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Six Simple Steps to Optimize your Blog’s Video Content on YouTube

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Image va Flickr user jonsson.

This is a guest contribution from Praveenkumar Mavi, of Just2clik Blog

YouTube is a widely-used search engine for videos its value shouldn’t be underestimated. There are millions of videos daily uploaded onto YouTube, so it is very important to optimize your videos at their top level to get more hits and even front page ranking. To do this, we need to keep in mind a few important points:

1. The first and most important thing is keyword setup. This, of course, depends on your video content. Let us assume 3-4 titles for your video and start searching on Google. If you find videos in the search results of your title, then go for one of the other titles until you’ve found no other (or nearly no other) videos with the same name. Then assign this title to your video.

2. The second step is to describe your video. Your video description should contain your video title, this helps to show in bold on search results. You should also be very clear in your description and try to include as much information as you can without turning it into a long-winded and confusing blurb. Attracting description results in more hits for your video.

3. Tags are the third step – assigning tags to your video is as simple as copy and paste. For example if your video title is ‘Simple steps to optimize your Facebook fan page’ then your tags should be Facebook, simple steps, optimization, Fan page, etc.

4. Upload high definition videos if you can. Don’t go for standard definition videos, because YouTube wants to provide best possible experience for end users, and will prioritize those in HD. This really plays an important role in ranking your videos.

5. The most killer tip for optimizing your video content is to generate a transcription for your video. Include subtitles for your video. Create a 300-400 word description in the transcription, and more importantly add your website URL at the top/bottom of your description. This will help the end user to understand what your video content is about.

6. Finally, promote your video by sending emails with a link to your video and to your channel subscription. Try to respond to comments.

Praveenkumar is the Founder and editor of Just2clik Blog, In this blog you’ll find a very simple yet more effective tutorials about blogging, Computers and Mobiles. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Why Bloggers Need to Do More Than Just Trademark Their Blog Name

TrademarkBlogs

This is a guest contribution from trademark attorney Xavier Morales.

Should you trademark your blog name? While the answer will vary from blogger to blogger, in general, modern bloggers will benefit from trademark registration. At the start, blogs were something of a personal communication medium. But today, they’ve evolved into businesses and brands. In other words, they have become entities worth trademarking.

Trademarking extends beyond merely filing an application. It starts with the brand itself. Only strong, unique brands will receive trademark registrations. Therefore, a company must search high and low for any existing mark that can be considered confusingly similar.

Even after receiving a federal trademark registration, owners must actively protect their rights. Only they can stop other entities who infringe on their rights. That is, no one else will tell an entity to stop using your trademark. You must go through the steps to protect your trademark rights, which can sometimes include litigation, (though no one wants matters to reach that level).

What Can Happen?

The following recent cases illustrate many pain points in the trademark process. These bloggers applied for, or own, federal trademark rights. But they’ve each encountered obstacles along the way. Bloggers thinking about registering their own trademarks will do well to learn from those who have come before them.

Against All Grain

Danielle Walker had every reason to file a trademark application. Her blog, Against All Grain, barely 18 months old, had acquired an intensely loyal readership. She had just released her first cookbook, of the same name. Anyone in her position should seek federal trademark protection.

In August 2013 she filed her federal trademark application. About two weeks later she received a cease-and-desist letter from Against The Grain, a gluten-free food company from Vermont. A lawsuit followed a month after that. Against The Grain owns several federal trademark registrations for the sale of gluten-free products. But those registrations are not necessarily what spurred this lawsuit.

In January 2013, Against The Grain filed a federal trademark application, “to identify cookbooks, kitchen utensils, chocolate, candy and other confections.” The key is the first in that series. Against The Grain had filed for a federal trademark involving cookbooks before Ms. Walker published hers. That would appear to give Against The Grain superior rights. While they currently have no published cookbooks, Against The Grain founder Nancy Cain plans to publish one in October of this year.

Indeed, the case settled recently, with Against The Grain getting the one thing it wanted: a name change for Against All Grain. Ms. Walker must now identify her blog and products as “Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain.” Additionally, Ms. Walker must abandon her trademark application. She still does, however, own the domain name againstallgrain.com.

Finding a lesson in such a case can be difficult. Is Against All Grain distinct enough from Against The Grain? Could Ms. Walker have done anything differently to better protect her brand? Or was she doomed from the moment she started using the Against All Grain mark?

The biggest takeaway for bloggers: conduct extensive research before you pursue trademark rights. Better yet, research trademarks early in the process. It’s easier to pivot as a young blogger than it is as an established one.

The Honest Toddler

Sometimes two entities can happily coexist – until trademarks come into play. Such is the case with The Honest Company, which sells family and home products, and Honest Toddler, a satirical blog from a child’s point-of-view. The two enjoyed a friendly relationship; The Honest Company blog once featured an interview with Honest Toddler.

But then Bunmi Laditan, the creator of Honest Toddler, filed a federal trademark application.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published Laditan’s trademark in April 2013. At this stage existing trademark holders can file an opposition to the application. The Honest Company filed an opposition, which sparked a long and well-documented debate among bloggers and commenters.

This case is quite different from Against All Grain, in that no one issued a cease-and-desist or filed a lawsuit. The Honest Company merely objected to Ms. Laditan’s trademark application for Honest Toddler. The next step in that process is arguing your case in front of the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Before that could happen, The Honest Company tried to negotiate with Ms. Laditan, offering her a free license to use Honest Toddler (reportedly for only one year).

Christopher Gavigan, co-founder of The Honest Company, repeatedly claimed that his company has “superior rights in a class that she is filing in.” Ms. Laditan repeatedly claimed that The Honest Company had no such superior rights. The argument appeared at a standstill after a deluge of commentary in late July 2013. Indeed, there is little, if any, mention of the case after early August.

The case, it appears, has been quietly settled. According to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), Ms. Laditan received her federal trademark registration on October 29, 2013. So what happened? It’s difficult to determine, given the lack of publicity. The USPTO’s Trademark Status and Document Retrieval system does make it a bit clearer. On September 3, 2013 The Honest Company withdrew its opposition. That cleared the way for Laditan’s final approval for federal trademark rights.

