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Make Business Blogging Fun: Write About Holidays, Anniversaries, and Other Milestones

This guest post is by Lindsey McCaffrey of Absolutely Write.

Business bloggers: do you consider every day Labour Day?

Take a breather: finding things to blog about doesn’t have to be hard work.

In light of the upcoming Labour Day weekend, I’m going to share a little tip I like to tell clients who blog: consider holidays, anniversaries and other observances.

By relating your blog post to an occasion, you can come up with some creative, timely and fun pieces.

Blog about holidays

Here’s one example of giving your writing a holiday spin: leading up to last year’s Christmas season, I compiled my PR pet peeves into an article, Dear Santa—a PR expert’s Christmas wish list.

Tip: Don’t just think about the holidays you celebrate: consider those of other cultures and countries. You just may find an interesting rite or ritual to write about.

Blog about milestone anniversaries and events

Mark a milestone anniversary or event such as:

  • a birthday, birthday year, or death day/year of someone famous, infamous, or otherwise (it doesn’t have to be someone your readers would know, provided there is relevance to the article)
  • the anniversary (day or annual) of a particular historical event
  • the year of the release of a book, album, movie or otherwise—something that perhaps you have learned a lot from, or that resonates strongly with you.

Tip: For more impact, it’s best to mark a “milestone year” (think 5, 10, 15, 20…you get the picture) rather than something like the 53rd anniversary of X, Y or Z.

Blog about weird and wacky observances

There are also less-serious, not-at-all officially recognized days, months, and milestones observed worldwide. For example, in the United States:

Tip: Before writing about a particular observance, you may wish to qualify it. Ensure it’s something that at least a few people actually acknowledge, and not something that Joe down the street conjured over beer with the guys.

Find an occasion to write about!

Here are just a few websites to use as resources:

What are some fun holidays, anniversaries and observances you have written or read about?

Lindsey McCaffrey is a writer, editor, blogger and communications consultant based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Visit her Absolutely Write blog at www.lindseymccaffrey.com/blog.

How to Use Blogging to Get Clients Flocking after You

This guest post is by Onibalusi from YoungPrePro.com.

I have been writing for others as a freelancer for over seven months now and within that period I have made over $20,000 just by writing for others. I keep on getting new client requests every month and due to an agreement with my current and main clients, I have rejected almost ten clients in the past six months.

I have also noticed that in the blogosphere and in the freelancing world, less than 20% of the people get 99% of the results, so I decided to write an article on how to use blogging to get more clients to your business.

Before I continue I’d like you to know that the tips in this article won’t help you get “cheap clients” who really don’t care about the quality of your work. I’ll be giving you tips that can help you get high paying, recurring clients that you can choose from.

I’d also like you to know that every aspect of this article is essential. Don’t think you can skip my first point to go to the next and then expect the results to come. This is definitely not the ultimate guide on getting clients—I’m far from someone to write an ultimate guide on the subject. The tips in this article can also be modified to give you better results than I’m getting, but some people like to skip the main parts and try to rush into it for the money, then expect the results to come. That just won’t happen!

Okay, let’s get to the tips.

Focus on what you’re best at

Try to put yourself into the shoes of your client first. Let’s say you’re a small business with a tight budget and you want to get the word out about your business. You think the best thing to do is to hire a marketing consultant to give you advice based on your business model and you decide to go out in search for one.

You came across two people—the first is someone who is really desperate to make money and is therefore claiming the title of a “marketing consultant” because he hears that others with that name are making it big. The other, however, is a dedicated marketing consultant who lives, eats, and breathes marketing and who has helped several people with marketing their business. Which of the two will you go with?

You might try to play smart and think clients won’t be able to see through you but as someone who hardly advertises my service but keeps on getting client requests regularly, I will tell you that the best thing to do is to focus on what you’re best at. Doing so won’t only increase your chances of getting a lot of clients, it will ensure you’re paid double what you’re worth, and it will also ensure your clients stick with you for a very long time.

After all, the only thing your clients want is results, and once you can give them a lot of those, they will happily stay with you forever.

Know which kinds of clients you want and tailor your blog posts to them

I’m not trying to tell you to start writing blog posts every day inviting clients, or to be writing aggressive blog posts with the sole aim of getting clients. I’m taking about being specific about what you talk about, and letting potential clients see you as an expert on your subject.

Take a look at Darren Rowse, for example. If a big client is looking for someone to give the best advice about building successful blogs, you can be sure they will hire Darren. Not only does Darren have three very popular blogs in different niches, he also has the most successful blog in the blogging niche (which has been the most successful for several years now). That alone speaks a great deal to show that this guy knows what he’s talking about.

If you want clients to hire you to do their website design work for them, you need to be blogging about web design, and doing case studies that help analyze other people’s blog designs for better results. The more you can show someone that you know your stuff, the higher their chances of hiring you will be.

I try to know how my clients have found me, and I have noticed that every single one of them discovered me through my blog posts about guest blogging, which assures them that I know my stuff as far as writing is concerned.

Be a living example of what you have to offer

If you’re a web designer who wants to have clients flocking after you, having a very poor website design won’t help you go far. The best way to get clients is by letting them know that you know your stuff—and what better way to do this than to be using your services yourself?

Why will people ever hire you to write for them when you don’t even have a blog? Why will people hire you to help design their websites when you have never designed for someone else and the website template you use is one of the worst they’ve ever seen? Why will people hire you for SEO when you hardly get any visits to your blogs from the search engines? Why will people hire you to write their copy when you can’t even convince them to use your service?

