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Blog Tips from ProBlogger Guest Contributors

Get Social Media Right: Five Things you Just Can’t Miss

This is a guest contribution from Pratik Dholakiya.

There’s no doubt social media is important for businesses to engage with potential and existing customers. It’s marketing 101. Since it’s the de facto “I’ll let the world know what I think about this product or brand” medium, it’s also a unique channel where companies and businesses now face intense scrutiny.

Social media is best used for engagement. It’s a powerful tool that finally lets companies (of any size) get one-to-many with its customer base. Social media allows you to sell (without actually pushing).

At least 72% of people surveyed by HootSuite state that they are likely to buy from a company they first interacted on Twitter, for instance. There’s also a 30% in unsolicited recommendations.

With more than 500 million tweets a day and over 230 million active users, your customers are on Twitter, which is proving to be a great way to improve customer relationships. Facebook – with a user base over a billion and counting – continues to be the mainstay for B2C companies.

LinkedIn meanwhile is a great platform to establish your social presence, attract clients, employees, vendors, and even investors.

On social media conversation, share, and engagement is a direct result of your updates performing. If social media provides amplification for your content assets, the right metrics help you measure that amplification.

However, there are production costs associated with those updates. People, time, tools, resources are all under the anvil. So, how do you finalize your key performance indicators, measure the metrics that are important and determine if they’re the one that can deliver maximum ROI? Here are some of the top indicators every social media marketer should pin to the wall.

Business Assets

Today, content can be classified as a business asset. Assets are built to perform. Analytics help you understand how your assets perform over time in line with your business strategy. But just because something exists doesn’t mean it’s important. With so many metrics out there for a marketer to measure, life just got harder for content marketers.

For contemporary content marketers, metrics are best classified into classes, and then each asset must be measured against the overall performance of the asset class it comes under.

Cyfe is a single tool that helps you aggregate all of your asset classes in one place. You can pull in the numbers from the various sources, channels, campaigns (organic and paid), and maintain a single view for analytics. Chris Abraham of Socialmedia.biz termed it as One Dashboard to Rule Them All.

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Cyfe integrates with social media networks, email marketing tools, and all other major sources for your traffic, revenue, or sales. Cyfe also plugs into campaign data from Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Yahoo Advertising, retargeting networks, and with Facebook paid campaigns.

It helps you mitigate these challenges that metrics carry:

  • Metrics are numbers. But the actual transaction flow – from the time a prospect first knows about your business to the point of sale – isn’t straightforward.
  • One single metric, by itself, doesn’t mean much.
  • Metrics are best understood in clusters.

Time Vs Production

Time has a cost to it – a direct one at that. Although this metric is an internal assessment for your team to ponder on and get better at, it has a direct correlation to the rest of the metrics.

  • If there’s an editorial calendar, planned per day, for the period of time, how are the deadlines being met?
  • For every specific content asset, how long does it take to create and publish/
  • How many different types of content are produced and published for a specific period of time?

Use Excel or any other tool/software you are comfortable with but measure these to get your internal processes in shape.

Retention

Social media retention is hard to get at, especially given that social updates have a miserable shelf life of about three hours on average, according to Pamela Vaughan of HubSpot.

According to her post,

  • The mean half-life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours.
  • The mean half-life of a link on Facebook is 3.2 hours.
  • The mean half-life of a link via ‘direct’ sources such as email or instant messaging clients is 3.4 hours.
  • The mean half-life of a link on YouTube is 7.4 hours.

Given these numbers, you’d have a vested interest in looking at the effectiveness of your social media assets beyond the initial contact. For your social updates, you’d need to look at:

  • Tracking follower or fan growth over a period of time.
  • The ability of each social update to garner interest in the form of likes, Tweets, and interactions with each update.

For Twitter, as an example, here’s a sample snapshot of Twitter growth for the last 28 days:

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You also get to see demographic information, interests of your followers, and gender distribution as follows:

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Engagement and Sharing

Social media is “social”. Unlike any other media, there’s the question of reach, engagement, and sharing that’s critical to this media. Traditional publishing depending on reach alone. Social brings in engagement and sharing too.

The more engagement, reach, and share your social updates can manage to stir up, the better it is for your business for multiple reasons. Tools like HootSuite and Buffer App already provide built in analytics for you to dig into. Each social network, meanwhile, also provides analytics on how your social web properties perform.

Facebook provides insights. LinkedIn has analytics. Twitter just rolled out activity dashboard to let you see how your Tweets perform including link clicks, engagement, retweets, replies, and instances of your Tweets being marked as favorites.

For each social network, the important engagement and sharing metrics will include (but not limited to):

  • Number of impressions or reach per update.
  • Activity level around engagement per update.
  • Retweets, shares, likes, comments, and responses per update.

Lead Metrics

Vanity metrics don’t mean a thing. They really don’t. Except for massaging your ego, there’s nothing else vanity metrics do for you. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert writes:

“The end goal is action, not eyeballs.”

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All the branding, engagement, and sharing later, it’s finally about leads. Kevan Lee of Buffer Blog wrote the ultimate guide on social metrics and gets right to the point with an emphasis on leads.

