Blogging? Why bother!!

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Blogging and content creation are hot topics in the online world right now; with good reason. With constant changes in algorithms on search engines; penalties and policy changes running rampant the one thing that has not changed through it all is the fact that quality content is still consistently the one element that can make all the difference.

What is blogging?
Originally blogging (first called Web Logging) was used by website and system administrators solely as a means to document changes to policy, code, or functionality. It was purely informational. With the advent of platforms like WordPress, Tumblr, and others today that definition has changed to define a method of chronologically organizing website content in a fashion that is easy to follow and categorize. It’s still informational but generally the content people blog about is related to the specific topic or market which the website is geared towards. There are food blogs, plumbing blogs, mommy blogs; blogs about just about any topic you can imagine.

Why should you blog?
There are a number of reasons of course, but here are some of the most important reasons why blogging is important to your online presence:

Blogging creates new content.
Duh. New content for your site – which search engines love – as well as new content for you to use in your other online marketing efforts via social media. If you’ve spent any time managing a social media profile for your business you’ve likely already run out of new things to post in order to drive traffic to your site. Yes, you can always simply point a link to your main page, but by blogging your create a source of new and relevant content to greet visitors when they get there.

Blogging drives traffic.
If you are consistently creating new content on your website you are giving yourself something new to say to prospective clients; also new links to use in your other online marketing portals. Point in fact: I’ve seen websites with little or no relevancy to a particular topic out rank websites actually in the related industry simply because they were posting blogs more frequently and consistently.

Blogging makes you an authority.
You don’t have to advertise. That’s right. You heard me correctly. You don’t have to advertise…well..not much anyway. If you are creating content relevant to your industry and your audience you are establishing yourself as a source for information and an authority in your field. People want to trust the businesses they hire; one of the strongest means to do that – especially to customers who have yet to use your business – is to at least look like you know what you are talking about.

If you visit my Hinsel.com fan page there is one thing you will notice: I do not advertise. Over 6 years using social media for business and in all of those thousands of posts you may find one or maybe two instances where I actually say “buy my stuff” or “I am for hire”…and yet this past year I’ve turned down more clients than ever simply because I do not have the time available to take them all on. Why do they seek me out? Because I have established myself as an authority for the services I provide. Now, can I say that’s completely because of the blogging I’ve done? Certainly not! But it has been a large part of it. Can you use social media in place of a blog? In a way, yes, although it is not as effective as using them both together.

In addition blogging creates an archive of knowledge for you and your customers. It’s great to be online, see someone ask a question, and be able to answer:

“Hi Cindy! Good question! Blogging is vitally important to gaining better visibility online, if you’d like to know more about it go check out this post on my site at wwwthesuperarticleyouarereadingrightnowdotcom.”

It will save you time in re-typing up a huge chunk of text you’ve talked to people about a hundred times AND drive traffic to your site. Win win!

Blogging can improve your SEO / SERP
Consistent blogging does a few different things for your website: It increases the frequency of which your website content is updated (a trigger for search engines),and also increases your site foot-print as well as your keyword density (both less relevant than they once were, but still important).

As social media signals gain more importance to search engines having your blog and social media efforts working in concert will only gain in value as a means to make sure the people you want to see your business are able to find you easily.

How do I do it?
First, your website must have the ability to blog. If your site is created by traditional static html methods this may not be possible, however if your site was created on a platform like self-hosted WordPress or Drupal it should be something your designer can provide with little effort.

WordPress and other dynamic content management systems (CMS) are the best and easiest ways to blog but they can be costly – ranging anywhere from $600 to several thousands of dollars – so if your budget is an issue you may want to look into other platforms like Tumblr, the BBG website, or the free version of WordPress at WordPress.com. These alternate platforms can still work great - if you use them consistently – but may still not provide the full effect of having your blog on your own website.

In essence blogging is just writing content – like this article you are reading – and the good news it doesn’t have to be hard. The size of a blog article can range from sprawling multi-page documents to nothing more than a picture and a paragraph. The difference and impact of the posts all comes down to what you put into them.

