings everywhere.

It's always great to read and discover the many high quality blogs out there in the blogosphere.

We don't always get to them all, and this edition of Carnival of the Capitalists has introduced many of us to some brand new ones.

As I am always privileged to do, I have an entry in this week's Carnival of the Capitalists as well.

My entry post this week is entitled "Article swap your way to new visitors" where I discuss the idea of trading articles with other blogs and websites can get you not only more incoming links, but more visitors as well.

If you wish to submit an entry to next week's, or any Carnival of the Capitalists edition, e-mail your entries to the new address:

cotcmail -at- gmail -dot- com

If you are searching for new and exciting ways to expand your blog's readership, you should seriously consider sending an entry to Carnival of the Capitalists.

Merely being included in the company, of the first rate regular Carnival of the Capitalists contributors, will enhance the reputation of your blog.The extra visitors can't sent to your blog won't hurt either!

The growth and staying power, of Carnival of the Capitalists, is beginning to catch the attention of people outside the blogging community. The readership is enlarging, and finding entirely new visitors, every single week.

The visitors aren't only bloggers anymore.

Readership is expanding to include the mainstream media, various government and private organizations, many businesses, and other interested people from beyond the blogging community.

Next week's Carnival of the Capitalists moves over to Barry Ritholtz's informative business, economics, and financial blog called The Big Picture.

In the meantime, click that mouse over to this week's Accidental Verbosity hosted Carnival of the Capitalists.

If the great posted entries don't convince you to click, the year's part deux of the anniversary gala at Carnival of the Capitalists certainly will.

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Monday, October 18, 2004

 

Convert Visitors into Customers

The frustration for Johnny was obvious. His website had strong visitor traffic numbers, he thought. Johnny’s site offered a complete line of very good, and highly reputable products. He thought he had set up an acceptable way to buy them online.

There were plenty of visitors arriving daily to make any online business a major success. The problem for Johnny was, despite the large number of people visiting his site, not many of them bought his products.

It is an all too common problem. High visitor traffic numbers don’t always translate into strong sales numbers. Like many other websites, Johnny’s site suffered from a low conversion rate. Changes were required to turn that heavy flow of visitor traffic into paying customers.

Most sites that suffer from low conversion rate do so as a result of focussing on the business itself, rather than the customer. The website problems range from poor web design and navigation, to weak sales copy, to difficult shopping cart use, to simply failing to meet the potential customers needs and expectations.

Not recognizing the overall lifetime value of a customer, as well as the immediate benefit to the online business, results in a failure to retain paying customers as well. Fortunately, there are ways to turn those prospective clients and customers into paying customers, who return to buy from your business, over and over again.

Assessing the problem

When a website has high levels of traffic, but limited sales, the low revenue problem often becomes lost. The huge visitor numbers mask the low level of conversions from visitor to customer. The good news is once the reasons for the weak conversion rates are diagnosed, the problem can be corrected. The first step is to find out where things went so terribly wrong.

Often there are only easily correctable problems in website design. More difficult issues of website navigation, and problems with ineffective sales copy, are often standing in the way of higher conversions as well.

Often, the first step toward improving a site’s conversion rate is admitting there is a problem with the existing site. Surprisingly, may website owners either fail to understand their site is not converting visitors to sales, or won’t even accept there is a problem.

The reason for not admitting a conversion problem is usually one of two things. The first difficulty is the webmaster spent hours creating the site, and is unable to accept that it might not be perfect. The other reason is having spent thousands of dollars to an alleged website expert, the website owner doesn’t want to think that the site was not an effective sales tool. Step one is admitting there is a problem. Once that hurdle is cleared, improvements to the site can be made and more sales will result.

Each problem needs to be assessed one at a time. Following each change, a test should be completed to determine the effectiveness of the site improvements. In many cases, previous website research supports some design changes as generally effective.

The testing in those cases, has already been completed by others, over many websites over long periods of time. Those proven concepts of website design, can be immediately applied to an underperforming site, and achieve improved results.

Improving the website design

Often, small changes in website design can mean huge leaps in sales conversion rates. Simply making the site more visitor friendly will do wonders for your online business. Two of the more common deterrents to conversion are often the most clung to design aspects. They are improper page sizing and the use of too much flash.

Make certain that the site registers properly in all commonly used internet browsers. Not all searchers use Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.0. The other major operating systems and browsers should all be checked for loading your site correctly. Don’t miss out on potential buyers simply because they use Macs, or prefer Firefox as a browser.

Overly long pages that require the user to constantly scroll down are not conducive to sales. There is too much work required of the prospect. In fact breaking the page into more than one page creates additional site size, creating more entry paths to the site. Placing only the essential buyer information on the page makes it less likely to lose potential customers before they reach the end.