A conversion is that metric you should hang on to. Defined as the number of leads generated from the sum total of social updates, amplification, engagement, and reach.

If you use a tool like Snip.ly, you can also measure direct metrics like clicks originating through each update. This nifty tool also helps you measure conversions (originating from links within social updates) to specific destinations such as landing pages and website pages.

This is the point where all the talk about social media ROI begins to make sense. Taking it a bit further, these are the metrics social hawks at Moz are looking at. The folks at Moz talk about relative engagement rates. Their point is simple: the conversion rate on Facebook isn’t the same as engagement that comes from your Instagram or Pinterest account.

They recommend a tool like TrueSocialMetrics, which helps calculate the true economic value of your social marketing across specific platforms.

Over to You

With social media, the numbers aren’t hard to get. The only thing that matters is your analytical interpretation of those numbers and how they relate to your business goals.

In short,

  • Ignore vanity metrics.
  • Define your goals, classify your metrics, and measure what matters.
  • Conversions are still the real metrics that matter.

How do you measure your social metrics? What are you on the lookout for? What kind of numbers are you busy crunching?

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M and MoveoApps. He’s passionate about fitness, entrepreneurship, start-ups and all things digital marketing. Hit him up on Twitter @DholakiyaPratik for a quick chat.

The One Secret You Need to Read to Increase Conversion Rates

This is a guest contribution from Richard Akhmerov of Devore Agency.

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Image via Flickr user Jerry Nihen.

Have you ever thought to yourself: “Why are some internet marketers so successful, while most are just average?

Now, we can come up with a variety of excuses as to why they are more successful: a bigger list, better networking, more time invested… But at the end of the day, those ARE just excuses.

There is, however, one thing that successful internet marketers do that the average internet marketer probably doesn’t think twice about. And while these hall of famers constantly talk about it, for most it just goes in one ear and out the other.

What I’m talking about is split testing. Split testing is what truly differentiates an average marketer from an extraordinary one. You see, they didn’t build a huge list by just firing aimlessly. They are strategic and analytical about the way they find prospects, and sell to customers.

If you’ve ever set up an opt-in page looking to gather prospects to add to a list, did you bother split testing with another opt-in page? Let’s say you did, but where did you draw the line? Did you only split test with one other page? Or did you keep testing with a third, fourth and fifth variation?

Success stories rarely come from luck, rather it is the relentless ability to keep trying new variations when one just doesn’t seem like enough. There really is no secret to it, but few will take the actual step to make it happen. It’s similar to being fit and healthy. You KNOW you should go to the gym and eat better, but how many people actually do?

Split testing is the backbone of all successful copywriting. You need to have a control which you can test against variations. You can have the greatest product in the world, but if your copywriting is only mediocre, how well do you think your product will sell?

Sometimes you write copy which you think is a masterpiece, but how will you know without testing? As an internet marketer, you are not branding yourself through television ads or billboards which have no known way of telling us a return on investment. We are lucky enough to live in an age where everything can be checked through analytics, to tell us how well our marketing is doing.

The truth is, you already know all of this information, just like you know that proper nutrition and exercise is the key to a healthy life. The hard part, the part that takes discipline, is implementing it into your marketing efforts. Take the extra step, and see how it changes your business.

Here’s to your success!

Richard Akhmerov is from Devore Agency, you can learn more great information by paying them a visit online.

How to Get Read: 8 Ways to Take your Blog From Existence to Greatness

This is a guest contribution from Jerry Low.

 

Here’s one thing I bet you don’t know about Isaac Newton – do you know Newton has the most valuable tooth in human history?

One of his teeth was sold in 1816 at auction for approximately $3,600. In today’s terms, that is about $35,000 – which cost more than a Ford Fusion Titanium car in the United States.

But how is this related to writing a great blogpost? Well, we will talk about it later (if you can’t wait, skip to point #2). But before we dig deeper, here are two more facts for you:

Blogging is practically a given these days, regardless of your title or industry — and for good reason.

Though there are plenty of ingredients required to make it… rather than just write to an abyss, quality blog posts are one that you just can’t overlook.

But what exactly makes a great blog post? Here are eight tips to take your blog from good to great.

1. Make your titles count

Before anyone actually reads your post, they’re going to see your headline — and that headline often is the only consideration you get as to whether they read the post or move on, so make it count.

Coming up with decent headlines isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but by creating a good set of headline templates that you can use later for brainstorming and writing reference, you’ll save yourself time on the back end — not to mention beat out writers’ block when it strikes.

A little more on headlines

Keep in mind the following when it comes to developing headlines for your blog posts:

Don’t under-estimate the value of a good “how to”

Every article seems at least a little bit interesting when you add “how to” into the title. I wouldn’t be surprised to see “How to pour plain water into a glass in 49 ways” go viral one day. And you know what? I’d probably read it. “How to” just inspire curiosity.

Incorporate “How to” in different ways and in different places in your headline. For example, you might do “49 ways to pour water” or “How to pour water: 49 unique ways” or even “49 unique ways to pour water into a glass: the how-to you need to see to believe.”