In this case, we see a blogger who stood up for her rights. She filed an application for a mark she was using in commerce, one which The Honest Company did not own. (Their opposition cited their trademark registration for “HONESTBABY”.) Instead of acquiescing to the demands of a larger company, Ms. Laditan stood her ground and won her case. There might be entities that can outspend you in court, but that should not diminish your rights if you have followed the proper trademarking procedure.

Food for Thought

Receiving federal trademark rights is only the beginning. To continue enjoying the rights and benefits of trademark ownership, you must take steps to protect your trademark. In some cases this might necessitate filing a lawsuit. While unappealing to some, failing to take protective measures can diminish your rights as a trademark owner.

So far, Timothy Young has declined to file litigation against The Huffington Post and Chipotle Mexican Grill, though he feels they have infringed on his trademark rights. Since 1998 he has held federal trademark rights to the name “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” on a range of food products. He maintains a website, including a blog, in addition to a wide presence on social media.

In 2013 he objected, frequently and vehemently, though not officially, to a collaboration between The Huffington Post and Chipotle Mexican Grill, also titled “Food for Thought”. It might seem odd that someone who holds the trademark for food classes would object to someone else using the phrase in an editorial sense. But Mr. Young claims he does have rights in this case.

Specifically, he claims common law trademark rights to use the phrase “Food For Thought” in an editorial manner. He started the blog on his site in 2007, long before Huffington Post launched its project. Since they both cover similar topics, just and sustainable food, Mr. Young might indeed have superior rights in this case.

Unfortunately, he’s doing nothing to protect them.

Instead of filing a lawsuit for trademark infringement, he launched a brief, but intense, blogging campaign to raise awareness. He has also gone on what he has termed the “Chipotle Accountability Tour,” where he pickets outside Chipotle restaurants. This might be effective for raising awareness, although mentions of the case have not increased since late 2013.

Mr. Young did file a new trademark application with the USPTO in January that covers a host of products, including: “On-line journals, namely, blogs featuring sustainable agriculture, green living, fair trade, activism and policy and politics related thereto.” Again, he believes that this is merely a formality, given that he started the blog in 2007.

If Mr. Young truly does believe that he has superior rights, he needs to protect them. Merely filing a new application does nothing. The Huffington Post and Chipotle will not abandon their project – or at least its name – unless forced to do so. Young can file more trademark applications and protest more restaurants. It won’t make a bit of difference if other entities continue using the trademark on which he claims to hold superior rights.

Trademark is a Process, Not an End

From these three cases we can learn about the different stages of the trademarking process.

Danielle Walker’s case illustrates the need to find a strong trademark before filing an application. In many ways “AGAINST ALL GRAIN” might appear distinct from “AGAINST THE GRAIN”. But given the similarities in the goods and services being offered under both names, it’s no wonder that Against The Grain decided to take action. The only way to avoid such litigation, and to receive a federal trademark registration, is to ensure that your mark is strong and unique.

Bunmi Laditan’s case illustrates the need to stand up for your trademark even when larger brands object. Given the outcome, it is clear that The Honest Company didn’t have firmly superior rights to Honest Toddler. Ms. Laditan stood her ground and won her case. Bloggers can take advantage of their large readerships in these cases, rallying support through social media and other channels.

Timothy Young’s case illustrates the need to protect your trademark rights. The Huffington Post and Chipotle will not change the name of their joint project unless forced to do so. Mr. Young has chosen to take the non-litigation route, which might prove detrimental to his case. If he does own superior rights, he needs to enforce and protect them. We will learn in time if his refusal to do so does indeed diminish his trademark rights.

The trademarking process does not end when you receive a federal trademark registration. It doesn’t end until you abandon your rights. From the start you must choose a strong mark. Then you must follow the USPTO’s process. Then, once registered, you must take all steps to prevent others from infringing on your mark and capitalizing on your hard work. For bloggers, many of whom have turned their blogs into businesses, this is more important than ever.

Xavier Morales is a trademark attorney who specializes in trademark search, registration, and protection. A 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School, he owns his own firm, The Law Offices of Xavier Morales, which can be found at SecureYourTrademark.com.

9 World-class Bloggers Share Their #1 Email List Building Tip

This is a guest post from Nate Desmond of SumoMe, plus half a dozen contributors you’ll encounter throughout the article.

Too many blogs are plagued by hit-and-run visitors.  These are people who come, read your article, and then melt back into the ether of the internet.

As much as we love to see spikes in our website visitor analytics, post views are actually useless.  Unless those visitors do something – buy your course, follow you on Twitter, join your email list – even a large traffic spike will leave you back in the same place a few days later.

So how can you transform one-time visitors into lifelong readers?

Simple: convince them to join your email list.

Next time you publish a new post, you won’t start over from zero – your new email subscribers will be glad to read your latest writing. Think of it as a great vicious cycle. More emails = more traffic = more sharing = more emails.

But how do you build your email list?

1sean_dsouzaI wondered the same thing, so I asked major bloggers for their advice.  Here’s what they said:

#1. Partner with other bloggers

“Strategic alliances help grow the email list. The clients already know and trust the partner and hence the trust is transferred to us as well.”

- Sean Dsouza writes at Psychotactics

Partnerships with other bloggers can help both blogs reach new audiences and build their reach.  When selecting potential alliances, look for two factors:

1. Size: While bigger blogs offer bigger rewards, they also are less likely to be interested.

2. Audience: The more similar your audiences are, the more benefit both blogs will see.

Keeping these criteria in mind, build a list of 10-20 blogs you’d potentially like to partner with.

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Here’s an example guest post on ProBlogger

Once you’ve selected a these potentials, decide what type of content you’d like to use:

  • Webinar
  • Guest post
  • Ebook
  • Podcast
  • Email
  • Physical events

Armed with these ideas, you’re ready to reach out to the bloggers you brainstormed earlier.  Particularly when you’re new and don’t know people, this step will often be discouraging as probably only one in 10 bloggers will express any interest.

Instead of becoming frustrated, expect initial failure, and use the results to steadily improve your emails.  As you start gaining momentum after your first partnership, landing the second and third will be easier.

#2. Prominently ask people to subscribe – then provide amazing value2neville_medhora

“A big-ass banner across the top of my blog helped a lot.  I also used CrazyEgg.com to make sure people were clicking on it.  I went through a couple of revisions based on the CrazyEgg stats.

At first I was afraid of asking for people’s emails because I thought it would annoy them.  Then I realized getting my posts via email were people’s favorite way of hearing from me!