Even worse than pages that are too long are pages that are too wide for most computer screens. Horizontal scrolling is an irritant to most website users. They will abandon a site that requires side to side scrolling very quickly. The problem stems from designing a website that fits a 21 inch screen, but is over sized for all others.

An internet commerce site designer must recognize that smaller monitors are far more common than large ones. Fitting the majority of the customer screens will immediately increase sales due to the longer visitor staying time. Length of stay is easily found in visitor traffic logs.

An even larger problem for visitors is excessive use of flash. Website intros, written in flash, are usually skipped if possible. That option should definitely be available with a single click. Better yet, avoiding flash intros entirely should be considered. Within the site, flash often distracts from the sales message, and causes prospects to leave the page, or even the site, taking their cash with them.

If a short flash movie is required, to demonstrate the product in use, provide a clearly marked link for those who wish to view it. Forcing the flash movie onto everyone will lose far more potential buyers than it will gain.

Improving ease of site navigation will add many more sales. Providing an easy to tour site will increase conversions, simply by the helping the visitors find the products, and making it easy to buy them. The use of a good site map, and easily understood page linking, is essential.

Sharpening up the sales

Everything related to onsite product sales should be geared toward converting the visitors into paying customers. Once convinced to buy your product, it’s important to make that purchase as simple as possible.

Taking a second look at a site’s sales copy, and rewriting it to reflect product benefits to the potential purchaser, usually yields strong results. Many site owners focus on themselves. They talk about “me”. Instead the copy should concentrate on the buyer, and talk about “you”.

While a customer focus might seem logical and self evident, many sites are guilty of talking about themselves. Leave the company focus for an About Us page. Visitors who are interested in company information, and the people within the organization, will click the link.

As an additional service to your customers, make your business easy to contact, with physical address, e-mail, telephone, and fax. Many prospects aren’t interested, but for those who are concerned about you and your business, make yourself easy to find and contact.

Taking a closer examination of the wording in the site’s sales copy will pay huge dividends. Take the time to research what your buyers wants and needs include, and offer to fulfil them. Make certain that every word in the copy leads toward the sale. Check all of the buying links to ensure they lead to a closing page or shopping cart with a single click.

Whether visitors arrive from an e-mail newsletter link, an adwords, Overture or other pay per click program, or from an a paid ad or banner, make sure each one has a separate landing page. Repeat and close the special offer outlined in the ad or newsletter.

Taking care of the customers

Providing a specialized landing page for your site’s most important keyword and keyword phrase searches will really pay off. If searchers go directly to a page on your site that answers their wants and needs, it’s far easier to close a sale. The concern with your searchers, as people whose needs you want to satisfy will help increase the site conversion rate.

Using unique landing pages enables a webmaster to track the conversion rate of each ad and landing page combination. If the conversion percentage for any one of vehicles is lower than the norm, that option can be readily discovered and improved.

Always have easy to read and understand privacy and security policies. Write the policies in plain language and make them easy to find. Don’t hide them, or your prospects might suspect you have something to hide. To get names, addresses, and credit card numbers, a webmaster must gain the complete trust of the potential buyers. Falling short of that lofty goal will send your prospects elsewhere.

By providing a highly secure site, with assurances of complete privacy, more visitors will feel confident to purchase your products. Always have top industry standard encryption for sending and receiving secure information. It’s absolutely vital for credit card numbers.

Be sure to never sell, rent, or give away your customer names or personal information either. As an additional service to your customers, make your business easy to contact, with physical address, e-mail, telephone, and fax. Even the slightest hint that a site has lax security policies will cause sales volumes to collapse.

Understanding the lifetime value of a customer is essential to adding more sales to your ledger. Every study on cost of customer acquisition concludes that it’s cheaper to sell more to an existing customer than to find a new one. Many experts believe the cost of new customers is seven times higher than maintaining existing customers.

By making your site visitor friendly, you can retain those newly added customers, and benefit from their purchases for a lifetime. As a bonus, they will recommend your business to their friends as well.

Conclusion

High traffic volumes don’t always automatically translate into paying customers. Most websites have room to improve their conversion rates.

By taking a customer focussed approach, a website owner can dramatically increase the total number and size of the online sales. Make certain that the sales copy, and content in general, have the visitor in mind.

By making some changes in the website design, making it easier to use, visitors will stay longer and be far more likely to become customers.

Take care of your customers, and over their lifetime, they will take care of you.


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Sunday, October 17, 2004

 

Avoiding Bad SEO Advice

Inaccurate and unreliable search engine optimization (SEO) advice is available with alarming regularity, it seems. You can find it almost everywhere you look on the internet.