By placing the “how to” statement at different points in your headline and adding in adjectives or other lead ins, you’re able to adjust your levels of directness or drama.
If it bleeds, it leads

Not all words are created equal, so use them appropriately and carefully. Some words are soft and picturesque, some are impactful, heavy, threatening, and powerful… you get the idea.

Words like “kill,” “bleed,” “scary,” “dark,” “war,” and “secret,” for example, are quite powerful and quickly draw intrigue. They can also drive directly to a point –or, conversely, simply create an interesting play on words. Consider your purpose.

For example, “The war on words” creates a very different headline than “Why are there so many bad blogs?” Frankly, it just sounds more interesting and impactful. Or, take the following — which of these two headlines would you rather read: “Bleeding Blue… Democrats Take All” or “Democrats Win Seats Tuesday”?

3. Ride on the famous

Famous people have pull and persuasion — use that. This isn’t to say that you can start making up quotes or statements supposedly from Sandra Bullock… but you can use what (and who) you know and have access to.

Every industry has its power players — allude to them or incorporate them smartly and relevantly.

For example, “8 Ways to Think Like Warren Buffet — Create a Powerful Rapport With Your Readers,” mentions a well-known industry authority in a non-attributive way that still establishes know-how and intrigue. “Develop a Steve Jobs-quality Vision for your Company” is another example — it includes a well-known, respected persona in a neutral way to gain interest and establish legitimacy. It works for all industries — fashion and beauty? Try something like “5 Fall Outfits Even Anna Wintour Would Approve of.”

2. Open with a bang

When someone reads your blog, you have just a few seconds to hook that reader, so make every word count and make every word interesting. If you can hook visitors to read even just your first two or three sentences, they’ll be more likely to read your whole post.

There are many different types of hooks you can use in your blogpost. To name a few:

  • Shock the readers with interesting facts.
  • Use a quote that meshes up with your topic.
  • Ask a question to spark readers’ curiosity.

Make use of fact sites (example – this, this, and this) to find interesting facts and data. The story about Isaac Newton’s tooth earlier, for example, is a hook I use to attract more reads.

3. Write how you speak

speak

People read when what they’re reading is fun… corporate or formal tones are not fun to read, so loosen it up a bit.

Write your blog in fun, easy-to-understand language that takes a more personal tone. This is what distinguishes your blog from a whitepaper or other corporate communication — and, it’s why people will read your blog. They want to know what you’re up to and they want to know you (assuming you have something to say, that is) — so let them get to know you. Share your thoughts in your writing and let them get to know you by not only what you say, but how you say it.

Nenad Senic says it beautifully:

“Write like you talk. I love English for that. No matter what industry you’re coming from, write the way you talk. Writing blog posts is like giving advice or/and making a point…Your goal is to be understood. You want to get your message across. You can’t do so with cold, bureaucratic-like language.”

4. Use images to your advantage

It’s common sense, but also statistically proven again and again: articles that incorporate images attract more back links and views. Choose images that are not only relevant, but that are actually interesting. Avoid generic clip art, people can smell cheesy a mile away.

Personally, Pixabay and Compfight are my favorite sources for high quality, beautiful, and free photos. I love Pixabay due to its flexibility (no attribution is needed for images found on Pixabay!) and Compfight due to its flawless user-experience (very easy to search images). And, in case you want more, here’s a list of 20+ free image sources for bloggers.

5. Give your post flow and structure

Good blog posts are easy and fun to read not only because of how they say and the tone or language — they’re also easy to read because they’re well structured. Things like sub headlines, bullet points, images, tables, and other visual elements help to guide the reader’s eye and makes it easy for people to follow and read.

Easy reading gets more reading — it’s true.

6. Be social, be friendly

Want to get your blog posts read more frequently? Make it easy for people to share on social media.

When people see something they like, they like to share it with people they know — so making it easy for them to do so will direct more traffic to your blog. Simple share buttons for the major social networks are free and easy to install on your blogs — in fact, 54 percent of the 10,000 largest websites now display social sharing links and, according to a recent study, websites with a Twitter share button get 700% more sharing than their social media unfriendly counterparts.

Not into the buttons or want to draw even more attention? Don’t be shy — use call to actions to better interact with your readers and encourage them to share the post.

7. Have your own voice

You remember in #4 when we talked about writing more in the way you speak? This is your voice — use it.

Your voice is your personality — and it’s what sells your blog and makes it unique. Don’t try to be someone you’re not and never be too shy to show your personality. Your blog is your own — you’re allowed (and supposed to) share your opinions and even stand up to criticism. It’s your opinion… that’s the beauty of it!

In truth, controversial posts often get more links and attention on social media… that isn’t to say that you should write with the intention of picking fights — just don’t be afraid to be yourself, opinions, personality, and all.

8. Ask for what you want

Ever read something and end up thinking something to the extent of, “and….?” Don’t write an “and…?” piece.

Make sure that every blog post has a specific point and a specific objective. That objective might be to gain social media shares, email sign-ups, or traffic to another page — the objective can change, so long as each post has one. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want — directness is good and clearly communicates to your readers. A solid call to action will accomplish this beautifully — let your readers know exactly what you want them to do.

Not sure what will work?

Do some A/B testing to determine which approach works best with your readers.

Now over to you!