Once someone joins my email list, I use Aweber to automatically send a series of epically valuable emails over the next couple of weeks.  This helps transform a new subscriber into a hardcore, engaged fan.”

- Neville Medhora writes at Neville’s Financial Blog

Rather than just sticking a form randomly on your site and hoping for the best, take the time to test the best placement, wording, and coloring like Neville did.

You should test many elements of your form:

  • Headline
  • Button text
  • Forms required (name and email or just email?)
  • Color
  • Incentive

The signup incentive is a particularly potent piece of your form.  Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Ebooks
  • Recordings
  • Cheatsheets
  • Videos
  • Email series

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One of the incentives Neville uses to build his email list

Optimizing form locations and incentives will help you get many times more email subscribers than you do right now.  Just remember, getting email signups is only the very beginning of a strong reader relationship.

This reader trusts you enough to share their email address – now it’s your turn to prove you’re worthy of it.  Work to consistently overdeliver on expectations, and you’ll soon have a thriving email following!

#3. Use a non-annoying popover

“When I first started my latest blog, I just slapped a basic subscription form somewhere on my sidebar.  Barely anyone noticed it, and even fewer subscribed.3nate_desmond

Then I tried SumoMe’s List Builder plugin.  Literally overnight, I saw a 10x increase in subscriber conversion, and my list has continued growing steadily ever since.

I actually liked it so much that I now work for the company!”

- Nate Desmond writes at NateDesmond.com and SumoMe

Building an email list is one of the fastest ways to compound your blog’s growth, so you’ll want to start optimizing your email forms as soon as you get the first trickle of traffic.

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This is the email popover I use on my blog

For me, SumoMe popovers have been the most successful effort thus far.  They’re pretty simple to setup (took me less than 5 minutes), but you should watch for a couple things:

  1. Timing – Mine loads after about 1 second, but you should experiment to see what works best for your website.
  2. Color – Make sure your form is colored similarly to your website – context matters.
  3. Wording – This is critical.  Brainstorm 25 ideas for headlines and test the three best.

Forms in your sidebar, footer, or even header can be out of your reader’s line-of-sight, so non-annoying popovers can be a highly effective way to get your reader’s attention.

4sean_work#4. Produce exceptional content

“Producing exceptional content that our readers can use to improve their craft.”

- Sean Work writes at KISSmetrics

Ultimately, the success of your blog relies on the quality of your writing.  A strong email list can help speed your growth, but everything ultimately relies on your posts and emails providing stunning content that solves real problems for your readers.

Quality content attracts potential readers to your website and inspires current subscribers to stick around and engage.

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This is part of an infographic KISSmetrics uses to engage

Here are a few things you can do to make your writing amazing:

Write articles that you would want to read and share with your friends, and you’ll probably be off to a strong start.

#5. Use Post-Specific Bonus Content

“Giveaway a bonus within your content that requires the readers email address.

Think of it like Facebook advertising.

My click-through-rate (ctr) on the newsfeed ads is 2.5% while my sidebar Facebook ads on a great day do .5% ctr.

That’s a 500% increase in clicks.

5noah_kaganPeople are engaged in the middle of the site, NOT on the fringes.

Think of this with email collection within your blog.

Make a benefit and give the reader a link / button to get a cheat-sheet or bonus document related to the content the person is reading.

Then ask them for an email to get that content.

If you are really lazy just do it for the top 3 posts you get traffic on.

I have seen this nearly increase my daily email growth by 30%!”

- Noah Kagan runs SumoMe and writes at Okdork

Advertising platforms like Facebook are working tirelessly to try to better understand visitor intent.  The more they can tailor advertisements to what a person actually wants; the more customers they will see.

You have a major advantage over advertisers though – since your visitor is reading a specific post, you already know that they have at least some interest in the post’s topic.

Based on this knowledge, you can create a targeted call-to-action offering exclusive content that builds on your post.

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This email bonus is from one of Noah’s recent posts

So what exactly can you offer?

  • Google spreadsheets with exact formulas
  • PDF “cheatsheets” with a quick review of your post
  • Video materials adding on to your post
  • Exact emails and scripts you’ve used in your case studies
  • Ebooks closely related to the post topic
  • “Inside tips” like the list of top giveaway sites in the above example

Whatever you choose, giveaway incredible value and you’ll not only get email subscribers – you’ll get lifelong readers!

#6. Use multiple signup forms

“The number one strategy that helped me grow my list was placing multiple sign up forms on high traffic pages on my site and offering a high value giveaway in return.

Today I have forms in my popup, in my sidebar, at the bottom of every post and on a slide in.”6steve_chou

- Steve Chou writes at MyWifeQuitHerJob.com

Different readers will be ready to subscribe at different times.  If you have a subscription form ready when they want to subscribe, your email list will grow quickly.

You should test email signup forms in all these locations:

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Steve’s got a great sidebar form on his site

Over time, you’ll probably find two or three forms are dramatically more effective than the others.  At that point, you can remove the low performers and focus on optimizing the forms that do work to make them even better.

This is a principle that actually applies in all areas of blog growth – cut the strategies that don’t work and double-down on the areas that are showing results.

#7. Provide deep research that solves problems

“There has to be a steady stream of high quality content that actually solves the visitor’s problem.

There’s a lot of research that goes into the articles we publish, because too many of the marketing articles out there skate by passing opinion off as fact without any kind of qualification. The problem with that is that it creates a culture of “marketers” who blindly follow opinion without being willing to test that on their own.

By including the deep research, and really digging to find those “aha” moment, we try to create a “can’t miss” experience.7tommy_walker

The feeling is that if you don’t sign up for email, you might miss something valuable that increases your revenue. Nobody wants to miss out on revenue, especially if learning how to get more of it will be sent to your inbox for free.”

- Tommy Walker is the editor of ConversionXL

Most blogs today fall into one of two main categories: “churn and burn” websites that just publish frequent, basic posts and long-form websites that publish detailed, researched posts.  Both types of content can build popular blogs, but in today’s competitive blogosphere you’ll generally go farther and faster with long-form content.

How can you do this?

It’s actually not nearly as complicated as you might think.

First, litter your posts with fun, memorable stories.  Some authors actually go so far as keeping a “commonplace book” filled with stories waiting to be used.  Others simply write from memory.  Either way, adding examples and stories to your posts will make them easier to read and more helpful.

