Eight Secrets from a Serial Blogger

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Have you been thinking about blogging, but are concerned whether your writing skills will translate into effective online communications?

Increase your chances of success in getting your message to the right audience by avoiding the mistakes of others. This article offers eight simple suggestions its authors learned in the preverbal “school of hard knocks”.

Here they are:

1. Stick to a schedule. The correct blogging frequency is whatever connects with your audience. For some blogs that might be daily. For others, once a month is sufficient. The optimal blogging frequency is not critical. What is critical is to decide on a schedule, communicate it to your readers and stick to it! Avoid the temptation to over-commit. While most bloggers enjoy writing, it can be grueling.

2. Expand and enhance. Supplement your usual content by periodically sharing relevant quotes, articles and tips from others. You can also try using guest writers, treating your readers to different areas of expertise and points of view. A generous introduction to your guest author may result in them reciprocating on their blog, further expanding your following.

3. Keep posts short. Readers are looking for tidbits of actionable information, not detailed research. Keep posts short, preferably under 600 words. The average American reads less than 300 words per minute. Studies suggest 65% of visitors spend less than 2 minutes on a website. Therefore, an entry longer than 600 words will not be read in its entirety, if at all.

  • A better alternative to lengthy articles is to split them into multiple parts, posting them in consecutive entries. Begin each post with a review of what was discussed in the previous entry, and end with what to expect in your next post and when it will be shared.

4. Promote your blog. Add your blog’s web address to business cards, print media ads, letterheads, email signatures and so on. Adding a Quick Response Code to business cards and other medium is gaining popularity. A QR code allows Smartphone users to find your blog easily.

5. Use social media. Post summaries of blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Exercise care to comply with each platform’s unique character limitations.

  • Since you will always end with a hyperlink to your blog, use a free URL shortener like https://bitly.com/ if pressed for space.
  • Post blog entries on SlideShare or other article marketing sites by uploading a pdf file. The last paragraph should be a brief “About the author” with a hyperlink to your blog.
  • Blog posts can be featured in your monthly newsletter to customers and friends.

6. Support online sharing. Add plug-ins or widgets on your blog to promote article sharing through Facebook, Twitter and other social media vehicles you believe are likely to help capture your target market. Allow readers to bookmark your URL to their list of favorite sites with the click of a button.

7. Encourage feedback. Always thank readers who post comments. Be respectful of opinions and suggestions, even if you disagree with them. While it is perfectly appropriate to delete spam (an inevitable byproduct of successful blogging) or comments with inappropriate language, deleting reader comments simply because you disagree discourages feedback. Periodically end posts by asking readers for comments, suggestions and ideas for future articles.

8. Don’t give up too quickly. Some experts believe it takes about 100 posts before you begin to build a following. Most bloggers become discouraged and give up before reaching that milestone.

© 2013 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

You Can Count on a Guy in a White Hat

whitehatAs an entire generation who grew up watching Gun Smoke, The Lone Ranger and a long list of other television westerns knows, good guys always wore white hats!

One of the greatest Hollywood clichés of all times, it is deeply ingrained within each of us that you could count on a stranger in a white hat! They were sure to be honest, kind, generous, courageous, moral and chivalrous.

That leaves the other guys, the ones in the black hats. Just as good defines evil, they were the anti-hero of every storyline, the exact opposite of guys in white hats. A man in a black hat was surely dishonest, cruel, self-centered, cowardly, immoral and boorish. Good guys and bad guys were always on opposite sides of an issue. Fortunately, good always triumphed in the end.

So it is not surprising that when it came time to pick names for two broad categories of search engine optimization (SEO) practices, a baby boomer somewhere choose white hat and black hat to describe the opposite ends of a long spectrum of internet marketing techniques and philosophies.

The stakes are high in this modern day gunfight. Fair or not, a potential customer who has never heard of your company has no choice but to equate your search engine results and the quality of your content with the prominence of your company among your peers and the value of your products or services!