These are my tips above to keep your blog post on the “great” list.

There are lots of things that separate a great blog and great posts from the rest. Do you agree with the points I mentioned in this article? What’s in your must have factors for a great blogpost? I look forward to your input in the comment section.

Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets. You can get his best blogging and growth hacking advice here.

Modern Enterprise Link Building Strategies for 2015

This is a guest contribution from digital marketer Ryan Chester. Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 11.39.34 am Everything needs to adapt with the advancement of customer needs, whether it is fashion, food or even enterprise digital marketing strategies. People should have to make changes in their principles as the time changes. Likewise, when you talk about link building and its key principles, you should have to create some distinction from their previous techniques because things are not like what they used to be in the past. Companies, who haven’t modified their strategies, or hired followers of old link building techniques, always suffer. They encounter difficulties in increasing their online presence. However, it does not mean that one cannot mend it or to become successful again. All they have to do is to change their thoughts and make themselves aware of the latest Google’s linking strategies.

Importance of links

I personally own a business, in addition to my current job. I too experienced this situation where my business was about to close – but thanks to Google’s Webmaster Tools, I gained insights about establishing credibility. I’m back to successfully running my business that is getting amazing response from all over the world. Initially, what I came to know is that creating links is an extremely important steps if you want to get quality search engine results.

Matt Cutts, head of the web-spam team in Google, cleared that Google uses sophisticated text-matching strategies to display search results and makes sure that they are both relevant and important for the users. Throughout my learning process, I found that links are not only important for maximizing your online presence, but they are even important for different SEO purposes. This is a possibility of getting traffic from many of your linked websites. Maybe, people visiting other websites are directed towards your site via external links. So, you can say that backlinks are always important for any website who wants to survive in this virtual world, no matter they have zero value. Let’s have a look at some of the most successful link building strategies.

On-Site Content Creation

The Webmaster Guidelines of Google recommend website owners create high quality and unique content that is relevant to their business, so they can naturally gain popularity and help them to develop trusted links. Your website’s traffic depends on the backlinks and links’ ability to cater attention of readers is entirely based on the quality one will be producing. If you have created impressive, flawless and high quality content, chances are higher that it will get better response compared to those that have low quality content. So, your first step in link building should be based on online content marketing with all the quality standards involved.

Tips for Creating Backlinks

Research

When I started, I didn’t know the real importance of research and didn’t have any idea where to begin. But, as soon as I explored the field, I began to realize its importance. My online content strategy was not successful until I came to terms with this. After getting all the information, I reset my techniques and focused on the research. However, I didn’t have to make much effort because I got something useful! Let me explain… since you are not alone in this industry, your competitors (who may have been in this industry for a long time) have done enough legwork that can help you in evaluating what sort of content you should create. You just have to look at their work and find out what type of content attracted most of the readers. This industry establishes credibility by revealing their secrets to gain more clients.

Content Development

After determining the best topics related to your industry, start combining them with content types that best compliment the idea. Below are some of the most famous content kinds that can definitely generate high traffic:

  • Lists

They are considered as the easiest techniques to create content because they can easily provide the desired information. Just like Heartbleed Hit List, you can cater attention of readers by showing more and more list numbers.

  • Videos

The web is making a major shift toward video content, and it’s a good time to get ahead of the curve. There is a lot of opportunity here, and you can make a big splash with YouTube in sending a lot of traffic to your website. There are some tips optimize your YouTube video or channel for better rankings too!

  • In-Depth Guide

If you have knowledge about a certain topic, you should discuss it in depth. Apart from showing how efficient and expert you are, I would recommend you to accept criticism from people because this will help you to get appreciation in the sense that you are ready to learn more- no matter how much experience you have.  It’s always a good idea to build a 101 guide or introduction guide, like we did for email marketing intro for entrepreneurs.

  • Pillar Pages

They actually refer to list of resources present on your website’s page for a certain topic. You can combine many articles on one topic on one pillar page and welcome readers to have a look at them. This will not only help you in showing the extent of your knowledge on that topic but also earn links and shares for you.

  • Industry Reports

You can gather data on your industry in the form of industry reports and allow readers to go through them whenever they want. Be sure not just to ask questions on different aspects but also throw light over demographic details to authenticate your words.

Content Promotion

Don’t think your task is over because content creation is half the battle. Its publication and promotion also need your attention because it is the actual time to attract readers so they can read it. When your goal is to create links, don’t just start sharing on social media platforms or via email marketing. You need to adopt a different approach and try to approach people through other sources. You can use Influencer Outreach, Content Amplification as well as blogging platforms to show your online presence.

More Link Building Strategies to Consider

Apart from the above mentioned tactics, you can follow any of the strategies that I am going to discuss.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is not exactly what people think of it. You approach the right people, at the right time , with right concept. In order to create quality links with guest blogging, you need to find top publications in your field, which are also getting good amount of social media shares and traffic. You can apply as a regular contributor instead of only being a guest blogger. Once you start publishing the content, connect them with your Google+ profile to create a satisfactory authorship. This will help in improving your reputation as the industry expert.

Media

You can become a credible source for reputed journalists as they are always in search of interesting finding, quotes or reports. This can help you in earning sufficient links on different online publications.