Bad advice lurks in your e-mail as spam from shady fly by night companies calling themselves SEOs. Suggestions on improving your website’s position, found in the various internet message forums, ranges from tremendously helpful to downright terrible.

There are articles on SEO, widely read and believed, that offer not only questionable opinions, but are riddled with factual errors. Self styled SEO experts can be found on their websites, waiting to ensnare the unwary.

Following such dubious advice, some novice website owners could make some terrible errors, that could drop their website’s placement in the search engine rankings. Some of the advice can even get a website banned from the search engines, for violation of their webmaster guidelines.

Webmasters unknowingly read and hear bad SEO advice on a constant basis. Often, the advice is packaged in a fairly well written format, and carries a fairly authoritative tone. What many website owners don’t know, is how to select the solid and useful recommendations, from the concepts best ignored at any cost.

The internet in general, and search engine optimization in particular, are still very young in terms of years in existence. The idea, that SEO can even make a difference, to a website’s ranking in the search engines, is a concept still very much in its infancy.

The opportunity for the internet version of snake oil salespeople, and for outright charlatans, is certainly very high. The lack of peer review of information, creates an ideal environment, for both the dishonest huckster and the simply incompetent advisor. The best defence for any website owner is to read carefully, and weigh the pros and cons of all advice on offer, prior to taking any drastic action.

Whether the advice arrives from self styled experts, message forums, e-mail newsletters, or from a search result, it’s important for the website owner to be very cautious. While not all SEO advice is bad, there is much that needs to be taken with an entire shaker of the proverbial salt.

Search engine optimization advice is certainly a webmaster beware system.

Watching the words on message forums

Internet message boards offer a great way for website owners to market their site, offer information, and gain knowledge from other members. Search engine optimization is no exception.

A number of very high quality SEO forums are active on the internet. They offer some excellent advice to their members and to the general readership. They also offer some mistaken theories. Along with the gold, there is some baser material in the alloy.

A number of very good SEO message forums can be found very easily. The membership of the various boards, which often overlaps, includes some of the finest and most knowledgeable SEO professionals anywhere. These well informed individuals are to be given credit and thanks, for providing good information, to the rest of the membership.

Along with the SEO professionals, members include others interested in the topic, ranging from complete novices to very well informed individual website owners. There are also some people, freely dispensing advice, that is not very helpful to the webmaster. Many recommendations are even harmful, if applied to a site.

All of the message boards include some extremely knowledgeable people among their memberships in general, and their moderators in particular. While most members attempt to provide helpful information to the general readership, not all posts are of equal quality.

Care must be taken to ensure that the good SEO concepts are gleaned from the forum. Equal care must also be taken to avoid the less valuable, and often incorrect statements.

To do well with any message board, it takes a bit of effort on the part of the reader. Simply posting one time, and expecting an answer to solve all of the website SEO problems, is unrealistic at best.

It can also lead, to making some very grave errors, that may take months to correct. Regular reading and participation at one or more message boards introduces the member to many of the posters.

Over time, the member will become familiar with the knowledge level of the various other posters. Once the highly skilled individuals are identified, it’s much easier to find the sources of good SEO advice.

It also becomes easier to avoid the ideas proposed by the less helpful sources. By spending time at the forums, the SEO novice can learn infinitely more valuable information, than expecting a one time overall response.

A good policy to adopt, for any website owner, is to not apply any new and unfamiliar search engine optimization practices, without first checking their validity. Investigate forum discussions of the topic and advice in question. Seek out second, third, and even fourth opinions. A costly error in judgement can take months of hard work to repair.

Avoiding problems from e-mail

Good and bad search engine optimization advice can arrive in your daily e-mail. There are two major conduits of e-mail SEO advice. One is through internet newsletters, ranging from excellent to not helpful at all. The other means of information dissemination, is by unsolicited e-mail, better known as spam.

The wise website owner would do well to display caution, when it comes to e-mail SEO advice. Much of the unsolicited mass mailed information is of little use to any webmaster. In most cases, the advice offered is not much help to anyone, except the sender.

In many cases, the offered advice, along with the accompanying request for money, is harmful to a site’s search engine rankings. Some of the advice will even get a site banned from the search results entirely.

Often, very inaccurate information is part of the spam e-mail sales pitch. One of the most frequent and blatant examples of misinformation is the alleged need to submit a site, often allegedly monthly, to the various search engines.

There is no such need, as the search engines locate, have their spiders crawl, and index the site by themselves. The spiders simply follow a link, and once a website is indexed, it is included in the listing permanently, with no need to resubmit.