Second, use lots of statistics in your posts (and also in your headlines!).  Lots of posts can tell you that colorful images are more popular on Pinterest, but that’s not nearly as useful as knowing that colorful images get 300% more shares.

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One of many specific case studies shared on ConversionXL

As you write your blog posts and emails, look for opportunities to share unique, actionable information that will make your readers think “ah ha!”… and hopefully subscribe to your email list.

#8. Place a giant lead magnet on your blog homepage

“For the last six months or so we’ve been displaying a “lead magnet” on our blog homepage that offers four ecommerce case studies that 8mark_macdonalddrip out via autoresponder. After subscribers get the content they’re added to our main blog list.

Note: we aren’t currently using this on the blog as we plan to deploy it somewhere else soon.”

- Mark Macdonald writes at Shopify

What’s the most visited page on your website?

You guessed it… your homepage!

Unfortunately, your default homepage is also probably the least engaging page on your entire website.  You’ve probably got a random array of your most recent posts, maybe a few images, and some sort of a sidebar.

Adding a major email form with a high-value incentive can help you transform confused visitors into engaged readers.

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Shopify’s homepage subscription box

By filling most of the above-the-fold space on the blog homepage, this email box is almost as effective as a popover at drawing attention.  The images and growth graph both make the form visually engaging, and who wouldn’t want to get 4 free case studies?

Unless you have a coding background, this could seem difficult to build.  Never fear! You can simply use this plugin to make something very similar on your own website.

#9. Persistently continue writing – growth compounds9penelope_trunk

“The number one thing that helped me grow my email list was persistence. I have been writing a blog for ten years, and working really hard and teaching myself to write posts that people love. When you write good content, the email list is easy.”

- Penelope Trunk writes at PenelopeTrunk.com and Quistic

Here’s the fun thing about growing your blog: moving from 3,000 to 4,000 subscribers will be just about as hard as getting your first 100 subscribers.  Growth compounds.

One of the most important keys to blogging is actually quite simple: keep writing and keep improving.

I always love Babe Ruth’s quote: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Generally, growth will be very slow for the first month or two; then it will start to accelerate for the next few months, and you’ll start to feel like you’re on fire after about seven months.

9publish_button

Practice clicking this button frequently

Unfortunately, the vast majority of writers quit before they reach the tipping point.  If you just keep steadily writing, your email list will grow faster and faster.

What single thing has been most effective in building your email list?

Nate Desmond works at SumoMe helping fellow bloggers build their email lists, increase social shares, and build thriving blog communities though a suite of growth tools.

 

3 Mistakes that Are Keeping Your Readers from Becoming Cash Customers

Image via taxcredit.net

Image via taxcredit.net

This is a guest contribution from Sonja Jobson.

You’ve been told that blogging is a great way to grow your business online, snag leads, and ultimately make sales.  And so far, your blog is helping to boost your traffic, spread the word around on social media, and build up an audience.

But leads? Customers? Money? Not so much.

There is a difference between blogging and blogging for business and, if haven’t been seeing much return on your blogging investment, you’re probably participating in the former.

But don’t sweat it – you can easily turn things around and start transforming your blog readers into cash customers and clients by avoiding three common mistakes and counter-acting them with simple changes to your blogging strategy.

Mistake #3 – Never mentioning your products or services

We’ve all been warned that, when it comes to marketing our businesses via social media platforms, we should avoid “pitching” our audience at all costs. That being promotional and sales-y will just turn people off and leave you shouting into an empty void.

Look, over-promoting your business is never attractive. If you’re constantly trying to make a sale – at the cost of being helpful and human – then you’re going to alienate your audience. Content and social marketing is all about being of service, providing value, and giving before getting. But there is a limit to this rule.

We can get so caught up in avoiding the “pitch” that we become media producers instead of business owners. 

You have to find a balance between producing really helpful content that your audience will get value from (which is very important) and educating your audience on your business and what you sell.

If you leave the last piece out, you may attract an amazing, engaged audience – but you won’t make any money.

Mentioning your products and/or services in appropriate places, at an appropriate frequency is not an offense, it’s a smart business move.

#2 – Creating content that appeals to peers, not prospects

A blog isn’t going to help find valuable business leads unless you are attracting the right readers. It may sound obvious, but a lot of people miss the mark on this one.

It’s all about the subtle differentiation between creating content that would attract your peers (or other industry leaders) and your prospects (people who are ideal for your product or service).

Let’s say you’re in the career coaching business. Your prospects probably don’t care about the latest development in career coaching techniques – that would be your peers. Your prospects would much rather read about how career coaching can help them get the raise they’ve been working so hard for or the five simple steps for figuring out what type of job they should pursue.

When writing blog posts that would appeal to prospects, it can sometimes feel like we’re writing about “dumb” stuff. Topics that surely everyone knows about. But it only seems that way because you spend all your time immersed in those topics. You’re the expert. Your prospects aren’t.

#1 – Not focusing on the opt-in

The number one reason most business blogs aren’t converting readers into customers: a lack of strategy for moving blog readers through the sales funnel.

A blog in and of itself isn’t a direct selling tool. It’s powerful way to grow awareness of your brand, build the “know-like-trust” factor with your prospects, and educate people about your business, but on its own it doesn’t generate sales.

A blog can get people ready to become a customer, but you need to have a strategy that goes beyond the blog to convert readers into buyers.

And that strategy is all about your email list. Once you get an interested blog reader to opt-in to your email list, you can begin the sales conversation.

Directing people to your email list should be one of your top blogging priorities. Include opt-in forms on your blog (the side bar and below each blog post are good locations) and prompt readers to subscribe often.

Once you get people on your list, you can deliver more great content to their inbox (like your latest blog posts) as well as sales messages.

Wrapping Up:

Remember that it’s OK (and smart) to mention your products and services on your blog when appropriate. Don’t get super self-promotional, but don’t hold back from including a link to your newest product or mentioning your helpful service if it fits naturally into the context of your post.

Your content should always be written for your ideal prospects, not your peers. Even if something seems obvious to you, it might be just what your prospects were searching for.

A blog all by itself won’t convert readers into customers. You need a follow up system: aka your email list. Make growing your list a top priority when blogging for business.