Sponsorships

Charities and sponsorship is a good idea to feature yourself in front the audience and influencing them to try out the services of your business. This will help you gain quality backlinks.

Ryan Chester is a digital marketing connoisseur. Part of the Enterprise SEO Team at AnnexCore. He has helped many multi-national companies achieve success with their digital marketing endeavors. Chat with him on Twitter here.

Is it Time to Burn Feedburner? There are Alternatives

This is a guest contribution from Steve Williams of feedburner-alternatives.com

To build up a readership it’s crucial to offer your visitors to subscribe to your blog, so they get updated every time you publish a new post. The two most important channels are email and RSS. Social media, despite the hype, is only second priority in terms of effectiveness.

Several services exist which help you to offer easy RSS & Email subscription options, ranging from RSS subscription facilitators (turning your RSS feed into a nice-to-look-at subscription screen which anyone can understand), RSS2Email as well as classic Email marketing services.

Feedburner: The top dog in decline

The – by far – most popular choice in the blogging community is (still) Feedburner. Feedburner offers solutions for both RSS and Email. And the best of it: it’s 100% free.

However, since Google bought Feedburner in 2007, it never got further developed. Several features got shut down, such as the monetization tool Adsense for feeds as well as the Feedburner API.

And it’s getting worse: more and more bloggers notice that Feedburner’s email delivery is not working reliably anymore. And as there has been no Google support to solve the issue many bloggers have given up on Feedburner.

However: which alternative services could take Feedburner’s spot?

The Feedburner alternatives

The essence of our research: there’s not one solution for all. It all depends on what your needs are.

Switching from FeedBurner Decision Tree Infographic

Credit to feedburner-alternatives.com

Feedburner is not working anymore, and it’s time to do the switch.
If you used Feedburner to handle your RSS feeds, Feedblitz (inexpensive) and Feedpress (slightly more expensive, but more features) are the way to go.
If you also used Feedburner to update your readers by email, then Feedblitz is the first choice which offers the most advanced solutions for both RSS and email (however, they charge quite a bit).
If you want to spice up your email newsletter a bit more, it may be worth to switch to the services which focus on those, i.e. either Mailchimp or Aweber. For the RSS-part you can then use Feedblitz or Feedpress.
Are you already using one of those alternatives? Let us know in the comments!

Steve Williams initiated www.feedburner-alternatives.com, reacting to the increasing frustration with Feedburner and the time-consuming process to find an alternative. Contact him on his page with suggestions on how to further improve the overview.

Is Blogging Dead? How Blogs are changing and How You Can Stay on Top

Image via Flickr user Spondle.

Image via Flickr user Spondle.

This is a guest contribution from author and freelance writer Steff Green.

Like that sparkly rhinestone jacket you purchased last year but suddenly realise is actually kind of hideous, blogging trends change with the seasons. What was once the mark of a high-quality blog now screams of incompetence. Readers are fickle and changing, apt to desert you at a moments notice when something new and shiny and rhinestone-encrusted comes along.

But could blogging actually be dying?

Many sources confirm that it is. The Guardian points to statistics showing the amount of blogs started by teens has halved since 2006, and massively declined among millennial. Jason Kottke, writer of one of the longest-running blogs on the web, states that the blog’s demise came about because the fundamental purpose of blogging was no being fulfilled with other media. In her Atlantic piece titled 2013: The Year “The Stream” Crested, Alexis C. Madrigal discusses the idea that content online is now organised by preference and importance, rather than chronology, rendering the format of the blog obsolete.

“Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over instagramming or snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.” – Jason Kottke.

With social media platforms becoming the online communication too du jour, and with smartphones and other devices becoming for many the preferred platform, blogs have fallen to the wayside in favour of shorter, punchier messages specifically tailored to hit a reader’s buttons.

So what does this mean for you, the blogger? Are you scared? I’m not. And here’s why. I know that whatever changes come about, there are always people out there who need to know things, or need to be entertained. I know things, and I’m mildly amusing, so as long as I’m creating content, it will find an audience, even if that audience – and the way they find and digest that information – may change.

Here are some changes I’ve noticed, and some ideas for how you can stave off your blog’s untimely death:

People are less interested in following blogs

I’ve found that subscriber numbers are way down on all the blogs I manage. The use of feeds has diminished since Google Reader was laid to rest, and I think when Gmail and other clients started filtering promotional material away from the “Primary Inbox”, blog updates via email became less important.

With dwindling subscriber lists, what do you do to keep your readership intact?

What you can do about it:

  • Just because people aren’t subscribing, doesn’t mean they aren’t reading. People are more likely to follow your blog on social media – clicking through to your links when you post them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
  • Take advantage of this swing towards social media use by ramping up for social presence. One thing I like to do is post an article link a couple of times over the week, to increase the chances of people seeing it. I also frequently post links to older articles from my archives.
  • Look at new ways to boost subscriber rates by offering something different. Many bloggers are transitioning into “media hubs” – a place where many different stories and opinions and ideas and media are collected and disseminated. Offer content that can be shared on social media with ease and keep people coming back by giving them a whole lot more of what they want.
  • Rebrand your blog so it’s not a “blog”. Instead of a blog tab in your navigation bar, call it “Steff’s Thoughts” or “Helpful Tips” or “Articles” – recreate yourself, move away from the title of “blogger” and start thinking of your website as a media business.