Prior to subscribing to anyone’s search engine optimization e-mail newsletter, be sure to check out the author’s credentials and past recommendations. If you have read the writer’s articles and advice in the past, and found them reliable, then by all means subscribe. There are many good newsletters out there. It’s your job to research the ones that are right for you and your website.

A newsletter that contains guest columns and articles, by noted SEO professionals is certainly a plus. If reputable SEO experts are willing to lend their name and expertise to a newsletter, it’s a fairly safe wager that the newsletter is a good one. If it weren’t, the better SEO pros wouldn’t contribute or be associated with it.

Websites with potentially unreliable content

Much search engine optimization advice is spread through articles appearing on various websites. One example of a site, that features SEO advice, is SEO Chat. http://www.seochat.com. Many other websites provide SEO information. Some are associated with message forums, some belong to various SEO professionals, and still others include posted articles with SEO content.

As with message boards, the quality of information available can vary widely from article to article, and from author to author. If you recognize an author’s name, who you know to be a source of reliable information, there is no problem.

If the writer is unknown, however, your best course of action is to not immediately apply the recommendations in the article. Make certain of the author’s credentials, prior to committing your website, to any unknown course of action.

Not only are some of the opinions offered by many articles of questionable value, it is not unusual to find real factual errors in some writers’ work. Should you find a blatant mistake, of what should be a generally known fact, practice suspicion with the reliability of rest of the article. If factual errors have slipped into the work, then some questionable to even potentially dangerous suggestions, might lurk there as well.

As with message boards, the reader must be wary of unknown writers and articles. Once an author becomes known to be reliable, that person’s SEO recommendations can usually be accepted safely, and applied to your site. Even then, check out all SEO ideas thoroughly.

Even some of the better professionals in the field offer some outdated or counterproductive advice. The entire SEO industry is unregulated, with no agreed upon standards for professional practitioners. Such wide open standards allow for some excellent professionals to provide top notch advice. The lack of regulation also avails itself to charlatans and other SEO quacks.

Caution is advised at all times.

It’s a truly buyer beware world out there on the internet.





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Saturday, October 16, 2004

 

Comments on commenters

Blog comments.

Most bloggers have one on their blog.

Many bloggers post comments on other people's blogs.

Blog comments are a fact of blogging life for most bloggers. Not many people really give comments much, if any thought.

Well, it's time that you did.

Comments are extremely valuable for feedback from your readers. Their thoughts are important for letting you know if a post was interesting or informative.

Or not.

Popular posts, that get many comments, are guaranteed winners for posting topics for the future. Write them down. Store them away. They are gold.

If your readers are that interested in any blogging topic, be sure to write about it more often. You would never know about it without a blog commenting system.

I like to post comments on many of the blogs that I visit on a regular basis. I don't mind making that all important initial comment either. Many people are understandably cautious and shy about writing that first message.

Don't be.

After your comment message is posted, several others will follow almost immediately afterwards. They were all waiting for you to take the first step.

Doesn't it feel great to be a leader!

I like to post a response to all of the comments I receive. I think it's polite and helps to stimulate new responses.

Sometimes, I forget, and need a nudge. That's fine too. I don't mind critics. In fact, I welcome them. How else can I find out if my readers like what I write for them?

I have met many wonderful people through blogging. Quite a few of them were a direc result of commenting on their blogs. Often, I would receive an e-mail from the blogger thanking me for the comment.

Many of the people who e-mailed me about my comments on their blogs are good friends of mine today.

Receiving comments on the blog, or by e-mail is certain to brighten any blogger's day.

It certainly makes me feel great.

I'm sure it does wonders for your spirits as well.

Write those comments when you visit a blog.

They are are always appreciated.

You might even make a few new blogging friends.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

 

Learning the unusual from blogs

Blogs teach us many new and exciting ideas.

They can even teach us how to build a better mouse trap.

Business blogger Paul Woodhouse, with his metal fabrication industry news blog called The Tinbasher Blog, does exactly that.

Using a soup can, a rubber band, and a few rods, Paul shows us how to build that proverbial "better mouse trap". Of course, to get the people to beat the proverbial "path to your door", a bit of good old fashioned marketing is also required. We'll leave that discussion for another day, however.

Of course, with Paul Woodhouse, we are talking about a blogger who gets orders to custom design a working guillotine. I suppose a few revolutionaries are looking for an instant replay of the French Revolution of 1789.

More importantly, that unusual business story got picked up by other blogs, including the popular The Big Blog Company.

The lesson there, of course, is interesting blog posts get picked up, and commented upon, by other bloggers. The viral effect attracts more readers and incoming links, that in turn, increase the blog readership even more.