A study of December 2010 Google searches for B2B and B2C businesses found the top 3 search engine rankings got 60% of all click throughs, with the first position enjoying a click through rate (CTR) of 36.4%. Page one listings got 8 times more clicks than page 2. CTR differences by ranking were even more dramatic for key words with more than 1,000 searches per month.

What then are the distinguishing characteristics of these opposing marketing camps? They hinge on the answer to a single question. Does the marketer play by the largely unwritten and frequently changing rules of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing control over 95% of the market) or not?

Just like the old Code of the West, white hats follow the rules. They focus on engaging and informing readers rather than manipulating search engine algorisms. Their procedures include writing key word rich text (without meaningless repetition), link building and paid advertising using pay per click ad words.

Black hats still refuse to play by any rules. Their techniques include email spam, keyword stuffing, article spinning (posting substantially similar content in multiple locations) and using hidden text to trick search engines.

What are the rewards for playing by the rules of this 21st century Code of the Internet? White hat marketing can be expected to produce slower but longer lasting organic search rankings. Black hat techniques will likely eventually be penalized by search engines, reducing rankings or eliminating the listing from their database.

What color is your hat?

© 2013 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

“LIKE” IF YOU REMEMBER MYSPACE

MySpaceIs it just me, or has there been an explosion of people posting nostalgic photos on Facebook and asking you to click “Like” if you can remember a black and white picture of some fifties TV icon or a once popular consumer product from your youth? Time has a way of reducing our past to warm, fuzzy memories. Heck, show me a photo of a macho guy enjoying a cigarette on the back of a horse and I might even forget that three of the Marlboro Man actors died of lung cancer!

Digital media has done more than merely provide a medium to share the recollections of our youth. It has greatly diminished the time span during which products and services move from broad acceptance and popularity to distant memories. Allow me to offer two well-known examples.

Gutenberg’s 1440 invention of the printing press revolutionized communication. It made possible the sharing of ideas and information through the mass production of books. It took another 555 years, until 1995, for an upstart company named Amazon to start selling those same books using something that had been introduced just three years earlier. That something was the Internet.

It took another 12 years to popularize eReaders like their famous Kindle. Within four years, Amazon was selling three times as many eBooks as hard covers. Their success obviously does not include a plethora of competitors including the hugely successful Apple iPad. It seems almost certain the paper book will soon be a candidate for Facebook friends to ask you to “Like” if you can remember owning one.

Still, 600 years from invention to impending obsolescence is not a bad run! Now consider a more recent service life span.

MySpace was introduced in August 2003, six months before Facebook. Just two years later, it was the most visited social networking site on the planet. Rupert Murdock was so excited about its prospects that he paid $580 million for it in 2005. In 2006, it reached 100 million accounts, a level that required 1,600 employees to support.

Facebook over took it in April 2008.

In June 2011, Murdoch’s News Corporation sold MySpace for $35 million, a 94% loss on their six-year investment. With uncharacteristic understatement, Murdoch pronounced the purchase a “huge mistake”.

These examples illustrate three critically important points for all 21st century marketers.

  1. Communication trends change faster than businesses can anticipate. Most lack the resources to manage that change.
  2. Faced with a constantly expanding stream of free choices, your target audience no longer uses communications channels popular just a few years ago.
  3. Neither do your successful competitors.

The cost of failure is high. Even the most carefully designed marketing communiqué, be it a press release, an ad campaign, a newsletter, etc., will fail if it is not transmitted in the optimal channel.

The only way to avoid that mistake is to communicate a consistent message and single brand to over-lapping audiences across multiple channels. That is what successful digital media marketing is all about.

© 2013 by CFO America, LLC

SLIDESHARE, HOW DO I LOVE THEE? (PART 3)

Earlier this week, I began a three-part series on SlideShare, a free online slide hosting service. Part 1 discussed the first three of ten important things you should know about SlideShare, its demographics and norms. Part 2 explained how to embed YouTube videos and how to access SlideShare remotely. As promised, I have saved the best for last.

Here are today’s suggestions.