Guest Blogging Isn’t As Valuable As it once Was

I’ve been finding my recent guest blogging aren’t yielding the results I’ve come to expect. Whereas a post written for a A-grade blog in 2012 might generate 300 hits to my site, these days it might only generate 30.

People are paying less and less attention to the bio links in posts, and Google is, too. Host blogs, hounded constantly by advertisers looking for low-cost linkbacks, have tightened their submission guidelines to the point that getting in is almost as strenuous as a job application at Google.

Yet, despite the changes in the guest-blogging space, many bloggers are still citing this technique as one of the core methods of building a following. So, what do you do to improve your guest blogging results?

What you can do about it:

  • Don’t write off guest-blogging altogether – it still has its place. You just have to be more strategic about it.
  • Instead of randomly choosing 20 sites to target for guest blogs, focus on building ongoing relationships with 1-3 popular sites. Become a regular contributor. Allow that audience to get to know you through regular posts. This is how you get them to start following you.
  • Choose topics that require specific examples from your own sites and businesses. This way you can talk about your personal experience and, as you describe yourself as a case studies, readers are more likely to be interested in your work and click through.
  • Pull together resources with other bloggers to create awesome products like free webinars or documents. “Free” is still a great way to attract new readers to the top of your funnel. For example, the team at First Site Guide created this incredible Start a Blog guide with advice from some of the best bloggers in the business. It was a real team effort and has provided a free resource that I personally find incredibly useful.

People Interact on Social Media, Not Your Sites

So how many blog comments do you get, huh? Is it anything like the number you had four years ago? I doubt it very much. Practically every blogger I’ve talked to has said comments are on the decline. Why? Two words: social media.

Readers are not only using social media to find your content, they are also using their favourite platforms to interact with it, and you. A reader is more likely to share your post on Facebook and leave a comment there than write something on the blog itself.

If your readers are flocking to social media to discuss your posts, what can you do to steer them back to your site?

What You Can Do About It?

  • First of all, I think you should let your readers take the lead with how and where they want to discuss your posts. If discussion is moving on to social media, than I say, “embrace it!”
  • Delete the comment function of your blog altogether, or at least hide the number of comments on a post, so readers aren’t always seeing a big “0 comments” after the post title.
  • Focus on building and engaging with your audience on one or two of your favourite social media platforms. Discuss topics, ask questions, post interesting links and get them to talk with you throughout the day, not just when you post an article. Don’t try to be everywhere at once, but use the platforms you enjoy to build your audience.
  • At the end of your blog posts, invite readers to share and discuss your content on Facebook.
  • Post content on your social media you don’t post on your blog. I like to share funny links and music videos throughout the day on my Facebook page.

Monetization of Sites

Readers have started to get smart to the methods of blog advertising – they might avoid affiliate links, scoff at “sponsored content” and glance over your sidebar ads without a single click. Google is punishing the selling of text links and other types of sponsored content. It seems that selling advertising is no longer a way to create a viable income stream.

And it’s not just advertising. With the advent of the kindle and readers coming to expect ebooks for $2.99, revenue from ebook sales on blogs have dwindled.

Or is it? Here’s what you can do to jump-start monetization on your blog:

What can you do about it?

  • Bloggers are getting truly entrepreneurial and thinking about monetization from outside of the context of their blogs. For example, Elsie and Emma from A Beautiful Mess – a simple DIY blog – created an app allowing users to add doodles and words on top of their images. The app became one of the most popular.
  • Other bloggers are stepping out from behind the keyboard and building branded content in a live setting. The three bloggers behind The Blogcademy, for example, are running live workshops all around the world.
  • Chunky advertorial posts just won’t cut the mustard any more. Blog readers want something more authentic. Brands are still working with bloggers but many are looking for sophisticated content partnerships.
  • Other writers are using their blog as a platform to launch creative projects that might not necessarily have much to do with the topic of their site. For example, I am writing and publishing dark fantasy fiction, and my site is a music website, but I’m using it as my platform as many music fans also enjoy dark fantasy.

I’ve been blogging since 2008, and I’ve seen many different trends rise and fall. It can be hard when something we’ve come to rely on no longer works, but I think it’s important to see every setback as an opportunity in disguise – allowing us as bloggers to shift focus, re-evaluate, change things up and take risks.

Steff Green is a writer, blogger and heavy metal maiden living off-grid in rural New Zealand with her cantankerous drummer husband, a menagerie of animals and their medieval sword collection. Check out her dark fantasy novel, The Sunken, or subscribe to her blog for updates and free books.

How to Calculate the Value of Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Tom Fanelli.

For most businesses, blogs are marketing tools. And while most take the time to measure their ROI from other marketing avenues, I’m surprised by how many don’t truly understand how their blog is (or is not) benefiting their bottom line.

Understanding your blog’s value can help you determine if you want to invest more on its development, adjust your blogging strategy to make it more effective, or simply cut back on your investment entirely.