Since I’m human, just like you, I’d like to tell you that my number one concern isn’t my mother, it isn’t my siblings, it isn’t you either. It is me, and since every human thinks alike, I’d like to believe this is the same for everybody. Our major concerns are ourselves, and we think about ourselves before others. No one will hire you if you can’t prove to them that you’re an example of what you have to offer and that hiring you will be their wisest decision.

Market yourself

You will notice here that I’m not actually saying you should market your service.

I’m not against marketing your service altogether, but my point is that being a living example of what you have to offer is enough marketing of your service in itself. So spreading the word about yourself will let a lot of people see you, and will result in them asking to buy your services.

Look for the best tactics that those who are getting results in your industry are using, and start making use of them yourself. Don’t just rush after guest blogging because people in the IM niche says it is working for them. Facebook might be what’s working in your niche. Search engines might be the best friend of those getting the most results in your niche.

So instead of following the general approach to marketing, try to take a look at how some of the people getting the most results in your field are marketing themselves. Then, start marketing yourself using the same approach.

Use your blog

Getting clients flocking after you isn’t as difficult as most people think. It isn’t about joining one freelancing site or the other. Blogging is the most powerful tool at the disposal of everybody, and you can easily make the best use of it to your own advantage. Utilize the tips above to get clients flocking after you—and let us know how you go in the comments.

Onibalusi Bamidele is the founder of YoungPrePro.com, a blog where he teaches people how to write for traffic and money. Get his free 7 series eCourse on How to Build a Successful Online Writing Business

Make the Most of Product Reviews on Your Facebook Page

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

You might have seen the ProBlogger post by Tommy Walker that talked about using photos to your advantage on Facebook. This post will add to some of Tommy’s ideas.

I have two websites, Floppycats.com and Antioxidant-fruits.com, and corresponding Facebook fan pages where I like to set up albums for the product reviews that I do on those sites.

Why having albums on a Facebook Fan page is important

  • Opportunity: Since I feature a product every Tuesday, that’s pretty much 52 product reviews per year. That means 52 (or 53, depending on the year) opportunities for my sites’ Facebook fan pages to show up in people’s news feeds.
  • Link love: You can link or tag the manufacturer’s Facebook page on each photo within your Album, which means you’ll get a link back to your Facebook page from theirs.
  • Clickthroughs: You can add a link back to your website from your Fan page. I like to link back to the actual product review, so that users will visit the site if they are interested in learning more.
  • Communication: You’ll get questions—and if you are doing product review albums like me, it might give you more insight on how to do your review, or provide you with feedback for the manufacturer, showing the manufacturer how valuable you are as a blogger for them.
  • More fans: That’s right, when you link to the manufacturer, you never know who will see the link on the manufacturer’s page, and then will come and check out your Facebook Fan page—or your site.

In this article, I’m going to explain how to set up a successful Facebook album as well as how to tag and link photos in that album to the manufacturer’s Facebook Fan pages.

Setting up your album

Facebook has changed up a bit since Tommy’s post, so first, I’ll show you how to set up a Facebook album.

First you want to start from your blog’s (or business’s) Fan page. Under your photo, there is a category called “photos”. Click on that, and your photo section will appear.

To add an album, click on “Photos.”

Another page will open and on the right-hand said there is a button that says, “+ Create Album.” Click on that.

A dialog box opens, and you can start adding photos from your hard drive that are applicable to the album.

Adding photos to an existing album

Now, every Tuesday on my informational website about fruit, I do a product review on a product that has fruit in it. I have, of course, already created the album. Every week, either when I write a review or after the review has been published, I add a photo.

To add a photo to an existing Facebook album, simply click on the album (follow directions above) and then click on “Add Photos” in the upper right-hand corner once you are on the album page.

As I was writing this post, I decided to add the photo of the product that will make its debut on my blog this week: blazerfarmz Fresh Frozen Aronia Berries.

When the upload is complete, click on “Done.” Then, scroll to the bottom of “Edit Album—Product Reviews” until you find the image that you’ve just uploaded.

Enter the name of the product (you might want to throw in a keyword here, too, but since “aronia berries” is already a keyword for me, I don’t worry about it) and then include the URL link to your product review.

Then click on “Save Changes,” then “Publish.”

Once this image is published, Facebook will return you to the album in question. So then you want to go find the photo you just uploaded and click on it. When I do this, I can see that it has a product name and also a clickable link back to my product review. You might even want to make this link a bit.ly link, so that you can track the number of clicks.

Now, here comes the important part that will help you stretch your reach across multiple Facebook pages: you want to tag the manufacturer’s page in your photo.

When you’ve clicked on the photo and the photo is open on your screen, in the white section below the photo on the lower left side you will see a “Tag This Photo” link. Click on that.

Move your cursor over the photo and then click on it (anywhere is fine in this situation because there is only one product in the photo). Then start typing the name of the manufacturer. In order for this to work, you have to have already liked their page.

Select the manufacturer’s name (“blazerfarmz” in this case) and then click on “Done Tagging.”

You’ll see that “Blazerfarmz” has been tagged in the photo, which means your photo is now on their Facebook page. So all the fans of their page now have the opportunity to click on your photo as well as click on through to your review. My photo is on my page and on their page—it’s double the exposure for little effort.

If we go back to my album, you can see that I have several manufacturers tagged in my Product Review album.

Benefits of using Facebook albums

Some benefits of this approach to using Facebook’s albums include:

  • Cross posting of photos with minimal effort creates much more exposure.
  • It shows manufacturers that you have interest in them and are making an effort to expose their products.
  • If you offer giveaways, product reviews, or advertising on your site, you could always add your Facebook albums as an added bonus to product owners. In other words, you will cover their products on your Facebook page and will include them in a permanent album where their product images will be located alongside those of other manufacturers. So if someone comes from one manufacturer’s Facebook page, they might discover other manufacturers’ products through your Facebook fan page.