9. SlideShare provides truly excellent support through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I have promoted several files through my LinkedIn groups. I have twice received emails saying, “XYZ file is being talked about on LinkedIn more than anything else on SlideShare right now. So we’ve put it on the homepage of SlideShare.net (in the “Hot on LinkedIn” section).” In both cases, view counts increased dramatically, if briefly.

Another benefit of tweeting SlideShare files is the potential of promoting your brand on a worldwide basis through Paper.li. It takes Twitter streams and extracts links to news stories and videos. It then determines which stories are relevant based on criteria the user establishes. It creates themed pages based on specific topics using hashtags. Paper.li subscribers distribute their daily or weekly publication as a unique newspaper, written from a perspective of what is of interest on the Web that day. Every Twitter user is therefore a potential editor. Their followers (including CFO America on several occasions) serve as unpaid journalists. To view a sample of Paper.li, read The CFO America Daily at http://paper.li/CFOAmerica/1300800014.

10. Finally, the number one reason for my love affair with SlideShare is what I call the “60 minute Twitter boost” phenomena. To experience it for yourself, open your file on the “My Uploads” tab and click on the Twitter icon. The following tweet will appear, “Check out this SlideShare document: The Title of Your SlideShare Document” along with a shortened URL. Modify the tweet with a few appropriate hash tags. Without fail, the file experiences a marked increase in views and downloads for about an hour. In my experience, views have jumped up to 35 times their daily average. I have tweeted friends’ documents with identical results. The boost trails off quickly, and totally evaporates within 24 hours. However, it can be extended with multiple tweets over the course of a day. Use different hash tags for each tweet.

In closing, I offer my apologies to Victorian era poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning for the shameless exploitation of her classic poem. Imagine how quickly it would have gone “viral” if only Ms. Browning had the same access to SlideShare.net that you and I now enjoy.

Go forth and share!

SLIDESHARE, HOW DO I LOVE THEE? (PART 2)

On Monday, I began the first of a three-part article. It confesses my undying love for SlideShare, a free online slide hosting service. Part 1 discussed the first three of ten important things you should know about SlideShare, its demographics and norms. Today, Part 2 will explain how to embed YouTube videos and how to access SlideShare remotely.

Here are today’s suggestions.

4. SlideShare allows you to embed YouTube videos into slide presentations. Simply click the “Edit / Delete” button for the appropriate PowerPoint file on your “My Uploads” page. Next, click the “Insert YouTube Videos” tab at the top of the screen. Then paste the URL and select where in the slide sequence the video will appear.  Finally, click the “Insert and Publish” button. You are finished! Repeat the process to insert additional videos into the presentation. If you change your mind, videos are removable. Although I have not experimented with the option, you can also add sound by inserting an MP3 file. Video and sound cannot be inserted into pdf documents.

5. SlideShare is accessible by mobile devices at http://m.slideshare.com. This allows travelers to search, view and download presentations and documents. Bookmark the site for faster access.

6. Item #5 illustrates another endearing characteristic. By uploading Word documents as pdf files, I am using SlideShare as an article marketing service like EzineArticles. Although larger, EzineArticles has some complex rules about including URLs. I have failed their submission approval process on several occasions. The same is true of GoArticles.com. I have never encountered this issue with SlideShare. Furthermore, Twelve Things I Learned about SlideShare has received over 3,700 views on SlideShare compared to eight on EzineArticles and three on GoArticles during comparable timeframes. SlideShare’s marketing tag line should be, “No restrictions, just results!”

7. While I have not seen any definitive statistics, most seem to indicate the average time a viewer spends on an Internet page is only two to three minutes. That has significant implications to the amount of content presented. The average American adult reads between 250 and 300 words per minute. SlideShare viewers average seven to eight minutes per visit. That suggests that users are more likely to read longer files in their entirety.

8. Keyword tags help people quickly find information that interests them. SlideShare searches are keyword driven. They allow you to enter up to 20 tags per file. The top tags in 2010 were forecast, market, statistics, business, trends, industry, research, SWOT (an anachronism for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), report, company profiles, social media and marketing. Type and spell check your 20 tags in Word. Then paste them into SlideShare when you upload your file.