Sound good? Here’s a guide on how to figure out your blog’s value.

Track the cost of content development.

This isn’t as easy of a task as it may initially seem. If you work with freelancers to create and upload content, their fees are the most obvious direct cost, but it’s likely that there’s still someone in-house who reviews the content – and their time is a cost to your business.

Be sure to account for time spent by all full-time employees who contribute to the blog as part of their responsibilities. Ask them to track how much time they spend working on blog-related tasks for a month.

Calculate your cost per visit. 

Okay, you know how much it costs to keep your blog going, but you want to consider that in the context of how much traffic your blog generates. If you spend money promoting your blog posts, through PPC, Outbrain, or outreach, factor this in. Don’t forget to include any associated labor costs.

Now add the cost of content development and promotion, and divide it by the number of visits over the same period. This is your blog’s “cost per visit”. It can also be valuable to determine the cost per unique visitor.

Determine the revenue of each visit. 

What direct returns do you get from your blog? You may earn money from advertising or affiliate sales. If that’s the case, calculate your total profits on a monthly basis and divide it by the number of visits during the same period.

However, many business blogs don’t have ads or support affiliate sales. Instead, your goal is likely to convert blog visitors into sales of your products or services. For product sales, you can use analytics to determine how many visitors on your blog ultimately completed a shopping transaction as well as the exact revenue from each transaction. But for most services (and some products), it may still take a phone call before they actually convert into a sale. Accounting for your blog’s influence on sales in this way is a little trickier but not impossible:

  • Track how many blog visitors end up on your “Contact” page. Figure out the average value of a new customer, and use this figure to assign a value to these “conversions”.
  • For a month, have your sales team ask new clients if they visited your blog. If the answer is yes, include that sale as part of the return you earn on your blog.
  • Use call tracking. Provide a unique phone number for those who visit your blog, so you’ll be able to say definitively that the customer was acquired in that manner.

There is also another business blogging goal that shouldn’t be overlooked, though it is not as easy to quantify: establishing your brand or expertise. The best way to account for this type of value is focus on the cost per visitor. From there, you can better determine if your investment is worth the reach you’re achieving.

Don’t forget the value of the content itself.

Many businesses reuse blog content in other ways, such as eBooks, marketing materials, social media updates, and newsletters. It’s worth calculating the cost and value of these other uses to get a more complete picture of how your blog fits into your marketing success.

If you find that your blog’s ROI isn’t bad but also isn’t where you’d like it, this is also one way that you can improve it without blowing up your entire strategy.

Now What?

So you’ve subtracted your cost per visit from your gross revenue per visit, and you now have the value of each visit. Armed with this data, you can evaluate your overall content strategy. Do you need to make adjustments? Should you double-down on your current success? Can you grow your business by driving more blog traffic through PPC ads? This figure is also important if you’re calculating the value of your domain name or website for sale.

Tom Fanelli is one of the nation’s leading experts on website development, SEO, SEM, and social media marketing. For nearly two decades, Tom has built both world-class marketing solutions and leading global marketing teams in corporate and small business environments across many industries. He has shared his insight on online customer acquisition, lead generation, and business optimization in both print and web publications, as a presenter of over 50 webinars, and as a featured speaker for companies like Intuit, Microsoft, Sage Software, and the Small Business Administration.

Follow Tom on Twitter at @tfanelli, purchase his ebook Infographics in Action, or learn more on TomFanelli.com.

Man Vs. Machine: Get Better Sales by Keeping Marketing Automation Human

Image via Flickr user Peyri Herrera

Image via Flickr user Peyri Herrera

This is a guest contribution from Veronica Taylor.

Marketing automation without a human element is just a robot on autopilot. Before, during and after each automated campaign it is essential for real people to plan, edit and review. When campaigns aren’t working, they need to be tested and updated. Most people think of marketing automation as efficient yet impersonal. When used correctly, however, most automated marketing solutions now provide the possibility for highly targeted messages based on each customer’s personal interests, preferences and history. Here are a few tips for making your automated campaigns efficient and dynamic while also building stronger connections with your customers.

Have a Specific Goal

For each campaign you create, it is essential to know what you are trying to accomplish. Are you seeking more new signups? Trying to get leads to download your whitepaper? Simply raising awareness about your business or an upcoming event? If you have automated messages going out to customers but you don’t have a clear idea of what results you are trying to measure, you will not know if the campaign was successful. You won’t know which messages were effective and which ones need to be changed. If you are not measuring the response to your messages, you are not listening to your customers. The automated campaign will continue to run robotically, with no edits or improvements. Know what you are trying to achieve. If it’s not working, update it.

Survey and Track Customers

The best way to give marketing automation a personal touch is to use it to its full potential. Marketing automation now has the capability to track and store each individual customer’s preferences, history, important dates, interests, personal information and much more. With this wealth of data, it is possible to automatically create highly personally targeted campaigns for each customer. This way, the customer receives information that is directly relevant to them, making the experience much more personal. You can send out automated appointment date reminders, bill payment notifications, birthday messages, personalized promotions and so on. This type of personalized messaging builds stronger connections and reduces customer churn. When you want to update your customer information in order to provide even better targeted messages, survey customers to learn more and keep information up to date.