An added touch

Something I like to do to finish it all off is to post my review on the manufacturer’s Facebook page. I like to do that from my Antioxidant-fruits.com account, though—I have to switch from my personal account to my Antioxidant-fruits.com account.

To switch accounts, go to the Account Tab in the upper right-hand corner, click it and choose, “Use Facebook as a Page.” A dialog box will open showing all your pages. Click on the one you want to use.

When you click on the switch, it will take you to your Facebook home page. Next, search for the manufacturer’s name using the search bar.

Then go to their page and type a message. I wrote, “Thank you to blazerfarmz for letting us review their awesome Fresh Frozen Aronia Berries over at @ant.” When you type the “@” symbol and your page’s name, the full page name will come up. You can select it, and it will link to your Facebook page.

I can also then include the URL of the YouTube video I did for the review. If I just copy the URL from YouTube, paste it into that field on Facebook, and then hit the space bar, a photo will appear from the video, and the link will be there too.

Then, click on “Share,” and you’ll see your message show up on their page. Here, I forgot to include a link to the actual review, so I added that in the comment section.

You can do the same on your page. The beauty of posting on your page and linking to their Facebook page with the “@” symbol is that that message will show up on the manufacturer’s wall too!

What ideas do you have for making the most of your blog site and photos on Facebook? I’d love to hear them!

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

How Compendium’s Web to Post Generates Content and Community

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

You might have read my article about a business blogging platform called Compendium. Today, I wanted to share with you a fantastic Compendium tool called, Web to Post that allows customers or clients to tell stories about your products or services.

Web to Post turns your consumer’s advocacy into web content.

Of course, as Business Blog Writers, sometimes this writes us out of the picture, but at the same time, if we are used to supplement the Web to Post content, then we can also get a lot of content ideas from what customer or clients submit.

In addition to my blog writing business, I also have a Ragdoll cat blog and all images of Compendium’s Web to Post form come from that.

How does Web to Post work?

A Call to Action is put in the sidebar of the blog. The CTA usually says something like, “Share Your Story”.

This call to action can also be put on your Facebook fan page, in your newsletter, on your YouTube Channel or in an email to an existing database.

The customer sees the CTA and decides to submit a story. They click on the link and are taken to an online form that asks them things like their story title, the story, and their first and last name. They can also choose to upload a photo to include with their story. The forms are totally customizable to fit your campaign or story needs.

Once the stories are received, the administrator of the blog is sent an email letting him or her know there is content waiting in the system. The stories can be edited, approved or declined from there, just like internal blog posts on Compendium’s system. So in other words, the story isn’t instantly on your company website the second the customer or client hits “submit”. Rather, it has to go through an administrative layer for final approval. This is awesome, because it turns your advocates into your bloggers! [Share Your Story Submission on Dashboard.jpg]

Once the administrator has checked out the post and added a keyword rich title, then the admin approves it. At that point is the Compendium algorithm automatically categorizes or tags the story to the relevant, targeted keyword pages on your blog . The admin can also choose to promote it on your company’s social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Then, the viral effect kicks in. Each story is published on your company’s blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.

The customer who submitted the story also gets an automatic email that says their story has been published on your company’s blog. Another link encourages them to share their featured story on their own social network profiles.

How Web to Post helps business blogs

Lee Jorgenson, an Account Manager at Compendium recently pointed out that Sears Outlet has generated over 5,000 posts in just three months by gathering content from five different channels.

Sears Outlet sends a great transactional email after someone purchases from their website that invites customers to share their stories. This email is timely and helps harvest stories while they are fresh in the customer’s mind. The email has a link that drives the customer to a web to post form to submit their story. They also use the Web to Post forms to capture stories from blog and website visitors. They also have one embed on their Facebook fan page tab and collect stories from Facebook fans that way.

The process is simple: Content → Exposure → Referrals → Sales

Another Compendium client, The College Network, was able to launch a contest asking nurses to share their stories. The prize? An iPad. They received nearly 100 user generated stories (that’s 100 free posts!). The stories got over 40 comments and over 1,500 Likes. They drove 3,500 unique visits to their story page and tracked an average of 35 additional Facebook fans per day from the campaign. It also increased their organic search traffic by 25%—all for the cost of an iPad.

How Web-to-Post helps smaller bloggers

As far as my site, Floppycats.com, is concerned, Web to Post has made my life incredibly easier. When I run a giveaway, I tell people that for an extra chance to win the prize, they can submit a photo of their cat as well as a description explaining why their cat needs to win the product.

This approach not only generates more activity on my site, but also creates more content for my blog. And readers love to see photos of their cats on my blog!

I also use Web to Post for Ragdoll breeders who want to advertise kittens for sale. It saves me the time involved in uploading them to the site, and entering all the information—and they’re hosted on Compendium’s server, not the one I am paying for.

I also use Web to Post to accept content from people who need to rehome their Ragdoll cats, and cat rescue groups that need to get the word out about cats available for adoption.

I give a lengthy explanation of what I want (this eliminates time-consuming emailing back and forth between the poster and me) and provide examples so readers know what information they need to submit.

So while Web to Post is great for sales and boosting social media buzz about your company, for the blogger who wants an active online community on their blog, Compendium’s Web to Post can also make your life a lot less busy. Just say “no” to too much right- and left-clicking!

What if you don’t have compendium?

If you don’t have Compendium, you can probably still put something like this together, but it would require more manpower and coordination to get it done.