Saving the best for last, on Friday I will reveal the secret of the “60 minute Twitter boost.”

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

SLIDESHARE, HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

I recently discovered SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. It was love at first sight! I wrote an article and a series of blogs (or love letters if you prefer the romance theme) titled Twelve Things I Learned about SlideShare.

SlideShare returned my affections! They featured the article on their home page, quickly gathering over 3,500 views. The article is at http://slidesha.re/kxG4So and on CFO America’s blog beginning at http://bit.ly/jcE8tu.

Like any true romance, my love for SlideShare has only grown stronger since we first met. Therefore, I decided to write a second article on new ways I have learned to use this powerful tool to increase your Internet footprint.

Today, I will share the first three of ten important things you should know about SlideShare. They address SlideShare’s demographics and norms. Wednesday will explain how to embed YouTube videos and how to access SlideShare remotely. Saving the best for last, on Friday I will reveal the secret of the “60 minute Twitter boost.”

Now, let me count the ways (last time, I promise).

  1. SlideShare has over 100 million page views per month. It has 10,000 new uploads every day. They are one of the top 200 websites in the world. According to web traffic monitor Alexa, users offer some attractive demographics. When compared to the general Internet population, 25 to 34 year olds and people with graduate degrees are over-represented. Their users are also disproportionately childless, Hispanic and visit the site while at work. Approximately 63% live in North and South America, 21% in Europe and 14% in Asia.
  2. SlideShare is primarily for PowerPoint presentations and pdf documents. The average presentation is 7.9 megabytes in size. The average document is 1.5 megabytes. With the exception of PowerPoint presentations saved as pdf documents, my files are all 300 kilobytes or less. They uploaded in seconds. While I have shared a 58 megabyte PowerPoint presentation, it took forever. I now save and upload PowerPoint files as pdf documents.
  3. SlideShare reports that the median number of slides is between 10 and 30 per presentation. Over 75% of presentations are 30 slides or less. Only 8% exceed 50 slides. There are some apparent cultural differences in this area. English based presentations average only 19 slides, Spanish 21. The Japanese lead the pack with 42 slides. Presentations average 24 words per slide and 19 images per file. The most popular fonts are Helvetica, Arial and Times New Roman.

Wednesday’s blog will present some actionable tips and suggestions. I look forward to our further discussions. In the meantime, please continue to post your questions and comments.

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

The Horse Comes Before the Cart, Part 2

This week I am discussing the important topic of determining your marketing strategies within the context of a comprehensive plan. Launching a marketing campaign (even if it does not involve any hard costs) without a plan is “putting the cart before the horse.” On Monday, I presented a framework for constructing your marketing plan. It begins with defining your goals. Today I will share additional thoughts on clarifying your goals and the tactics to accomplish them.

3. Consider financial and non-monetary objectives. Examples of non-monetary objectives include things like closing percentages, page hits and customer traffic patterns. Be specific! A goal of increasing sales is neither constructive nor measurable. A goal of increasing sales 5% per month for the next six months through a combination of a 4% increase in customer count and a $17 increase in average dollars per sale is.

4. Business goals are rarely accomplished in a straight linear fashion. For example, a 24% annual sales increase is not going to come in equal increments of 2% every month. Your marketing strategies are going to take time to produce results. They are affected by existing sales patterns and seasonality that every business experiences. Establish a realistic timeframe for each goal, with appropriate interim benchmarks to measure short-term progress toward long-term goals. That allows you to take timely corrective action or adjust goals as needed.

5. As you define goals and timeframes and the strategies and tactics to accomplish them, be aware of conflicting goals. Here is a simple example. What is the first thing most retailers do when they want to increase revenue? They hold a sale. In other words, they cut prices! Obviously, the hope is that increased customer traffic will more than offset the lower prices. However, it is still a conflict. Here is another example. Assume you want to increase the average customer purchase in your shoe store from $58 to $75. You therefore introduce a new line with a higher price point. Most customers are only going to buy one or two pairs of shoes. Therefore, while revenue from the new line will go up, sales of cheaper lines will probably go down. Conflicts are not necessary bad, and are often unavoidable. My only point is you need to look at the whole picture. Recognize and manage conflicting goals in your market plan.