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Here are some best practices for blogging:

Blog Frequently.
How frequently? Well. More is better but in most cases, unless you are in an extremely high competition industry, blogging once a week is good. No less than once a month is recommended at minimum.

Use an image.
Words are what you ultimately need for search engines but images are what stimulate the human eye the most and are also important for better visibility in other places online. So be sure to stick a photo related to the post in each article.

Be the Most Interesting Person Alive.
You want to be relevant to your industry, but really, how interesting can a hundred articles about slip-sealing your drafty windows be? It never hurts to mix up all the information and education with a local interest or personal activity post to put a face to your content.

Above all just make sure you are providing good information and providing it in an interesting way. If your blog reads like an instruction manual for a toaster oven chances are your readers will only visit when they need something to fall asleep to. Be humorous, be personable.

Include links.
Make sure every post has at least one link in it. Either to another page on your site or to one of your social media pages. Creating this kind of internal/external link structure in your content causes search engines to see your content as a living and valuable thing – they follow those links in many cases and give the connected pages and sites a little kickback along the way.

Use Keywords.
Keywords are words or phrases relevant to your industry, or topic; can be used as a way to let people and search engines know what it is you’re all about. These might be things like “Boise Idaho Social Media Consulting” or “Idaho Foodie Blog”.

Be sure to use specific words and phrases which you want to appear under when people search inside of your blog posts or it’s tags. This does not mean stuff every sentence with keywords over and over – that’s called stuffing and can get your page ignored by search engines AND real people alike! – but do make sure to include at least a couple of your important words/phrases when you can without making the text awkward to read. Bonus points if you link those keywords to your own content, social portals, or other lead-in points.

Be Bold.
There’s no sure fire way better to scare away a visitor than to confront them with a massive wall of text. TL:DR is tech speak for Too Long Didn’t Read. One way to help combat this is to use images, the other way is to break up your text using BOLD and italics fonts to make it a little less daunting for the eye.

Tell people about it!
MOST important! Just like your website, social media, or anything else, chances are if you don’t tell people about it they will never know. Now, sooner or later if you are blogging consistently the search engines – as well as real live humans – will find your blog and maybe even read it, but if you are just posting in one place and expecting floods of traffic you are deceiving yourself.

Leverage email marketing and other networks to let people know about your latest blog post. When you create a new post send out an email to your list to let folks know about it – or release it as a monthly newsletter, which is silently less spammy and annoying. Be sure and post links to your latest post other places as well like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon and LinkedIn.

Lastly….

Hire a professional.
No, I am not trying to sell you something. (you couldn’t afford me anyway)
But fact is, if you can’t – or are unwilling to – do it yourself you’d be better off either not doing it at all or at least hiring someone to do it for you.

I always recommend a professional but fact is if budget is tight you likely can find a pre-college or college level writer who would be willing to at least create rudimentary content for you on a regular basis for a decent price. No matter who you hire make sure firstly that they are a decent writer and then be sure to communicate with them to let them know what sort of things are important to focus on for your business. If your industry is house painting having someone writing a blog every week about the benefits of bass fishing might not serve your best marketing interests.

I hope these tips have helped you to better understand blogging and it’s importance in your digital marketing strategy. With the Great And Powerful Goog changing the rules on us all every few weeks, blogging, leveraging social media, and creating great content continues to be one of the main ways to take back your status and seize your digital presence for greater success. One more bit of help before we close:

What to blog about?
Not Ernest Hemingway? No idea what to even write about? Here are some simple topics to help get you started. Pick One and write a short paragraph – more than two sentences, less than a novella – right now! And hey, if you send me a link to it I will give it a read and may even feature it on one of my social pages!

Why I started by business…

What makes my business different?

What does my business offer that my competition doesn’t?

My favorite type of customer is…

The most odd job I ever did was…

What I love about the work I do…

Most people don’t know my company offers this service…

I’ve got a special deal going on right now for….

The hardest part about my job is…

I went the extra mile for a customer by…

Why I’m not cheap but I am worth the cost…

When you hire me you get _____ extra as a free part of my service.

When I’m not doing my job I enjoy ____ in my free time.

Get to know me / who am I….

My bread and butter type of job is _____ and I love doing it.