Sonja Jobson helps small business owners and entrepreneurs become incredible on the internet with content marketing. Grab her free, weekly biz training series and profitable marketing guides for even more business-growth goodness.

How to Hire an Ace Blogger for Your Company: A Blueprint

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Image via Flickr user Brizzle Born and Bred

This is a guest contribution from Steff Green of WorkflowMax.

Having been a freelance blogger since 2009, I’m used to looking for ways to improve my pitches and blogging job applications. However, recently I got to sit on the other side of the desk. I’ve landed the dream job – writing the awesome business blog at WorkflowMax – a cloud-based job management software for creatives and other service businesses. But we wanted to expand the blog from 3-4 posts a week to 7+, as well as start to work on some other cool content projects, and for that, we needed to bring another full-time blogger on staff.

It was up to me – and our Marketing Manager – to find this blogger. Mission: Accepted.

Having never hired a writer before, I turned to the internet for some advice, but didn’t really find much beyond very generic job-search tips. So, based on our experiences flying blind through the application process, I’m writing two posts for Problogger. The first is advice for companies like ours who need to hire a blogger. The follow-up post will be advice for bloggers who are looking for a full-time, steady job as a content creator at a company like ours: what to expect, and how to ensure you have the best chance of landing the gig.

 

Step 1: Write an Enticing Job Ad / Description

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a job ad that appeals to bloggers. This will be the first clue to prospective applicants that this job could be a good fit for them. Most bloggers that I know aren’t looking for a full-time job at a company (they are freelancers looking for several clients or making their income off their own blogs), but remember that you could be offering something that is quite unusual: a regular, monthly income as a writer. That stability for writers can be quite rare, which will mean you’ll definitely have a lot of interested candidates.

Because I’m the writer on staff, I had to take care of writing the job ad. I tried to highlight:

  • Different types of writing the job would entail – such as blogging, ebooks, EDMS, social media.
  • A sense of who the audience for the blog was, and the voice of the company.
  • A sense of who the company are, and the benefits and learning experiences gained from working for them.
  • Some of the perks the blogger could expect, such as flexible hours and their own laptop.

I wanted to attract writers who were used to writing B2B content, who had some knowledge about cloud-based software, service businesses and have the ability to quickly learn, adapt and write about a wide range of topics.

 

Step 2: Narrow Down Your Candidate List

We received a huge number of applications. HR sent us only 10 or so of the more likely candidates – so I didn’t get to see many of the real doozies. Our task was to narrow down our list to 3-4 candidates to interview.

If you are like me, you may never have had to choose interview candidates before, especially not based on resumes, cover letters, and writing samples. If you’re not a writer (like my manager), this can be even more terrifying. How do you know if someone is a good writer or not?

Here are my tips for narrowing down the herd:

  • Think of the resume as a blog writing sample. After all, they are quite similar in structure – lots of headings, lists, and bullets to make it easily scannable, highlighting key points, an eye-catching opener to entire you to read more. We received one resume that was literally a laundry list of points (“Studied Communications. Led 20 person team for International project, A in Social Media Paper, Good Communications Skills”) with no apparent order or hierarchy. If a candidate can’t properly structure a resume, what hope will they have to properly structure a blog post or ebook?
  • Look for creative thinkers. We had one candidate who wrote what would be considered a “risky” application – she made her cover letter into a blog post – with subheadings, bullets, a call to action, everything that is a blogging cliche. For any other job, this kind of application wouldn’t fly, but I found that in the sea of other candidates her writing stood out as fresh and different.
  • Remember not to judge the cover letter too harshly. We were looking for quite a chatty, personable tone, and many of the cover letters we received were stiff and stilted. I tried not to judge them on this, as it’s the normal tone for a cover letter. Instead, I judged their writing ability on the strength of their samples.
  • Ask for samples! We asked candidates to supply 1-2 writing samples with their applications. We also visited candidates websites and blogs to get an idea of the work they were producing. If a candidate lists a personal blog or website, go and check it out, because you can find all sorts of things you might not discover otherwise!

 

Step 3: Interviewing the Candidates

Now that you’ve narrowed down your applicants to a shortlist of candidates, it’s time to get those people into the office or on Skype for an interview. This is the most daunting part of the process, both for candidate and for company, because you’re no longer simply assessing if they can do the job – you’re trying to figure out if they will be a good fit for your team.

We narrowed our list down to five candidates, and interviewed four in the office and one over Skype. We were given a list of questions from HR that we could use, but we also had created a few of our own questions. Here are some of our tips for successful interviews:

  • Start by talking through their CV. I’ve never seen this at an interview before, but I found it an extremely useful thing to do. Often, our candidates had many different jobs listed – from social media internships, to project-based work, to permanent roles, and long stretches of freelance work. Talking through their work history (all candidates were quite young) gave us an overview of where they were going in their career, and helped pinpoint skills they had picked up and unique experiences they could bring to our team.
  • Ask about daily word count. An interesting question I asked each of our candidates was how many words they thought they could write in a day. I’m a solid 2000 word girl myself, and it was interesting hearing responses from 1000 words right up to 4000+. Wordcount definitely isn’t everything (quality over quantity, of course), but as writing is so subjective it gave us at least one solid metric with which to measure candidates.
  • Put them on the spot about their blogging knowledge. For example, we would give them a scenario where they had just written and published a post on our blog. Now, how would they get lots of eyes on that post? I was much more interested in those candidates who talked about forming relationships with other industry bloggers than in those who said, “um … social media?”
  • Ask about their future plans. Future plans can be a good indicator of whether the candidate is looking for a role they can grow into, or something to bridge a gap while they look for something better. We had one extremely strong candidate whose goal was to move into a strategic role, and her current role was already placing her in this type of work. Because our role is primarily production (writing blog posts), we decided she probably wasn’t right for the position in the end.
  • Get to know their personality. You’re going to be working with this blogger for a huge chunk of the week, so make sure you’re looking for a candidate that is a good fit for your company. See how they respond to your questions. Ask them about their working style. Talk about their career so far. Do they seem like a good fit?

 

Step 4: Create a Writing Test

This may not be a necessary step in every company, but we were really struggling to choose a candidate. All four candidates were strong writers according to their samples, and they had great personalities that meshed with our team based on the interview, and different strengths and experiences. We decided to create a writing test that was specific to our company’s blog. Our company regularly sets tests when we employ developers, so it wasn’t so out of the ordinary.