Frankly, I don’t like to spend my time on the technicalities and would rather have it right from the get-go. Compendium’s business blogging platform simply takes care of the strategy, process and technology so your business can focus on the content and stories.

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

How to Build a Business By Supporting Bloggers: a Case Study

This guest post is by Jeremy Delancy of passivepanda.com.

Some people get struck by lightning, some people win the lottery, and some people make good money by blogging two hours per day in their pajamas. I’ve never met any one the above-mentioned people, but the snake oil salesmen of the Internet will try to convince you that you’ll be making millions in a few months if you buy their info products and start a blog.

The truth is, profitable blogging requires hard work. An even less accepted truth is that profitable blogging will, more and more, require a collaborative effort. In his ebook Partnering Profits, John Morrow likens the early days of making money online to the early days of computer gaming. The first computer games were so basic that one person designed and produced an entire game! Think about what is needed to create Runescape or Starcraft II. The time and effort is well beyond the capability of any one person.

A similar change is taking place in blogging. Readers now want multi-media content, social media widgets, great writing, and so on. Add in the marketing and promotion of your blog and it soon becomes more than any one individual can deliver without spending 80 hours in front of a computer. The job of managing research, affiliates, guest posts—all while learning new technologies—has already begun to overwhelm some small bloggers.

In this turmoil created by the growth and development in the blogosphere, I see opportunity. The possibility exists to create an additional income not by starting your own blog, but by helping other bloggers build a loyal readership, increase blog traffic and monetize their blogs. I’m starting to do just that and I’ll analyze the steps that I’ve taken so far.

Getting started

First, some background information: I’ve worked as a full-time speech writer for the last ten years. The job entails loads of research on all sorts of topics. Previously, I was an English Literature teacher. I began reading blogs on Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship and Lifestyle Design in 2009.

Since then I’ve come across blogs that had great, well-researched content and good design. I’ve also come across many more that were quite the opposite. It’s obvious to many blog readers that some bloggers need help. The questions I wanted answered were, “Are bloggers willing to pay for assistance?” and, “Is there a market among bloggers for my particular skill set?”

The process

In retrospect, I could have begun the process of finding out who needed assistance, and what kind of assistance was needed, quite differently. One alternative would have been to subscribe to blogs on blogging (ProBlogger) and read the comments to see what were the most common challenges faced. But, that would not have been true to my nature, which is to gain first hand information through research.

Instead, I developed a questionnaire, which I emailed to bloggers who specialized in: personal finance, christian living, entrepreneurship, woodworking, and eco-friendly lifestyles, all of which are areas of personal interest. Some of the questions were informational, i.e. “How long does it take to move from new idea to blog post?” Other questions were about the bloggers’ aspirations, i.e. “Where would you like to be in terms of blogging within the next six months to two years?”

Tip: When you’re doing this kind of research do not send more than five questions unless you have developed an excellent rapport with the other person. I found that sending seven questions in an email dropped the response rate to zero.

Tip 2: For an excellent article on what to write when emailing busy people, go here.

The answers were then collated and turned into A Report on Building A Better Blog which was uploaded to Scribd.com. By using Scribd, I was able to keep track of the number of downloads and the number of positive responses I received. To get a copy of the ten page report, which details my methodology, questions and suggestions, go here.

The service offering

The process of researching and writing the report, had several very important benefits. Primarily, it gave me an insight into the some of the biggest problems faced by bloggers.

Secondly, I had made a tangible product to showcase my research and writing skills.

Finally, and most importantly, the answers allowed me to focus on providing the following services to bloggers in personal finance and entrepreneurship:

  • Guest posts—Invitations to write guest posts are common but not every blogger finds the time to do so, even when it would increase their readership. I write and the blogger who hires me, posts to the blog he/she received the invitation from.
  • Ghost writing—Surprise! Bloggers are people too! They need time to attend to their families, take vacations, etc. Due to the nature of my full-time job, I know how to replicate the vocabulary, syntax and style of others. After a few days of practice, most readers won’t be able to tell the difference between me and their beloved blogger.
  • Research—Find entrepreneurial blogs with 50, 000 RSS Feed subscribers. I’m on it. Research the benefits of credit card X, compare to credit card Y, and write a post. Not a problem. Summarize guru A’s new book and email the finer points. With pleasure.

The major benefit, that I provide bloggers? Time. By spending less time researching and writing, they have more time to work on other projects and find new ways to monetize their blogs

Finding potential clients

When the time came to begin pitching bloggers with the above-mentioned service offering, I had a good idea of their major challenges, and was able to offer solutions because of my research. To find potential clients I searched Technorati.com for personal finance blogs with high to medium authority and then focused on those that announced a soon to be released information product (indicating a very busy blogger), or those whose Compete.com numbers had tumbled sharply (indicating that the blogger had missed several posts) and e-mailed them.

Some of you reading this will think that the process is far too tedious to emulate, but there is a major benefit. By putting 80% of the work up front, your chance of rejection goes down considerably. This is because you are in your customer’s head. You will have taken the time and effort to know their goals, their pain points, their likes and dislikes, and crafted your service to meet their needs. In return they will show their appreciation by giving you their business.

How you can get started today

Finally, for those of you interested in helping bloggers, I’d suggest skipping the research and focus on the following instead:

  1. Niche down and know what topics you will specialize in.
  2. Be clear on what problems you can solve … and those you can’t.
  3. Perfect your service offering via email as it will give you a foot in the door.
  4. Constantly strive to improve your skills.

Become the support network

Helping bloggers is essentially freelance work, and the first rule of freelancing is find your niche. The blogosphere is a big place and as it grows there are more and more opportunities for you to fill in the gaps. Spend some time thinking about how you could help a blogger and you may find yourself earning more freelance income as a blog supporter than many people do as a blog owner.