Know When to Write a Personal Message

Sometimes automation just isn’t appropriate. There are many instances in business where it is essential to take the time to manually write a message or a response to a customer. In these cases, a prompt message sent by a real person has a much greater impact than an automated message ever could. These are just a few examples: when a customer makes a very large purchase and you want to thank them with a special discount or free product/service, when a customer has been with you for years and you want to show your appreciation, when a customer takes the time to write to you with feedback, questions or comments, when you make a mistake with a customer’s bill, purchase or account, when a customer has a complaint, and when you have time to make personal comments on social media (automated social media management saves oodles of time, but you absolutely need real posts or tweets thrown in).

Review and Analyze

As mentioned before, if you don’t keep track of how customers are responding to your automated messages you are simply letting a robot control your marketing, which is going to show in your sales. Real people are essential to a marketing strategy because they try different things when they see something isn’t working as well as they had hoped. One of the greatest advantages humans have over machines is that they take chances and make mistakes rather than doing the same thing over and over again. The best way to increase revenue, boost customer life span and attract new customers is to listen to what your customers want. Automated marketing solutions provide you with all the data you will ever want. Keep a close eye on your reports, open rates, unsubscribes and other data. Review your campaign data after each campaign you send. Learn what customers respond to, learn what they don’t want and learn how to react positively when you need to make a change.

To summarize:

Your marketing is ultimately in your hands. Marketing automation makes it possible for businesses to save time and money, reduce the daily effort their staff has to put in and connect more effectively with their customers. Marketing automation is a powerful tool, but like any other tool it needs a skilled operator to make it work.

Veronica Taylor, Assistant Marketing Manager at SimplyCastenjoys writing about small business marketing, improving communication strategies, social media trends and more.

How to Use Google in the Most Unusual Way to Make Your Self-Editing Faster, and Better

This is a guest contribution from Karol K. You can read the first and second post in this mini series here and here.

“[...] then the evening came and she found herself sitting by the drawing board again, trying to [...]“

Um … wait a minute, is it “sitting by the drawing board” or “sitting at the drawing board”? Damn it, I never remember, and both sound okay to me! How do I check this?!

Oh, the struggles of every blogger attempting to edit their own work. There are thousands of expressions just like the one above, causing us problems on a daily basis.

Is something in or on, at or by, from or with, of or for, “all of a sudden” or “all of the sudden”? There’s really no end to this craze. And this is especially relevant if English is not your first language.

So what to do? What to do if you’re not entirely sure and you don’t want to look silly?

Call a friend? Email a friendly blogger? Shout this out on Twitter?

Sure, that could work, but you can be sure that if you do this multiple times throughout the day, people will hate you.

There’s a quicker and better solution though.

Its name is Google.

Please, hold on! Don’t leave just yet. I promise the trick I’m about to describe isn’t as obvious as it sounds now.

Introducing clever Googling!

Here’s what I do when I’m in doubt like that.

Step #1. I go to Google and search for part of the phrase that I’m uncertain of. I put†the phrase in quotation marks.

Using the example above, like so:

“sitting by the drawing board”

Now, the individual results Google gives me don’t matter that much. What matters is the number of indexed pages:

google1

Not a lot in this case.

Step #2. I start checking other known alternatives. Like so:

google2

Ah, that’s better, over 130,000 results.

In most cases, what this means is that the higher number means proper expression.

The end.

Quick. Simple. Correct in most cases.

(Of course, sometimes a common error is more popular than the correct form. But even if that’s the case, can using this wrong form still be considered a serious mistake?)

How to do this properly

To be perfectly honest with you, I use this trick all the time. I’ve truly made Google my lightning-fast blog editor, and I encourage you to do the same.

Now, just a handful of final guidelines.

  1. If you’re completely clueless about what the correct expression you’re looking for might be, try using the magic “*” character. This star lets Google know that you’re looking for any word that fits the gap. Go ahead, try it with†“sitting * the drawing board”.
  2. Always put the phrase in quotation marks. This is important. Without them, the method is useless.
  3. Enclose the word you’re looking for on both sides. For instance, looking for just “by the drawing board” wouldn’t provide me with sufficient context for the returned number to be an accurate representation. Always put the missing part in the middle.
  4. Use replacement verbs and nouns. Not all expressions are popular enough and they might not return any reliable numbers, but you can improve the results by replacing some not common words with more common ones. For example, if “drawing board” is too specific, I can replace it with “desk” and the meaning remains more or less the same (“by the desk”).
  5. Mind the context. In some cases, two versions of a phrase can be equally as popular, but that can be due to the fact that they mean two separate things. In such a case, look into the individual results and take a look at the excerpts Google gives you. Here’s an example result for “sitting on the drawing board”:

google3

Is this method fail-proof?

Of course not.

But it’s not meant to be fail-proof. This is just a trick to speed up your editing when you’re stuck and can’t find the right way to express a thought.

What do you think? Will you make Google your personal editor too?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, published author, founder of NewInternetOrder.com and a blogger at Bidsketch.com (delivering some cool freelance blogging and writing tools, advice and resources just like what youíre reading now). Whenever heís not working, Karol likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.