I set three questions that related to different aspects of our blog. It would require candidates to read through some articles on our blog and get a feel for our voice and our audience.

First, I asked the bloggers to write a list of topic ideas for one of our verticals – creative agencies – to help promote an ebook. Then I asked them to choose one of their topics and write a 500-word blog post based on their idea. To do well in the exercise, the candidate would need to look at a few posts on our WorkflowMax blog, and write some ideas that fit our tone and audience (A lot of guest bloggers approach us with general business advice articles, which is NOT what we’re after, so I was interested to see if our candidates would make the same mistake. Some of them did.

The test was the single biggest indicator that helped us choose our first-choice candidate.

When creating your own test, think about:

  • What activities your blogger will need to do regularly (idea generation, creating tweets, blogger outreach, writing posts, submitting guest blogs) and design simple exercises around these aspects of the job.
  • Keep the test short – it should take the candidate less than an hour to complete.
  • Give the candidates a few days to complete the test from home.
  • Look for ideas and writing that could easily work alongside what you’re currently producing. Look for the structure of a blog post. Look for details like linking to other articles, using headings and lists, and having a call-to-action.
  • But on the other hand, don’t discount a blogger because of features that could be learned – such as post formatting or compelling headlines. Have they got the basics right?

 

Step 5: Create a “points” system

So you’ve finished your interviews, and you’ve got notes written about each candidate. But now you’re stumped. They all have their strengths and weaknesses – how do you decide who is right for your company?

One thing I did is create a points system. We created a spreadsheet with a list of different factors, including:

  • digital marketing experience
  • copywriting / blogging experience
  • WorkflowMax writing sample
  • Other writing samples
  • WorkflowMax topic generation
  • Output – words per day
  • Unique, engaging voice
  • Future goals aligned with role

We then went through and rated each candidate out of five for each of the factors. Adding up the points gave us a score for each candidate. This helped to give us something with which we could measure candidates with different strengths against each other, rather than simply saying, “Well, Clara has experience in the cloud computing industry, but Doris’ sample was better. Now who do we choose?” This helped us single out two candidates who stood out.

 

Step 6: Talk to a Writer

If you don’t have a writer on staff already, then hire one to look over the writing samples and give you their honest opinion. If you are not a writer, it can be difficult to understand what makes a good one, and what makes a great writer stand out from the good.

 

Step 7: Make the Offer!

You’ve done it! You’ve found the right blogger for your position. You can now dance on a table and go out for a beer. But not before you’ve made them the offer, of course! We’re really happy with the blogger we chose, and she’s fitting in nicely with our little team.

Finding a blogger for a full-time position can be a real mission. But it’s important to find the right person for the company, because you are stuck with them for a long time.

Have you ever gone through the process of hiring a blogger? What advice could you offer other companies?

Steff Green is the content manager for WorkflowMax, cloud-based job management software that tackles everything from leads, quotes, time sheeting, invoicing, reporting, and more. You can find her writing business advice for creative agencies, architects, IT companies and other business that bill by time on the WorkflowMax blog.

How Your Business Can Make the Most Out of Google Updates

Untitled design

This is a guest contribution from Emma Henry of True Target Marketing.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), when executed well, can reap significant results for an online business.  It can boost search engine rankings and increase targeted website traffic, resulting in more sales leads and paying customers. If you have plans to implement an SEO campaign, it pays to be aware of the latest Google updates to ensure that you adapt your online business as required in order to boost your search engine rankings and avoid being penalised.

The Search Engine Landscape is Changing

The latest Google Algorithm update has had a substantial impact on the way the search engine is now ranking sites. This update has been one of the most significant in the last 2-3 years. 

We are seeing a trend away from keyword-based search into query-based search. Google is now delivering search results based on what people would ask or say in conversation rather than on specific keywords. So, for example, “Where can I find …?” Or “How to ….?” Or “What is the …”

Google is attempting to return better search results that provide a more direct answer to these query-based searches. Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the whole sentence in the search query is taken into account, rather than specific keywords. The result is that website pages matching the entire query will rank better than website pages matching just a few key terms in the query.

Does this mean SEO is dead?

No. In fact Google says the fundamentals remain the same, and it comes down to having original, high-quality content on your site. Signals that have been important in the past remain important. Hummingbird just allows Google to process webpages in new and more relevant ways. Gone are the days when it was all about choosing specific keywords and manipulating your content and onsite SEO around these. Content is king. This has always been the case and has never been as important as right now.

So what does this mean you need to do?

You need to create good quality, relevant and unique website content on a regular basis around search queries relating to your niche. 

Google will reward websites who display the most relevant answers to these types of queries. The more query-based content you create, the more likely that Google will boost your search engine rankings. Answering common industry questions will not only get you additional search engine traffic, but it will boost your rankings for your primary geo-target keywords.

Where to find query based content ideas

The originality of your content is very important. It’s about digging deep and creating good content around sub-topics within your niche. Here is a good trick to generate content ideas: type your seed keyword into Google (that is, one of the primary keywords you would normally try to rank for). If you scroll to the bottom of the search results page for this keyword in Google, you will see “searches related to your keyword”. You can then create an informative article relating to a query around those related search queries.

For more content ideas, continue clicking through each related search term and see what other related searches appear, and create more content based on the most relevant phrases. 

Another idea is to note down all of the common questions that your customers ask you.  Or even get friends or family who are not in the business to list out as many “typical” questions that would be asked in your industry. 

These types of questions provide excellent opportunities to create informative website content. It is the language that your customers speak. The best thing is that you are in control and can put a spin on all of your articles that position your company as the industry expert. 

There are many other places to find new content. You can look at industry forums and see what questions people are asking. You can go to Yahoo Answers to see what sort of questions people are asking there. Another idea is go to Wikipedia and have a look at the categories and sub-topics of major categories for inspiration. 

Is Onsite SEO still important?

Yes! Page titles and meta-descriptions are still very important to help you rank in the search engines. It is important to write your articles naturally around the long tail search queries. You can optimise images for your articles with the Alt tag, however do not do this for all images and all articles. Label some as generic names such as building-contractor l001.jpg. Google are on the lookout for sites where the SEO lines up too perfectly and that appear to be manipulating the system and they may just penalise your site for that. You want to get the balance right, by helping Google to understand what your content is about without lining everything up perfectly.  