Could you support a blogger? Have you considered this as an income option? I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments.

Jeremy Delancy writes for Passive Panda. To get more tips and other proven strategies for earning more money, time, and freedom join Passive Panda’s Free Newsletter on Earning More.

7 Ways to Rescue Your Business Blog From the Blahs

This guest post is by Jennifer Brown Banks of Penandprosper.

A recent Google search in preparation for this piece revealed over 40 million entries for the term “business blog.“ That makes for a whole lot of niche competition. A compelling reason to seek strategies to stand out to stay in the game. Or as I like to put it, to break from the blahs!

Contrary to popular opinion, your business blog doesn’t have to be bland to be taken seriously.

It can be “professional” and still be entertaining, informative and engaging. In fact, this is one example of when you should “mix business with pleasure”. Because ideally you want readers to enjoy their experience when they visit, and to share your content via social media forums and link love. Regardless of your industry, tone, or target audience, injecting a little “personality” into the mix can make for great results and increased readership.

Here are four key reasons why:

  1. The more engaging your content, the longer readers are inclined to stay. The longer they stay, the lower your bounce rate, which enhances your Alexa ratings.
  2. The more engaged readers are when they visit your site, the greater the likelihood they’ll return.
  3. Repeat visitors often become loyal customers. Loyal customers often refer others.
  4. It’s a savvy way to be remembered and to distinguish yourself from the vast competition.

Now that you have the 4-1-1 on why, here’s how!

Provide variety

In addition to quality articles, consider placing polls, surveys, and study findings relative to your products or services. Some companies I’ve done business with even “entertain” customers with trivia questions or posts related to national observance days or “awareness themes. For example, “Women’s History Month” or “Poetry Month,” or even Mothers’ Day.

One site that epitomizes variety in terms of content, presentation, and approach is One Woman Marketing. Here you’ll discover video posts, pod casts, lively commentary, and provocative titles to boot! For certain, you’ll never leave bored.

Speak in a conversational tone

Talk “to” readers, not “at” them. Also, if you use acronyms, abbreviations, or tech terms, have a glossary for those who may not be in-the-know.

There’s no better example of this than Tia, over at Bizchickblogs.com Her style of expression, her distinct voice, and her warmth resonates with each post. When you read her words, it kinda feels as if she’s sitting in your living room having a one-on-one. She knows her stuff without being stuffy.

Don’t hide from humor

As long as it’s applicable and in good taste, it’s almost always acceptable. Humorous anecdotes can be a great technique to draw audiences in, illustrate a point, and hold them captive. A good example of this blogging technique would be Naomi at Ittybiz.com. She’s fabulously funny and fiercely popular for being herself. Heck, even popular pastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen starts every sermon with a joke.

Along the same lines as Naomi, when it comes to having a knack for humor and “working a (virtual) crowd”, is innovative blogger, Princess Jones, of Diaryofamadfreelancer.com She reigns supreme in this area! No matter what topic she tackles, she’ll tickle your funny bone and help you to see the lighter side of the freelancing life. Here’s a recent quote: “So what’s my point? Once again, I don’t have one. But this is my blog and the rule says I don’t have to have a point every time I sit down to write.”

Don’t neglect visual appeal

Sure, “content is king” in the blogging world, but looks are important as well. I like to compare it to a stimulating meal. If it’s not presented well in terms of colors, textures, and arrangement, it loses its “flavor.”

Aesthetics are important. Choose hues, fonts and graphics accordingly. This attention to detail is what makes the site Workawesome.com so awesome! Not only is the content engaging and well-written, every post is accentuated with just the right image to reinforce the message. Always clever and creative. They’ve actually won awards for their graphic design as well.

Provide case studies

Show how your company helped to solve a problem or save the day for a client in need. Testimonials speak volumes as well. In promoting her financial services and professional speaking business, expert Kembala Evans, allows the testimonials of former clients do the talking. Visit her site, and it’s clear that talk is not cheap when it comes to the recommendations of satisfied customers!

Toot your own horn

Have you achieved an important milestone? Won an industry award? Been recognized in the local paper? Share. Everybody loves a hero. Check out Jobacle.com, and on your visit you’ll likely see various awards and commendations from places where the site has been featured, linked to, or talked about. And the host’s periodic appearances at U.S. News and World Report and other prominent places.

Remember the K.I.S.S. principle

Know that, sometimes, less is more. Overkill can be the kiss of death. This philosophy is one that’s well observed at Vistaprint. Known by many entrepreneurs for its stationery and marketing products, it also has a blog that features useful tips and tools for maintaining a successful business. It’s brief, but substantive.

Follow these seven tips to enhance your business image, your following, and your bottom line. You’ll have more sizzle fo’ shizzle!

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, relationship columnist, entrepreneur and pro blogger. Her work has appeared at Daily Blog Tips, Technorati, Search Engine Journal, Workawesome, and Being Single Magazine.

10 Ways to Use Your Blog to Manage a Crisis

This guest post is by Jeff Domansky of The PR Coach.

Your blog is a very important part of your personal image or company brand. While you’ve invested time in its development, have you ever thought about how you could use your blog to manage a crisis?

A blog offers several advantages compared to news releases, websites, or other social media channels.

Image by Jeff Domansky of Fotolia.com, used with permission

It lets you control your message without a media filter. It speaks with authority as your “voice of record.” In a crisis, your blog can be a valuable internal and external communications tool. And, most importantly, with quick action, it can help ensure you’re heard accurately in a crisis.