In other words, the interesting and unusual gets you more readers.

For the practical person around the home, Paul also tells us how to clean stainless steel, using ordinary baby oil.

Who said blogs didn't have practical applications to our daily lives, whether a person is a blogger, or a blog spectator.

After that lengthy, and rather unorthodox introduction, steel yourselves for a visit to an interesting and surprisingly entertaining business blog, called The Tinbasher blog.

Paul Woodhouse shares the tremendous idea that blogging, about what could be a rather dull area of business, need not be boring. At first glance, the idea of a blog about the metal fabrication industry sounds...well...rather tinny and dull.

As a business blogger, Paul Woodhouse does a great job of combining news about the metal industry, with some very unique and interesting stories and anecdotes.

How can you go wrong with a business blog that includes posts about mouse traps and guillotines?

Take a read of The Tinbasher Blog.

You'll learn how to combine useful information about your industry area, with light hearted posts of interest to a wider audience.

The Tinbasher Blog teaches us those lessons very well.




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Put a laugh in your blog

Blogs can be funny.

Blogs don't always have to be serious.

Of course, I'm not really one to take my own advice as I post about dry as paper (or is dull as dishwater?) topics like search engine optimization.

Even the topic is boring.

It needs livening up, like resurrecting some long since embalmed Mummy of some ancient Egyptian Pharoah. Make it interesting like a tour of King Tut's treasures.

If you add a light hearted touch, and even a few laughs to your blog, your regular readers will appreciate the change of pace. If nothing else, a funny post once in awhile will keep you interested in blogging too.

I could say a humourous post, from time to time, provides a post topic when you can't think of anything to write. We won't say that out loud, so no one will ever know that you are not a bottomless wellspring of brilliant thoughts and ideas.

Some people would make the case, that baffling the readership with fancy footwork, will do as well as a real post. Maybe some day I'll try a soft shoe or tap dance around the blog.

You should too.

If you ever need a post inspiration, without the proverbial 90% perspiration, write about something funny that happened in your job or business. For that matter, anything humourous or offbeat in your personal life will serve the purpose just as well.

The point of the humour is to inject some personality into your blog.

By writing something funny that happened to you, especially if you were the cause, then so much the better.

Your regular readers will appreciate your sparkling personality shining through, set apart from the regular information on your blog.

Think humour, and have some fun with your blog.

If you have a bad day, a joke or two might be just thing to cheer you up.

It will also work wonders for your readers.

Laugh a little.

Blogs aren't all about serious information.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

 

One of those blogging days

Have you ever had one of those blogging days?

You know the ones.

They are the days, when blogging can substitute for every profanity known to humanity, since people decided it was more fun to walk upright.

As in...everything I touch turns to blogging.

Well...maybe that wasn't the greatest example.

Anyway.

It usually happens when your day starts off on the wrong foot, which can literally happen if you stub your toe or something. After that, things really go downhill in a hurry.

Nothing in your job or business seems to go right, or even a reasonable facsimile thereof. By way of digression, does anyone ever really mail away "a reasonable facsimile thereof" to a contest?

Like I said, it was a digression. I like to take those stream of consciousness tours once in awahile. They are especially helpful on days when things are going less well than expected. Even then, I got a ton of work done for two different clients, wrote part of an article, and posted on some message forums.

Hey, that's a slow day for me.

Yes, I know. All work and no play, and be sure not to stub your toe, and all of that.

A really bad thing that can happen to a blogger is losing a post. Don't worry. It sort of ties in with the general theme of the posting. I think. I warned you I was into digressions today.

Have you ever written a tremendous masterpiece of a post into the little posting box and had it disappear. I have experienced that traumatic turn of events first hand. It can occur for any number of reasons.

None of them good.

In the case of lost posts, I recommend not trying to reconstruct them at the time. What I do, and unfortunately have done, is to write the topic down, and write it again another day.

Don't try to use that topic again, on the day of its tragic disappearance into the great void of cyberspace (talk about your overblown metaphor). Instead, write on an entirely different topic. You will do a much better job, and perhaps create an even better post.

The set aside post will be useful for another day. After a couple of days of thought and general rumination, the post usually is better than the original that was lost to that great metaphor of bitten bytes. I know. I'm doing it again.

Don't worry if you have a bad day. Most bloggers use those less than stellar calendar moments as fodder for their posts. In fact, some of the best posts ever written were a result of an unmitigated disaster.

Imagine being a blogger on the Titanic.

Now that was a really bad day.