What does this all mean? 

Educate your market and become a leader in your industry – in the eyes of your customers and in the eyes of Google. The informative articles based around real-life questions will drive traffic to your site for people who are genuinely interested in a specific topic. People really do type industry-specific questions into the search engines. Many of those searches could result in a lead or an inquiry or a sale for you. The traffic that you get from targeting longer query-based keywords probably won’t be as much as for primary broader keywords, however you might rank very, very quickly, and if you attract that right buyer, you are more likely to convert than someone who is just typing a broad term. 

A combination of good query-based content and a strategic offsite SEO strategy to target the prime keywords is the winning formula to reach the top of Google this year.

Emma Henry is an Online Marketing Specialist and the owner of True Target Marketing. Emma tailors bespoke online marketing strategies for her clients. She specialises in lead generation, customer conversions, increased website traffic and improved website responsiveness. 

Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

publish-button
(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


spike-of-hope

There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:

google-search-box

Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:

adwords-kw-planner1

I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:

adwords-kw-planner2

A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

blog-seo-autosuggest
Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”

———–

A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

How to Identify Social Media Demographics & Target Viewer Interests for Better Social Reach

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Image via flickr user Jason Howie

This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

There are social media demographics in general, and then there are your social media demographics for your business. You need to know the details of both in order to garner this platform for optimal gain. For instance, knowing that the majority of your followers are women in a certain age group means you can write your posts accordingly. Knowing that the majority of your fans live in a certain region means you can connect with them on a local level.

When it comes to identifying social media demographics, it’s all about using that data to hone your online presence. It doesn’t matter the platform; there are nuggets of gold in this data that can seriously boost your business. Start with considering the basic facts about social media in general. For example, the most popular platform is Facebook, followed by Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+ in a constant neck and neck race.

Back to basics

Facebook leans young, but there’s been a 45 percent spike in those ages 45 to 54 joining the site sine 2012. In total 73% of people who make over $75,000 per year are on Facebook, as opposed to just 17% on Twitter. However, a shocking 86% of FB users aren’t based in the US, making this prime pickings for businesses looking to go global.

With Instagram, now a part of Facebook, 68% of users are women. Twitter draws a young crowd with 27% of people in the US aged 18 to 29 using it, but only 16% of people who are in their 30s-40s tweet. If you’re looking to market to a younger crowd, your efforts might be better spent on Twitter rather than Facebook.

Juicy tidbits

LinkedIn is largely male but has a global appeal. Of course, it’s a more professional network, so you might want to steer clear of it if you’re trying to monetize a Paleo blog or other similar pursuit. However, for the more traditional startup or business, having a LinkedIn profile is nearly a necessity. Google+ takes the cake for male domination with 70% of users.

Pinterest is the social media platform of choice for tablet users, with 84% of users being women. Tumblr is another strong contender for teens, so it’s no surprise that only eight per cent of users have incomes over $75,000. What can you do with all this data? Manage it, analyze it and use it to craft your social media presence.

Know your users

There are analysis programs for certain platforms, including many provided (free) by the platforms themselves, which give you valuable information. For example, you can easily see which posts are most popular and which were most widely seen. You may also be able to get reports on the most active users in your network or other basic information on them.

Some of the most reputable social media analytic tools include Brandwatch, Google Analytics (a freebie), Local Response, and Moz Analytics. If you’re on a tight budget, Google isn’t fancy but it works, and the big social media platforms offer a variety of free analysis tools such as the free Facebook Competitive Analysis Report, Free Twitter Customer Service Analysis, or the Free Instagram User Report. Money can often play a role, but consider what information you need, not just the bottom line, to choose the right reporting tools.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

How To Double Your Revenue By Giving Your Work Away For Free

Image via Flickr user FutUndBeidl

Image via Flickr user FutUndBeidl

This is a guest contribution from author Tom Morkes.

I know what you’re thinking: what’s the catch?

If you’re like me, you’ve read dozens (okay, thousands) of blog headlines that pique your interest, only to find out the headline comes with an asterisk:

Quandruple Your Opt-in Rate!*

*you just need to be featured on a massive blog, first.

Make 6 Figures in 6 Months*

*you just need 5 figures and a subscriber list of thousands to start.

I could go on, but you get the point.

So let me assuage your concerns: there’s no asterisk here.

No need to hustle affiliates, join an MLM, or pepper your site with Google Ads.

When I say you can double your blog revenue by not charging, I mean it.  I’ve done it.  And I’ve seen dozens of others do it too.

But before I get to the details, I want to tell you the story of a guy who stopped charging clients altogether (and his surprising results)…

The Generous Designer

Meet Adrian Hoppel.

Adrian is a Philidelphia-based web designer.  He’s been doing professional web design for years.  And while Adrian is incredibly talented and creates amazing websites, what’s truly remarkable about him has less to do with what he does rather than how he does it.

You see, Adrian doesn’t charge for his web design services.  He never has and he probably never will.

Instead, he offers everything as a gift to his clients.

If you want to work with Adrian and you both agree it’s a good fit, Adrian will design your website and give it to you.  No deposits.  No contracts.  No strings.

Just a simple gift – here you go.

Remarkable, no?

How Adrian Makes More Money Giving Away his Gifts than He Did by Charging a Fixed-Rate:

Okay, so you might be wondering: how in the world does that work?

How can he make a living if he just gives his work away for free?!

The answer is simple (although certainly not conventional):

While Adrian gives his work away freely as a gift, it doesn’t mean he works for free, nor does it mean his work is valueless.

Adrian built his business on a foundation of trust.  You trust him to build you a great website.  He trusts you that you will support his gifts and his giving.

In Adrian’s words:

“Working in the gift does not mean that I work for free, or that I give my work away without care. It means that people trust me to build them a website, and I trust them to support my work as they believe fair.”

A beautiful premise, but does it work?

Again, from Adrian himself:

“I ended up doing 22 websites in 2012, all by myself, all in the gift…every single client has supported me in whole.  

Every. Single. One.

Most clients gifted me with payment, and the payment is more than I ever received in the traditional model…” (source)

In other words, by removing a fixed-rate price from the equation, and giving away his talents, skills, and work as a gift, Adrian has made more per client than he ever did before.

I Want More Examples!

Adrian isn’t the only person letting people choose their price and finding incredible success.