Ten ways to blog in a crisis

Here are ten valuable ways you can use your blog to help manage a crisis:

1. Quick response

Issue your holding statement and/or first “official” response to a crisis as soon as possible on your blog. This prevents a vacuum being filled by the messages of your critics, competitors, or opponents. Deal with the most obvious concerns. Be proactive. Provide facts. Reassure the community that you’re actively working on the issue and that safety is paramount.

Scott Monty shows how SeaWorld used its blog effectively in the tragic death of an employee by one of its Killer Whales.

3. Voice of record

Use your blog as your company’s voice when you can’t reach everyone more easily in other ways. A fire or other emergency may prevent you from accessing your email system, your office fax, or communications equipment. In that situation, your blog may be your only available communications channel.

GE recently tried to use Twitter to defend itself from media attacks around a tax issue. It didn’t work. 140 characters wasn’t enough. Using the GE blog would have been more effective for such a complicated defense. Ultimately, GE has quit trying to “spin” its story after a poor media relations effort.

3. Updates

Quick, timely updates through your blog can be invaluable in keeping employees, customers, regulators, fire and safety officials, the media, and the general public informed of new developments. Remember, your updates can be very brief and factual. Most crisis managers know it’s important to show that even if you have not yet resolved the crisis, you’re working to solve it.

BP attempted to use a blog for Gulf oil spill cleanup updates, but received pointed criticism for its attempts to paint the recovery unrealistically. BP since shuttered this blog and removed the posts, demonstrating how transparent and objective you must be for success.

4. Corrections

Your blog is critical in correcting mistakes, responding to misinformation, and making sure that audiences have the correct information. Move quickly to correct factual errors, but don’t sweat the small stuff.

Chrysler’s Ed Garsten used his corporate blog to go on the record effectively with facts about firing a consultant for dropping the F-bomb in a corporate tweet.

5. Leverage internal resources

In a crisis, employees are your most valuable resource. Encourage employees to view your blog. Suggest they provide links to the blog to their key contacts. It informs employees, controls their messages and helps them respond to family, community, customer and other concerns with accurate information.

Whole Foods Market’s’ blog, Whole Story, has a series of Food Safety posts that show its care and commitment to safe, healthy foods.

6. Media relations

In the heat of a crisis, it may be difficult to reach media. Your blog can provide critical media information as well as links to press releases, fact sheets, FAQs, photos, video, and everything else a reporter needs if they can’t reach a spokesperson. Make sure your blog address and 24-hour phone contacts are provided on all media information.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s blog, craigconnects, has a simple Press page that works well.

7. Support with the “basics”

Use your blog to provide advice, direction, and basic information such as phone numbers and addresses for company, fire, and safety contacts, and community organizations. Provide all employees with key information including the blog address. Add a recorded message to your answering service to ensure that information on your blog is available after hours. This will help ease pressure, reduce inbound calls and show concern while your team deals with the crisis.

Remember, much of this information can be prepared in advance before you have a crisis.

8. Enrich and personalize response

Your blog is a great vehicle for visuals, multimedia, links and many additional voices that allow richer, more effective, more human response by your organization. Be creative. If time allows, make use of all of the social media advantages in blogging.

No surprise that Disney Parks Blog is one of the best, taking visitors behind the scenes with wonderful storytelling.

9. SEO

Careful use of keywords in your post titles and content helps you rank higher in search engines and news aggregators, allowing you to compete for a fair and balanced share of voice in the crisis coverage.

10. Post-crisis

Companies often forget to do a wrap-up after a crisis has been handled. The community, your customers, employees, officials, regulatory agencies, media, and the public all need to know that you handled the crisis well. They need to be reassured that they are safe, and that they can trust you to do the right things now and in the future.

Discovery Channel did this very effectively after their hostage crisis in 2010.

Don’t forget to do advance planning so your blog can be used off-site in the event of a fire or other emergency that prevents the use of your office. Build your mailing list of VIPs, media, employees, and customers with smart, useful content.  In a crisis, make sure to alert your readers with the blog address using Twitter updates when speed is critical.

By following these ten steps, your real-time blogging can play a vital role in helping you prepare for, respond to, and manage a crisis. You’ll earn respect for openly communicating and definitely establish trust for the future.

Remember: one-size social media does not fit every situation. Anticipate, plan for the worst crisis you can imagine, and blog for the best.

Have you had success blogging in a crisis? What were your biggest challenges? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

Jeff Domansky is a PR consultant, crisis manager, writer, blogger and editor of The PR Coach with more than 7000 PR resources. Reach him on Twitter @theprcoach.

Inside the Compendium Blogging Platform

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

If you run a business that sells a product or a service, you need a strong online presence. If you’re considering blogging, or if you are blogging and it’s not doing what you want it to do, then you might look into a different blogging platform to help you achieve your online goals—Compendium.

Seeing that the distinction between blogs and websites has become blurred in recent years, many online visitors don’t even realize whether they have landed on a blog or a website. In fact, static websites are becoming less desirable, since a blog has a fluid ability to target specific visitors with the most up-to-date and relevant information.

Email and searches continue to dominate the online market, so you have to be equipped with the best ROI-producing tool available. Compendium’s blogging platform targets organic keywords in search engines, helps businesses acquire new customers, and serves as a hub for your social media strategy.

Compendium’s platform involves a SEO strategy approach that targets the organic side of the search engine results page (SERP), and is designed to win keyword searches.

If your business has these three qualities, then Compendium may be a great fit:

  • a business domain with some age/authority
  • an understanding of analytics and how you make money online
  • an understanding of what types of key phrases blogs are best suited to win vs. PPC or traditional SEO tactics.

As of March 2011, Compendium’s pricing ranges from $3,500 to upwards of $50,000 a year, based on the needs of the client. Their packages are scalable based on keyword selection and services, as well as any upgrades that you might request.