When people think about my industry they think _____ and why they’ve got it all wrong…

Social Media : Quick Tips for the Fast Track

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Despite being widely adopted as a valid and important media platform there are many business owners, and even social media managers, who struggle with getting results from it’s use.

In part this is often because they are in fact expecting results from the platform – and the people using it – that aren’t even possible. In other cases they expect results too soon, or to come easily – this IS the internet after all right?! Everything is instant now, right? :)

“Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.”- Unknown

There are no short cuts. Either you must put in the time and effort to make your web presence great, or you’ve got to get (hire) someone else to do it. For you brave souls daring to take hold of your digital destiny and boldly go into the wilds of social media marketing on your own…here are some real quick tips:

Post Well. Post Often.
This does not mean that you need to create an endless flood of clutter, or buy me buy me buy me buy me posts – that is what is called flooding; it can cost you more customers than it will ever gain you.

Experts will argue how much is too much and the golden frequency ratio but a good minimum is at least 3 times a day, depending on the network.

Be Relevant. Be Interesting.
This ties into the first tip. Your frequency can increase without danger of becoming background noise if you actually have something worth saying. Do not be a repeating parrot. It’s better to say nothing than to babble.

To some extent this also means stalking your followers. See what they are posting, learn what they like, listen to and more importantly reply to any and all comments.

Engage. Engage. Engage.
What does that even mean? In some ways it’s taking those first two components and putting them together. It also means following up on any follower interaction; also using your profile to interact with other businesses as well. ( i.e.: Use Facebook As )

Know the System.
Until you’ve pressed every button you’ve only just begun to learn. Get in there and push every button until you know what most of them do. Be comfortable in knowing how to like, share, retweet, vote up, and comment – whatever the verb of the particular network you are leveraging may be.

Bonus Tip: Funnel Your Traffic.
A technique that even some so-called page admins miss, brought to you by Captain Obvious: When you share a link to someone else’s site, blog, news post, or picture you are essentially GIVING them traffic. Traffic you could be directing to your own profiles or hub website. So make sure that whenever you can you are creating links and sharing things from your website. That doesn’t mean a constant flood of buy my stuff – that means that if you have the ability to create content on your site (like i sometimes do on this blog for instance) do so; if you don’t try to at least link intermediately from your social profiles to your website. It’s watered down link juice in some capacity, but it can mean more real human traffic.

If you’re a small business struggling to wrap your head around social media marketing I’d love the opportunity to talk with you and see how I might be able to help. Use the links on this site to get in touch; don’t hesitate to send me your questions.

For those of you looking to be guru’s (i don’t know why you would) here’s a social media mantra for you to practice: KNOW your client base. WORK your niche market. CREATE engaging content.

Shrimp Jambalaya! Say yeah yeah baby!

PaellaJambalaya is a New Orleans tradition that originated in the Caribbean  islands and it related to the dish known as paella. The many variations of this dish are a direct attempt by Spanish settlers to make paella in the new world where saffron was not readily available; tomatoes became a substitute for the costly seasonings traditionally used. As time went on, French influence became strong in New Orleans, and spices from the Caribbean changed this New World paella into a unique dish.

Creole jambalaya, or red jambalaya as it is called by Cajuns, is found primarily in and around New Orleans, where it is simply known as ‘jambalaya’. Creole jambalaya includes tomatoes, whereas Cajun jambalaya does not.

Here’s how to make it!

1. Cook onions, garlic, green pepper and celery (trinity)  in bacon drippings or cooking oil until onion is browned.

2. Add parsley, ham, thyme, and bay leaves.

3. cook 5 minutes, stirring often.

4. Add salt, hot sauce, tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, and 2 cups of water.

5. Simmer 5 minutes.

6. Add rice.

7. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.

8. Add shrimp and smoked sausage.

9. Cover and simmer 10 or 15 minutes longer or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

10. Season to taste with salt and more hot sauce.

This is one of my most favorite dishes to make for parties, or for the holidays – it’s a nice and more simple way to get a little cajun flavor when you are low on cash for seafood (cuz you can always add more rice!) or just don’t want to anger the creole gods by making a less than perfect gumbo. :D

*edit: Some folks have brought to my attention this recipe lacks exact measurements…

Let me say this:  I don’t remember ever seeing grandma measure nothing, else she was baking (at which she was a *master*). This kind of cooking was just in her blood.