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Monday, October 11, 2004

 

Carnival of the Capitalists returns to BusinessPundit

As we all move toward the holiday time of year, the travelling business show, recognized by one and all as Carnival of the Capitalists, begins its second year of providing the best of business blogging from around the internet.

This week's posts have an anniversary air, as we start the new year at Rob's insightful marketing, technology, and business blog, known as BusinessPundit.

When Rob is not working on Carnival anniversaries, he's writing some tremendous columns on business and economics.

This week's edition of Carnival of the Capitalists features some of the best bloggers writing on the internet today.

Blogging topics presented include entrepreneurship, management, legal issues, regulation, the media, internet commerce, the national and global economies.

As you would expect from BusinessPundit there are business, marketing, and economics postings everywhere.

It's always great to read and discover the many high quality blogs out there in the blogosphere.

We don't always get to them all, and this edition of Carnival of the Capitalists has introduced many of us to some brand new ones.

As I am always privileged to do, I have an entry in this week's Carnival of the Capitalists as well.

My entry post this week is entitled "Blogs and public relations" where I discuss the idea of whether blogs can provide a new and more open public relations vehicle for businesses.

If you wish to submit an entry to next week's, or any Carnival of the Capitalists edition, e-mail your entries to the new address:

cotcmail -at- gmail -dot- com

If you are searching for new and exciting ways to expand your blog's readership, you should seriously consider sending an entry to Carnival of the Capitalists.

Merely being included in the company, of the first rate regular Carnival of the Capitalists contributors, will enhance the reputation of your blog.The extra visitors can't sent to your blog won't hurt either!

The growth and staying power, of Carnival of the Capitalists, is beginning to catch the attention of people outside the blogging community. The readership is enlarging, and finding entirely new visitors, every single week.

The visitors aren't only bloggers anymore.

Readership is expanding to include the mainstream media, various government and private organizations, many businesses, and other interested people from beyond the blogging community.

Next week's Carnival of the Capitalists moves over to the other great business blog (well sort of anyway) that started it all, at Jay and Deb Solo's Accidental Verbosity.

In the meantime, click that mouse over to this week's BusinessPundit hosted Carnival of the Capitalists.

If the great posted entries don't convince you to click, the year's anniversary gala for Carnival of the Capitalists certainly will.

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

 

Blog money making: Think big bucks

Making money from your blog.

While not all bloggers are interested in blog revenue, many bloggers would indeed welcome a bit of cold hard cash, for their blogging efforts.

After all, as a blogger, you faithfully write your posts every day on your blog's area of interest. Such dedication deserves some reward.

I know. I know. There is all of that personal satisfaction thing going on. Yes, we are personally satisfied with our blogs.

I am always very pleased to helped someone achieve success with a blog. That doesn't mean I don't want them to make some money as a result of their blogging efforts.

On the contrary, I would like to see many good bloggers make a nice living as a result of their blogs.

If there is one thing that people in general, and the mainstream media and business culure in particular find credible, it's a money making idea. For blogs to gain really strong mainstream recognition as a viable alternative and even additional media outlet, they must show a profit.

While credibility is coming to bloggers, it's slow.

Blogs as a strong revenue source, would speed that recognition, as another major media sector very quickly indeed.

I vote for bloggers to make money, as small business entrepreneurs.

While that might not win me many points with blogging purists, I know bloggers have to have food, clothing, and shelter.

Those take a bit of cash.

Why not have the blog supply at least part of that cash requirement.

In the meantime, check out this comprehensive and growing list of ways to create revenue streams from your blog.

The revenue ideas were formulated from this Spring's BloggerCon.

The discussion leader was well known blogger Jeff Jarvis of the blog leader Buzz Machine.

Be sure to read over the money making ideas very carefully.

Some of the blog income ideas presented might very well work for you and your blog.

A little cash from your blog will put food on your table.




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Saturday, October 09, 2004

 

Article swap your way to new visitors

Adding new visitor traffic to your website is always a challenge. Finding fresh and innovative promotional techniques is often as difficult as creating fresh content.

Wait a minute! Why not accomplish both goals at the same time? By working with your current link exchange partners, and other website owners with businesses that complement yours, both goals are achievable.

Every website requires new content to provide interesting information for your site visitors. The same old stale articles won’t bring in much in the way of return traffic.

The various search engines give extra credit for site freshness and incoming links. Every article you provide to other webmasters provides them with new content. It provides your site with a themed incoming link. The same holds true for guest articles hosted on your site.

Trading articles with other webmasters will provide fresh content, along with more incoming links. Both help your online business, and those of your article partners, to reach their desired goals.

Finding the article partners

The first step to finding article trading partners is to contact your current link exchange partners. With a suspected decline in the value of link swaps, it’s a great time to upgrade those link relationships.