Why would you want a blog as a business?

  1. To increase search engine traffic
  2. To create an online community of fans of your product or service
  3. To increase awareness of your  product or service
  4. All of the above.

No matter what your company’s blogging goals are, Compendium’s platform is set up to make them happen.  Of course, Compendium’s approach to Third Generation blogging has to do with more qualified search traffic and lead generation online. There are millions of searches around almost every business, topic, industry, etc. every day, week, and month. If your business has a product or service, then someone is out there searching for you.

In my business, we write content for a number of blogs, but our favorite platform to write on is Compendium and here’s why.

Please note: I mentioned in my ProBlogger post, How to Brand Your Blog’s YouTube Channel that I have another website called Floppycats.com, and I purchased the Compendium platform for that site. All the photos and examples below are taken from Floppycats.com’s Compendium blog).

Strategy

  • Compendium has nearly 500 relationships with savvy marketers and business leaders all over the country. These leaders are just like you—they want to increase their ROI without a lot of effort.  So when you have a platform through Compendium, you are set up with an Account Manager who can share tips and ideas among clients, allowing you to save time and money.  It’s like having a marketing firm behind your blog that is also well-versed in SEO.
  • Compendium helps you offer a conversion point or a call-to-action (CTA) to your blog These CTAs can include requesting more information, signing up for a free demo, downloading a document, or even a “buy now” option.
  • Compendium helps to create a blog that has strong key SEO elements like informative page titles, consumer-focused keywords, recent and frequent updates, strong inbound links, and relevant content.  Their platform allows your blog to target thousands of organic keywords in a search.  It automatically organizes your blog’s keyword-rich content into lots of unique landing pages that are found in an organic search.

Monetization

  • Many of Compendium’s clients are generating 400% marketing ROI with only minutes of effort each day.
  • Compendium’s easy-to-use blogging and search engine optimization (SEO) tools help you achieve aggressive lead generation and revenue goals with less time and money than other marketing activities.
  • Compendium llows you to make a true investment in your marketing dollars. The more content you create, the deeper and richer your search results become. In other words, the blog data never goes away; rather, it gets compounded and enhanced with new content.  It’s not like PPC marketing that you pay for, where it’s up and then it’s gone forever.  What’s more, 80-90% of all clicks happen in the organic section of a results page.

Optimization

  • Compendium can be set up on any domain, even WordPress.
  • You won’t find an easier or more efficient way to target a huge search market and get the highest return on their marketing efforts.
  • Search engines look for the following when determining the rank of organic search results:
    1. titles
    2. keywords
    3. recency/frequency of content creation
    4. links
    5. volume
    6. relevance
  • Compendium partnered with two industry-leading SEO companies (Distilled and SEOmoz) to make changes to their platform to enhance organic search benefits.  You may have read a recent article about the Google Algorithm change that affected many blogs and many companies’ efforts to bring in search engine traffic.  Search engine algorithms love Compendium’s system, and Compendium clients are unscathed by such search engine modifications.

Social Networking

  • Compendium’s platform includes social media integration that allows you to push content to your company’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, all from within the platform.
  • There are upgrades available with the system that allow for your blog to be built entirely on user-generated content.  It’s one of the most incredible marketing strategies I have seen to date.  To explain it would require a whole other blog post, so here’s a link to one I wrote a few months back explaining it.

Analytics

  • Compendium’s platform allows you to log in at any time, track how the platform is driving traffic to your website, and see how your different calls to action are converting.
  • The Account Manager who is set up for your account also integrates your blog with Google Analytics, so you will benefit from Compendium’s own internal tracking system, as well as an external tracking system.

Content report

Link activity report

Link activity chart

Ease of Use

  • You do not have to be technically savvy to use Compendium.  If you can login into an email account, you can login into Compendium and create a post.
  • The Compendium gods were on our side when they delivered the Keyword Strength Meter! It’s one of my favorite things about Compendium (see image below).  The Keyword Strength Meter is a bar that appears at the top of every post as you’re composing it, and goes from red to green, helping you know when you have used the optimal number of keywords for a specific post.  In other words, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you have used the proper number of keywords, or guess what the search engines will like.

    The keyword strength meter in action

  • You can schedule your posts to release on the blog on different days and times. In other words, you could write five posts on Monday and schedule them to post on every day that week without having to sign into the system again (WordPress has this capability as well).

Protection

  • Compendium is backed by SaaS security.  There’s no IT or plug-ins necessary.  Compendium is a fully hosted SaaS company, so Compendium hosts all of its clients’ blog pages.  Compendium is built on an enterprise-level structure with all the security necessary to work with even the largest corporations.
  • One of the clients that we write for mentioned to me that they chose Compendium because of the security measures involved—they knew their content would be protected on Compendium, whereas they couldn’t obtain a similar level of protection on other blogging platforms.
  • Compendium is not an open-source platform (on an open-source program anyone can develop plug-ins or add-ons to the platform). Compendium is specifically built for enterprise and the security that they require.  This includes features like SSL (for users signing in—think of a bank-like sign in), backups, redundancy, 24-hour monitoring, SLA (service level agreements), and more.  All of these features, and the architecture on which Compendium is built, are far easier to control and monitor than freeware, giving an added level of security to this platform.
  • Compendium allows for unlimited users that are all attached to an administrator.  When a user submits a post it doesn’t go directly onto the company’s blog. Rather, the admin of the blog gets an email notification letting them know there is a new post ready to go. The administrator can then go in and read, edit, or decline the post, and offer feedback to the author without leaving the system.  If your company has a PR department that would like to review the posts before they go live, then Compendium is a great option because it allows the user to input the posts and the PR department to edit and approve them as needed, without excessive back-and-forth comments with the writers.