Here are just a few examples (of hundreds that I’ve researched) of people using the gift-economy and Pay What You Want pricing to make a killing:

The Vennare brothers of TheHybridAthlete.com have been running a PWYW store for over a year now, and in an interview I did with them last year, they explained that they make hundreds per DAY using this strategy (do the math: we’re talking 6 figures from no set price).

Disconnect.me is a new tech startup that just raised over $3 million in funding and they run their entire operation using Pay What You Want pricing (and have no intentions to change)

Humblebundle.com makes millions for video game producers and charity by releasing limited-time PWYW videogame bundles every few weeks

Joost Van Dongen, a videogame developer I had the opportunity to interview several months ago, released a hobby project (Proun) and let his customers choose their price – and made over $20,000 from it

Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Amanda Palmer all have made millions from their PWYW album offers (in the case of Radiohead, they made more on their PWYW album than all their previous online album releases combined)

Weinerei Perlin is a Berlin-based winery that sells all their wine using PWYW pricing (and has for over 10 years)

Matt Homan is a consultant that offers blank invoices – and has doubled his income in the process

And this is just a small sample.

There are literally hundreds of other people and companies using this pricing technique and finding great success with it…

But there are also a few people I’ve interviewed who tried and failed.

The question is: what is it that separates successful PWYW offers from those that don’t work out?

Let’s get to it:

How to Remove Fixed-Prices from Your Blog and Increase Your Income

Before you go removing prices from everything on your site, you still need to understand a couple things:

#1. This ‘pricing model’ (or lack thereof) doesn’t work for everything.

Adrian is selling a premium service with a credible range of prices.  He’s not selling gasoline or In-N-Out Double-Doubles.

Commodities* don’t work in the gift-economy.

*if you find a gas station that lets me choose my price, please let me know.

#2. Letting people choose their price only works if you pitch it the right way.

Just because you slap a ‘Pay What You Want’ sticker onto your recycled beer coasters or set the price for your ‘Rapid Pet Grooming’ eCourse at $0+ doesn’t mean people will be generous.

You need to give them a REASON to contribute.

That’s why I created a simple-to-follow framework for anyone looking to apply the gift-economy (and in particular: Pay What You Want pricing) to their products or services (a framework I’ve used to make thousands in book sales and consulting in the past few months).

So consider this your personal crash course in Pay What You Want pricing:

How to get People to Contribute Generously to Your Work: The 6 Step Perfect Pitch Framework

Okay, I know the name is corny, but, as you’ll see, it works.

Here goes:

Step #1. Clarify the Offer

Common sense, but not common practice.  How can people be generous if they don’t know what you’re offering?

In reality – this same rule is just as important when selling a fixed-price product or service.

For more information on how to present a clear offer, listen to Brian Clark.

Step #2. Show the Customer You’re Human

People don’t give to machines (or corporations).

We give to people.

If you want the gift-economy to work for you, you need to connect with your readers, customers, clients, and guests.  You need to show them there’s a person behind the product or service whose blood, sweat and tears have gone into creating it.

Online – that means including pictures and videos of yourself, and writing in an authentic, passionate, and sincere voice.  For more practical tools, The Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers will help get your writing on track so you come across like you (and not a robot).

Step #3. Appeal to Idealism

When it comes to Pay What You Want and the gift-economy, we still need to give people a good reason to contribute.

Appealing to idealism creates the spark people need to reflect on why they’re contributing.  When we make references to generosity, karma, good-will, etc. we are more able to activate the generosity of others (and yes, people are generous – we just need to give them the opportunity).

Step #4. Anchor the Price

Price anchoring is important for anything you’re selling, but it’s especially important for Pay What You Want offers.

When we price-anchor, we get people in the proper frame of mind for contributing larger than usual sums (or at least, larger than they would have had the price anchor not been present).

Two powerful ways to price anchor a PWYW product is by showing:

  • the itemized costs of materials or resources, or what equivalent amounts would look like on the high-end (e.g. “similar custom designed websites go for $7,000”)
  • the top-tier price points of competing products or services (e.g. “company X charges $20,000 for a new website)

Step #5. Steer the Customer to the Right Choice

Alright, so people have a reason to give (you’ve clarified the offer), they are comfortable with giving something (thanks to price-anchoring), and they want to give (because you appealed to their idealism)…now what?

PWYW and gift-economy is confusing stuff for the majority of the population since they’ve never experienced it.  A lot of people are immediately turned off by it because it confuses them.

You need to remove these fears by being very clear and helping people to the right choice.  You can do this by showing any or all of the above:

1. Total number of contributors (this a form of social proof)

2. Top-tier contributor prices (what did the top 10 people pay for this product?  This can be another form of price-anchoring)

3. Average contribution price (although this may lead to more ‘average price’ purchases of your PWYW offer)

Any (or all) of these will help people recognize what’s a fair offer and give them ample opportunity to be generous (if the average is ‘x’ then I will give ‘x+1’)

Step #6. (Bonus Step) Add Charity to the Mix

This is a game changer.

Want to skyrocket your PWYW income?  Add charity to the mix.

People don’t pay money for a product or service, they pay money for the story.  When we integrate a congruent charity into the mix (something that makes sense in the context of what we’re selling, like teaming up with Kiva.org for The Creative Entrepreneur journal) we multiply the effect of appealing to idealism.

A quick warning: assigning a random charity to support won’t work.  You’ve got to make sure it’s consistent with your message and the intent of your product or service.

The beauty of including charity?  It’s win-win. You make more income, a worthwhile charity gets a cut, and the customer is happy to contribute.

Call me biased, but this is a strategy I’d like to see every business adopt.

Putting the Gift Economy to Work

This is a basic framework for incorporating the gift-economy (specifically Pay What You Want pricing) into your work.

By no means does it mean you must offer EVERYTHING as a gift, nor as Pay What You Want.  I’m also not saying that fixed-pricing doesn’t work better in some cases (it does).

But, as you can tell from the examples above, this stuff works incredibly well when implemented the right way.

I hope you enjoyed the article and if you have any questions – leave them in the comments below!  I’d be happy to answer any and all questions.  This is an important topic and deserves a good conversation going forward.

Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the gift-economy…

Tom Morkes is an author, publisher, and pricing consultant, and you can get inside his brain at www.tommorkes.com/problogger where he applies what he learned leading troops in combat to entrepreneurship, art and writing.