The existing links are probably on a non-themed links page. They probably have weak link anchor text. They are not getting the job done in the search engines or from visitor clicks. Guest articles strengthen every one of those weaknesses.

Another group of ideal article swappers are webmasters in businesses that relate to yours, but who are not direct competitors.

For example, if a site specializes in wedding gowns, then flower sites, limousine services, and men’s formal wear sites would make ideal article exchange sites. Columns on weddings in general, touching on the site’s main topic, would add themed content and incoming links. Both sites benefit as a result.

Checking with friends, who have unrelated sites or blogs can also provide guest article opportunities. Friends are very likely to swap articles with one another, gaining a link in the process.

Bloggers are constantly in search of blog posting ideas, and they are usually prolific writers. Many blogs have huge and loyal followings, providing a large and diverse fresh traffic influx to your site. Guest blogging on one another's blog is an ideal way to introduce yourself and your blog to new readers.

Many good article exchange sites already exist on the internet. Placement of your newly written article and use of another already posted article provides several positives.

Besides the fresh content, the authors are introduced to one another, opening up more possible exchanges in the future. After all, the swap is made with a writer of an already known quantity. That fact bodes well for future transactions.

Writing the article

It’s important the exchanged articles are relevant to both websites without being blatantly self promotional. The best traded content fits seamlessly with the information already appearing on the receiving site.

Returning to our example, travel site can contribute information on honeymoon trip planning to a wedding site. The returned article can recommend techniques of working with newlyweds as a target travel market. Both websites receive important fresh relevant content, with value for both their visitors and for the search engines.

Be sure to add a brief author’s biography, and a short unbiased description of the home website. Providing impartial information, along with the article, provides more credibility than marketing copy. There is plenty of opportunity, to convert the visitor traffic to customers, when they click on the link to your site.

Be sure to remember to add that link back to your website. As with all incoming links, it’s expected the link anchor text contains your most important keyword phrases.

There is another possible benefit available in this situation, however. Within the link text itself, there is an opportunity to aim directly, at the target market segment reading the article.

Alternative anchor text gives you another set of important keywords, to attract potential customers, and gain added search engine value. Remember, the goal of the article is primarily visitor traffic, with the search engines only a secondary concern.

Trading articles is a great way for two webmasters to help one another, and receive some very tangible benefits. It’s a true win-win situation for everyone.










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Friday, October 08, 2004

 

Trevor Cook blogging opinion published

Business and public relations blogs present a challenge to businesses.

Australian business and public relations blogger Trevor Cook of Corporate Engagement had a great article, on challenges presented by blogs to companies, printed in the AFK's Boss magazine.

Trevor's article appeared in the October edition.

As a service to everyone, whether bloggers or not, Trevor has made a pdf file of the article available for download.

It's a tremendous piece of insightful writing, as he tackles the business cultural changes necessary to make business blogging a successful reality.

I would strongly suggest that anyone interested in the world of business and public relations blogging to download the article.

Trevor Cook's opinions on the present and future of corporate blogging are always well worth a read.

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Thursday, October 07, 2004

 

Blogs and public relations

As competition for available media coverage tightens, in a sea of press releases and attention stealing publicity stunts, it is harder than ever for a business to gain much needed publicity. A business person is often at a complete loss as to how to get media coverage of a worthwhile business story.

Getting someone to hear the message is half the battle. Having the members of the media consider it newsworthy is the other half. Somewhere, there must be another vehicle, that can gain the attention, of an already swamped news editor. That help, for the publicity seeking business person has arrived, in the form of the blog.

A growing number of journalists and news editors are reading blogs, on a daily basis, to find new and interesting story ideas. Often faster and more efficient than reading press releases, blog entries are likely to yield targeted short and feature article material.

When teamed with an RSS news feed, which employs the same technology as stock market and weather forecasts, a blog can provide an instant pipeline directly to interested media outlets.

Blogs provide a unique and personal way to communicate with current and prospective customers. By talking to people, in a conversational manner, a blog puts a human face on a company, that is difficult to duplicate in any other way.

The more casual, and comparatively unfiltered voice of the blogger creates the image of a business as being composed of real people like you. Instead of being a nameless and faceless corporation, the blog helps the people in the company, to come alive in their posts.

Should a disaster happen, either to the business or its customers, a business blog provides an immediate and personalized vehicle to discuss the issue with the public. Instead of the “spin”, usually associated with public relations, the blog can serve as an honest and concerned pipeline, directly to the public.

By addressing the issues openly and honestly, the business can regain and even increase the public’s trust. Concerned customers, and the general public, will view the blog as giving the straight answers. Such trust will only help enhance the business’s reputation, both in the short and long run.