Customization

The platform can look however you want it to—and you can have it easily match your website.  I use my Compendium blog as a way to find potential subscribers for my main site, which is on WordPress.  That may seem funky, but it has allowed more people to find me.  It also allows me to post things with which I wouldn’t want to bug subscribers to my main site, but that I still think are worthwhile to have on my site in some manner.  Below is a screen shot of the home page of my Floppycats.com website and a screen shot of my Compendium blog site.

The site on WordPress

The site on Compendium

Updates

Compendium is constantly improving the product, making enhancements every week to service the needs of clients.

The main reason I like Compendium is because with any business, it is important to get referrals as well as retain clients you already have.  It has been my experience that when Business Blog Writers write on the Compendium platform, we are more likely to retain the client, because the content we provide on that platform actually works, delivering the results the client was looking for. Therefore they find the value in continuing their content creation agreement with us.

If you are interested in checking out Compendium, you can request a demo through the website. One of their fantastic sales representatives will schedule a time to show you a demo of their software.

Does your company use Compendium?  How do you like it?  What advantages have you seen from it?

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

My Dad Held the Keys to an Untapped Niche Market

This guest post is by Ainslie Hunter of CoursesThatMatter.com.

When entrepreneurs start online they usually blog about what they know. For me, that was study skills. It is not the sexiest thing to talk about, and actually a hard niche market to crack, but it my first website and has led to some paid blogging jobs in education.

But I was making no money and very few students are interested in commenting on such a site.

So I had a beer with a ProBlogger!

Have you ever seen a tweet from Darren that says “Come over to Ustream and let’s have a chat”? Well I did and one comment really captured my attention. I’m paraphrasing, but Darren was asked whether he thought he could start a successful blog in any niche market. He thought it was an interesting experiment and believed it could be done.

Enter: My Dad!

My dad owned supermarkets. And now he owns cutting horses. Cutting is an amazing horse competition that originated in the US. Here is a short video that explains cutting better than I can (there is no blood involved, just a horse and a rider trying to keep a cow away from a heard).

Dad had spent the last nine months listening to me banging on about blogging and social media, connecting through stories, and making money online.

So one day we sat down and he showed me some very popular websites for people involved in the sport of cutting. And I was shocked! They were truly ugly flash sites, plastered with awful advertisements and outdated content.

But they were all making money.

The Site is Born

Cutting Horse Link is the newest cutting horse website online, created by yours truly and her dad. Dad writes the posts, and I edit them. Dad turns up to cutting horse shows on the weekends and hands out our flyers. I hustle online, interact through horse forums, and connect via Facebook.

And together we have created a successful online business. Yes, business! In four months we already have a loyal following of members who are approaching us and asking for us to promote them. We have major advertisers and are paying our first writer.

We’re making money quicker than we expected.

How Good Bloggers Stand out in the Crowd

I believe good bloggers can be successful in any niche market. Here’s why.

Our sites will stand out in the crowd

Blog-based sites look different from others. And that is good. It was obvious as soon as a cutting horse fan clicked on our site that we had something different. Cutting Horse Link focused on personal stories, while the other sites put the Sales Barn right out in front.

We know stories are more important than sales

Our site also speaks differently than our competitors’ do. We are more personal in our stories. We link to other people (including our competitors). I post photos of professional horse riders playing tennis in their spurs. I have a section called “Gooseneck Gossip” and we shoot videos of ourselves and post audio interviews from key industry personalities.

We understand wait time

Bloggers know that community takes time to develop. Within this niche market the most common question I have been asked is “What is in it for me?” Because I wasn’t selling anything, the community didn’t trust the site. But that was okay. I knew that if I kept to our writing schedule that people would come to the site. Surprisingly, they came very quickly.

We know connections are the key

Straight up, dad and I knew we couldn’t do it all by ourselves. So we developed connections with various groups in cutting—youth, parents, trainers, riders, photographers, and even other websites. We took the time to promote them and then asked if they would do the same. This is really important if you are considered an outsider in the niche market. Connections matter. We were able to convince a pro trainer and one of the largest horse breeders to be interviewed by us, which led to more traffic—and more trust.

We nail the technical stuff

From the beginning, I had an editorial schedule for the blog. I made sure I had a newsletter from Day 1. And I took the time to make sure that the posts and titles were SEO-friendly. I am surprised at how much traffic we get just from search engines. If I didn’t know SEO strategies, we would certainly be struggling.

Don’t forget the first rule of blogging

If you are going to attempt to write a blog in a niche market you are unfamiliar with, you mustn’t forget the most important rule: content is king! So you need a partner, someone who knows the audience. There is absolutely no way I could do this site without my father. He knows our audience, and knows what stories will interest them. He can pick the trends before they happen and he knows the correct language to use.

My role in the partnership is more as editor or online strategist. I do the technical stuff and model strategies from other successful online businesses.

And together we are having so much fun. Dad now walks around quoting Crush It, and is a big hit on Facebook. Sure, he doesn’t know how to use WordPress and I can’t get him to consider tweeting yet. But he writes great stories and understands that online connections are just the same as those we make in real life.

So next time you are at a family dinner don’t hide in front of the TV or spend the whole time tweeting on your iPhone. Sit and listen to your aunt as she describes her new patchwork quilt or ask your grandfather about his model train collection. You might just find an untapped online business gold mine!

Ainslie Hunter is a busy blogger of Study Skills and Cutting Horses. You will also find her transforming ecourses and writing about why teaching matters Find her on Twitter @ainsliehunter