6. Specify the purpose or desired result of every marketing tactic. In other words, what action do you hope clients or prospects will take because of a marketing initiative? Your definition of purpose establishes the basis of measurement and encourages accountability. The desired result may include multiple objectives, including the following:

  • Business production
  • Generate new leads
  • Brand awareness
  • Introduce a new product or service
  • Advertise a specific sale or promotion
  • Establish your expertise
  • Increase customer traffic
  • Consumer education

7. Tactics rarely operate in a vacuum. You can sometimes leverage one against another. For example, relationships developed online can be taken offline. A social media connection is a far better sales prospect if you subsequently call or meet face-to-face. Similarly, you might precede a direct mail campaign with a subject matter media blitz via article marketing, blogging, email newsletters, press releases and so on.

I will conclude this topic on Friday, when I will discuss step 4 of your market planning process, monitoring costs and results.

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

Bull Horns in Cyberspace, Part 2

On Wednesday, I began a discussion of things we can do to attract attention to our blogs, and some of the mistakes I have made over the past six months as a blogger. Today I will conclude this topic with Part 2 of Bull Horns in Cyberspace.

Here are my thoughts and suggestions for today:

Find your style. A little trick I have learned that seems to work well is to study a new marketing tool, process, etc., and then write about what I learned. For example, I recently wrote a three-part article called Twelve Things I Learned about SlideShare. I write from the point of view of reporting what I know at the end of the process that I wish I had known at the start. I offer advice to those considering using the same tool, and discuss how to be more effective in communicating their message to an ever-widening audience.

Use other social media to promote your blog. I always post summaries of blog posts on Facebook, Twitter and occasionally LinkedIn. Facebook allows a 420 character article summary, LinkedIn 700. Always leave room for a hyperlink to your blog. Consider using a URL shortener like https://bitly.com/ if you are pressed for space. This is even more important to accommodate Twitter’s 140-character limit. Abbreviated versions of three or four articles are also featured in my monthly newsletter, which is distributed free through MailChimp to over 700 people. Finally, I am having some encouraging preliminary results by posting entire articles on SlideShare.net.

Do not overlook the value of paper in promoting your blog. Add your web address to business cards, print media ads, Yellow Page listings (you remember those, right?), letterheads, email signatures and so on. If you really want to go high tech, add a Quick Response Code to allow smartphone users to find your blog easily. For more information on QR Codes, see our March 25 blog post “More Thoughts on Business Cards” at http://bit.ly/i5ikHc.

Encourage reader feedback and sharing. When readers post comments (positive or otherwise), thank them for their effort. I only delete spam, an inevitable byproduct of blogging. I have recently become more active in soliciting feedback. I now periodically end posts by asking readers for their comments, suggestions and criticisms. I also invite suggestions for future articles. Finally, make sure your blog has plug-ins or widgets to promote article sharing through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media vehicle you believe is likely to help capture your target markets. Allow readers to bookmark your URL to their list of favorite sites with the click of a button.

So let me end there, by inviting you to post your thoughts on CFO America’s blog. What do you like? What do you dislike? Keep it clean and I promise to approve it. Most importantly, what can I do to make the information presented more useful to you in growing a prosperous business?

12 Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 3

Last week I began a discussion of things I learned about SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. Since that time, my files have had more than 4,100 combined views, 3,200 for one file alone. On Monday, I discussed how to make SlideShare an integral part of your marketing efforts.

Today I will conclude this topic with a discussion of ways to make PowerPoint slides more effective online, and how to take advantage of SlideShare to save printing cost. Here is the final part of the list:

9. I was pleased to see that PowerPoint speaker’s notes are visible for each slide. Even if you do not usually take advantage of this feature in your presentations, you should consider using it to replace whatever narrative you would ordinarily add in a live venue.