The value of personalization

Perhaps the single most powerful aspect of blogs, in the area of public relations, is the personalization aspect. The writer is a real person, putting a human face on what might otherwise be perceived as a unknown and distant company. By developing trust among the various readership groups, the blog writer provides a personal link to the company.

If the goal of a public relations effort is to work in coordination with sales and marketing, a blog will establish trust with current and prospective customers and clients. It’s a well known truism that people will buy from their friends and people whose word they trust. The development of a blog component to the company website will go far in achieving those trust based goals.

In the past, public relations depended upon controlling the message, that was put forward from the organization. The unspoken goal was to manipulate public opinion. The prearranged message was centralized and carefully vetted for wording and nuances. The term “spin” was born to describe the technique.

Blogging as a public opinion medium gives up that tight control, and presents a message in a conversation with the reader. In that sense, the blog cultivates public opinion. With increasing transparency, inside and outside of organizations, the best approach is one of open discussion. A blog is the ideal delivery vehicle.

Many people have begun to mistrust the traditional canned public relations approach as lacking honesty. The openness of a blog changes that perception entirely. As the philosopher Marshall McLuhan stated, “Perception is reality”. In other words, what we perceive to be true, is real in our own thoughts.

A blog can enhance that perception of honesty by delivering the straight goods on an issue. With that open approach, lacking the traditional tightly controlled message, trust in the company is enhanced. In both the short and longer terms, that trust translates into more life long customers and clients.

Getting traditional media exposure through a blog

The traditional media has begun to visit blogs, and to subscribe to blog RSS feeds, via an RSS reader. As a blog is updated, the RSS feed, usually coded in XML and Atom, sends the post or part of the post to its subscribers.

Developing and adding an RSS feed is easily activated, and is readily available with almost every blogging tool. For sites preferring their own coding, there is widely available code, that can be modified as needed to suit your personal requirements.

Your blog’s readership can easily access your posts, as they are updated, in real time. Much of that regular blog audience are members of the traditional mainstream media, consisting of newspaper, television, and radio journalists and editors.

The news media are constantly on the lookout for potential news stories. By writing about your industry, reviewing products, providing company news, and commenting on various business and economics issues, your blog is a ready source of news stories.

By writing in a style that reflects your personality, along with your expertise in the industry, journalists will consider you to be an industry expert.

As someone considered knowledgeable in your business area, you will often be called upon for news interviews, in each of the mainstream media. Not only will you be interviewed about your own company, but about issues concerning your industry as a whole.

Be certain to always make yourself available. Reporters are pressed for time, due to tight deadline schedules. If you are unavailable, they will immediately call upon other people in your industry for comment. Provide your media contacts with a telephone number and fax number, where you can be reached at all times.

That media information should be readily available on your blog, as well as conveniently placed on the company website. Include a press kit, with your biography and other background materials to help the journalists do their job. Your assistance will be appreciated, and your expertise sought more often.

Blogging through a crisis

One of the most difficult times for any company, from a public relations standpoint, is during a company or industry crisis. During those often painful moments hours, the temptation for most traditional businesses is to shut down communications to the outside.

All of their statements and reports are carefully screened, and often require many people to sign off on them prior to release to the media and the public. Those controlled message days are a thing of the past.

By posting regular and open information on your company blog, you can address the crisis, fairly and honestly. Keeping the public completely aware of where your business stands, and what is the plan going forward, helps to improve confidence from your readership.

Blogs provide an unlimited number of postings per day. You can update what is happening, during the peak of the crisis, in real time.

Instead of hiding the problems, the trust your blog has developed over time, makes it the place for people to turn, for unfiltered information. Your job is to give the public honest answers, and not traditional spin. That openness about where the company stands, and it how it plans to resolve the problem, will be reported favorably in the media.

The general public will leave your blog feeling that they are provided with straight answers. Speaking directly those affected by the disaster will increase the reputation of your company, rather than detract from it. That confidence factor can only serve to enhance your company image, while raising your personal profile within the industry.

Conclusion

Businesses seeking a public relations vehicle, that provides numerous additional benefits, should consider adding a blog component to their website. The authentic and personalized blog voice is a natural fit for any public relations effort.

A rapidly growing number of journalists and editors are reading blogs on a daily basis. It’s becoming imperative that a company start a blog to keep up with that trend. Thanks to the addition of an RSS feed, a blog’s updated post can be on a journalist’s computer in seconds.

Old style tightly controlled public relations are becoming a thing of the past.

Get into the new public relations paradigm, by adding the personalized voice of a blog.






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