How much rice? Well, enough to “take care” of the water. How much garlic? How much you like, honey? That’s what she’d tell you if she was teaching you to make it; that’s pretty much the instructions I have in this old family cookbook. :)

Don’t worry, there is a ray of hope here. I will now provide for you a slightly different recipe (say hey to Ocean Springs, MS) .

1-2 quarts shrimp (peeled)

Chop: 1 large onion, 3-4 stalks celery, 1 small bell pepper, garlic.

Simmer in water until tender, no grease.

Add: 1 can tomato soup, sauce or paste, 1 can of water, 2-3 bay leaves, salt pepper to taste,1 teaspoon “cajun” seasoning

Simmer on low.

Add Shrimp.

Cook rice (2-3 cups?) and then add to simmering shrimp – add enough rice to take care of the liquid.

Stir ONLY once.

Keep on low.

That’s the only other recipe for it I know – hope it helps! – and if you make it send pictures!! Always love seeing other foodies dishes!

Next Time: Just in time for Christmas!
The Highly Awaited Turkey N Dumplin’s recipe!
 

Myths About Social Media

To dispel some common misconceptions: social media success isn’t determined by driving up website traffic, but that *can* be a side effect if it’s done especially well. Social media success isn’t necessarily determined by providing better customer service, although it can be used as a powerful tool accomplish that. How does one determine success in social media?

Don’t you know, it’s smoke and mirrors and buzzwords, it’s mysterious and confounding algorithms and formula’s that would curdle Merlin’s blood! Not only that, but to pay to manage social media is insanely expensive and doing it yourself is far beyond the comprehension of any mere mortal! :P

Uh, yeah…about THAT.

Success in social media is both more difficult to obtain than you might imagine, and easier to accomplish than most will admit – but often all it takes is patience, and three even harder to find elements:

Relevancy. Effort. Consistency.

The last one is harder than you might think.
The second one is where most stumble and fail.
The first one perhaps hardest to grasp of all as it’s fleeting.
If any one element is missing the effort will fail – perhaps not horribly, but worse: by being nothing more than mediocre.

Are you an individual or small business owner interested in learning more about what social media really equates to for your business, and how you can leverage it to gain improved online exposure?

I love meeting great progressively minded folks who are interested in taking hold of their digital destiny; am always glad to talk a little shop over coffee, and even offer full web consulting services or social media training to help you get started. Drop me a line so we can get connected!

Boise SEO: Keyword Research

Lots of #SEO companies promise they can get you to #1 in Google – and honestly IT’S EASY! Especially if they get you there for keywords no one is searching for! Your site may be optimized, but that doesn’t mean it’s optimized for the best terms.

Case in point: for YEARS the highest sought after phrase for REALTORS® in Idaho’s Treasure Valley has been “Boise Idaho Real Estate” and because of that it has some of the highest competition in the region. Sad Fact: it was searched for over HALF as many times as Boise Homes.

How do you know what to optimize for? RESEARCH. There are a number of great tools out there for doing just that but the latest and my current new favorite comes right from the big brothers at Google, called Insights.

Check it out
http://www.google.com/insights/search/

These last two weeks have been particularly difficult. Work, and stress, and more work. A million things, met confidently and beaten back. The elation of this week being nearly done is great, especially as it was even more frustrating by the fact that I know I did a lot, yet still don’t feel like anything got done. It feels like there should somehow be two more work days yet in the week, even though it’s Thursday. And then I realize, there will be…oh. There Will Be…. ; )

Social Media Fu: Be Like Water

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT_nuwm252I] The Master knew what he was talking about when he said “Be like the nature of water”…and like many deep profound truths it is a philosophy so elementally pure that it can be applied to nearly any concept – even social media.

A true social media master will be like the nature of water. Like Bruce says: First, empty your mind. Don’t get caught up in what you think you know. Social media is alive and ever changing, as such we must be centered and willing to accept it’s constant flux.