10.  One PowerPoint feature that will not translate through SlideShare is animation. I typically have numerous visuals enter and exit slides as appropriate to support my verbal narration. In reviewing my posted slide shows, I quickly noticed that all visuals are in screen. In my case, this made for some very busy slides. Consider tailoring your uploaded slides accordingly.

11.  If you decide one or more slides do not convey the full story after you view them online, you can simply adjust your PowerPoint or pdf document and replace the original file with a new upload. This will save
having to reenter descriptions and tags, something I learned was necessary after I deleted several files to make minor changes. It also maintains continuous viewing statistics.

12.  I am always surprised by the cost of printing projects. My frustration over this expense is magnified by the need to “bring a few extra copies” just in case more attendees show up than expected, while knowing most will be left behind or eventually tossed in the trash. SlideShare presents an opportunity to reduce or eliminate this outlay. I suggest presenting only a cryptic outline of your presentation at the event, probably no more than one or two pages. The purpose of this short handout is merely to facilitate note taking. It has the added advantage of directing attendees’ attention to you rather than flipping through a voluminous handout. Allow attendees to download their own slides, either before or after the seminar. Since they will only print those of interest, this is a legitimately green initiative.

As a last bit of advice, if you are one of the almost 15 million unemployed Americans, please consider creating and posting a visual resume on SlideShare.net. It will add another venue for prospective employers to find you, while demonstrating your communication skills and knowledge of current social media tools.

Well, that is my entire list. I hope you will find something of value, and more importantly that it will encourage you in your continuing pursuit of the low-cost marketing experimentation I talked so much about in my book, Highly Visible Marketing – 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity.

Finally, for the record the other two Chinese proverbs are “May you come to the attention of powerful people” and “May you find what you are looking for.” Again, both would seem to apply to my small business and
middle-market target audience, especially when you consider that the most powerful person of all is the customer whose attention you are looking for!

12 Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 2

On Friday, I began a discussion of things I learned about SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. Since that time, my seven files have had more than 3,400 combined views, 2,800 for one file alone.

I shared the first three items on my list. They discussed how to start your profile, upgrade options and social media connections. Part 2 will discuss suggestions for making SlideShare an integral part of your marketing efforts. Here is today’s list:

4. I preach a simple 12-word marketing strategy to clients and friends. It is this: Communicate one message, promoting one brand, to multiple audiences, at no cost. While Friday’s item #3 fully supports this strategy, do not stop there! I issued three free press releases (one of which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/ipIFnF), published this information using several free article marketing websites and periodically retweet links to the presentations.

5. The first slide of a PowerPoint presentation or the first page of a pdf document will appear as a small icon link on your profile page. It should be readable, attractive and descriptive to invite viewers. I display my logo and blog URL on every download. You will also be asked to provide a description, category and tags for each file. Making this information keyword rich makes it easier for interested views to locate you slide shows and videos. Making something keyword rich simply means using certain words and phrases that potential customers are likely to use in search engines when looking for your company, products or  services.

6. SlideShare gives users the option of allowing viewers to download files. Since you are posting files in a very public venue, I see no reason not to allow downloads. Additionally, presentations can be made available only to authorized viewers with any of the upgraded versions. It is then a viable option to share private files that are simply too large to email. An example might be a large contract or proposal in pdf format.

If you do not know how to create a pdf file, download CutePDF Writer at http://cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp. It is a free version of commercial PDF creation software. CutePDF Writer installs itself as a printer subsystem. This enables virtually any Windows applications to create professional quality pdf documents.

7. SlideShare can be used to promote and support your event marketing efforts. For example, you can make advanced copies of upcoming seminars available online to help invitees decide whether to attend, or provide copies to interested parties who are unable to attend.

8. Users and their followers can post additional information on their wall, very similar to Facebook. I posted a notice of a free seminar based on one of my uploaded files, along with a link to EventBrite for event details. Viewers can also post comments on individual slide shows.

Please return Wednesday when we not only complete the list of 12 things I learned, but will reveal the final two Chinese proverbs.

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