Be formless, shapeless, like water. Don’t limit yourself to just one network, one mindset, one way of looking at a goal. You must free your mind. Diversify your message for more powerful content. If you are managing a  account on Twitter, become Twitter. If you want to succeed with your Facebook page, become Facebook. Learn the networks and how to use them, more importantly: USE THEM. The best way to learn is to do.

Water can flow, or it can crash. So can your social media strategies. While one can’t always predict changes in cultures or how demographics may accept experimental new marketing techniques ( no matter how “liquid” of a marketeer they are! ) a larger percentage of how much success you will see is limited only by you.

If you want to expand on creating a consistent message across multiple profiles, try presenting it on each network in a different way. This  can not only allow you to create more enticing content for cross-network followers but also help to cover more keyword ground. Spin it to win it.

Water is the softest stuff on earth, but it can penetrate rock. Don’t forget, be persistent. When your efforts, no matter how small a drop in the bucket they may be, are combined over time you can still see tremendous effects. The rain doesn’t carve away the mountain all at once, but one drop at a time.

Be Like the Nature of Water My Friends…stay social. : )

Building a better business sometimes means taking care of the things that are truly IMPORTANT instead of the things others consider URGENT…I had a long time client call the office today to cancel her service. She loves her site but is getting out of the business due to a recent breast cancer diagnosis.

She was devastated and broke down on the phone, so much so that even though I only knew her casually that I too was in tears. I had many many things to get done that other clients considered ab-so-lute-ly URGENT…without thought I set all of it to the side so that I could put together a nice card with some good words on holding on to HOPE for her to let her know we would be thinking and praying for her because (to me) reaching out and letting her know someone cared was more IMPORTANT than anything else…

Time for mortals is finite. In fact, we never really know when we’ll run out of it. To make matters more complicated, there turns out to be truth in the old saying that you never have enough time to do everything you’d like to do. So you must decide what is really important, and what others simply consider urgent…while my actions may make for long hours this week as I play catch-up I know that if I helped bring even a single grain of comfort into her life that I accomplished something far greater than simply checking another task off my queue…

Stuffing is for Thanksgiving, Not Websites…

Stuffing Should Only Be for Thanksgiving
When most people get interested in SEO and find out some of the basics it is natural habit to fall into “big hammer” methods of getting results by cramming as many keywords into one’s site content as possible. And it isn’t uncommon for those methods to get results – even good results – quickly and with seemingly little effort. Making keyword rich content can easily get out of hand quickly. How much is enough? How much is too much?

Most people aim for a keyword density of 2% (i.e. use the keyword 2 times for every 100 words).


It’s a fine balance. Generally you want your main keyword to appear a several times either in your text or as the title of a paragraph (in bold), with keywords that are your secondary focus trailing along in frequency.

You will know for sure that you are stuffing a bit too heavily if every other word in your content is a keyword. You want your text content to have a natural flow for human readers while still being keyword dense; there are a few good methods for this.
Use keywords as a title of a paragraph or section, using bold, and/or “H” tags in the html code itself. Search engines will give a bolded word (and especially an H tag) slightly more weight than regular text on your site. H tags may just look like big text, but search engines read them differently and give them extra keyword power.

This is an H1 Tag:

Boise Search Engine Optimization

This is an H2 Tag:

Search Engine Samurai

This is an H3 Tag:

Coldfusion Cowboy


this is an alt tagUse alt-tags on your photos in place of repeating keywords over and over where users are forced to read them.

It’s not JUST about the number of times your keywords appear either. WHERE they appear also can play a big role. Make sure your keywords appear in these places as good rules of thumb for best keyword visibility:

The Title Tag.
The Page URL.
The Main Heading (H1 or H2).
The first paragraph of content.
At least 3 times in the body content (more or less depending on amount of content and if and only if it makes sense).

Search Engine Optimization isn’t some mystic art, it comes down to easy to understand elements created and managed in balanced proportions. It takes time and it takes effort to see lasting results, especially as algorithms are constantly changing.

Don’t understand any of this? Just don’t have time to manage your SEO or social network marketing? I can help! Contact me to find out how I can help you develop your digital presence to work for you.