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Hiring a web consultant – Pros and Cons

The following post on the “Pros and Cons of hiring a web consultant” was written by Lara Kulpa.

There are pros and cons to hiring an outside web consultant.So you’ve got yourself a little start-up blog and you’ve earned some okay money. You spend 5-10 hours a week writing, commenting on other blogs, doing all the things that Darren tells you to do in order to increase your blog’s popularity, but you’re still not raking in the big bucks, or getting the traffic even to come close to that.

Sometimes you even look at your blog, with that free template on it that you downloaded somewhere after spending hours trying to figure out how to install your blog software and make small customizations like the color of your text links, and you think to yourself that you’d really like something more custom.

There are pros and cons to hiring an outside web consultant, an SEO “expert”, or a designer, that you should think about before you make that jump.

Pros

  • A good designer and developer knows what attracts and keeps the attention of your visitors. Research shows that you have less than 3 seconds to get someone to click deeper into your site, and having a good visual appeal is important. Just because you think that falling snowflakes and animated gifs are cute, doesn’t mean everyone does.
  • Search engine optimization is more than just meta tags and keywords. There’s research involved, and while your style of writing might be really good, a copywriter or SEO consultant could very well help make it fantastic as well as effective.
  • Marketing people need to be creative by the very nature of the world, and a consultant will help you come up with brilliant ideas for spreading the word about your site that you likely have never even thought of.
  • Especially if you’re still working a full-time job, have a family to attend to, and are trying to blog for money, you simply don’t have TIME to learn all the things you should know about marketing a website or blog. Hiring a blog consultant or paying for their services will save you an enormous amount of time.

Cons

  • Consultants cost money. Good consultants cost a lot of money, and you will get what you pay for. Phoning up your 11-year-old nephew to have him spam MySpace pages in return for minutes on his cellphone is going to get you nowhere. You need to spend money to make money. Expect to pay anywhere from $40-$200 per hour for quality work.
  • Hiring someone else to do the work for you keeps you in the need for hiring someone else to do the work for you. You don’t learn on your own, and you are forced to rely on someone else to help you succeed (which means trusting a stranger with your livelihood).
  • Anyone with a computer can throw up a website and call themselves an “expert”. You have to do some research on the person you’re looking to hire, and you HAVE to ask questions. Ask for examples, references, and definitely Google them and their company before you sign any contracts.
  • You need to be willing to not only be taught, but to actually put the time into learning and DOING what your consultant suggests you do. Otherwise you’re throwing good money after bad, and you’re going to wind up feeling broke and no further along than you were before. Consultants are there to consult you, and if you’re not willing to put an effort into it, you’re going to make them feel like their words are going in one ear and out the other. If you’re not ready to learn, then you’re going to spend MORE money, paying them to do it for you.

All that said, having a good working relationship with a consultant or company that offers consulting services can give you long-term results that will guarantee you more traffic, more attention, and yes, more money.

5 Prerequisites For Blogging Success

In the time that I have been blogging, I have noticed that there are a few things that “successful” blogs have in common. And I am defining “success” in every way — monetary terms, absolute traffic, but more importantly, in robust and continued growth. With 2007 here and many New Years Resolutions on the cusp, I thought we would start things off with what I believe are 5 things that are necessary to grow one’s blog.

1. Putting in the Time and Commitment.
One of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate is what a time commitment blogging is. I’m not including all the time it takes to literally set up a WordPress installation, or taking the time to tweak your theme just right, or even answering the buckets of email you may (or may not) have. What I am talking about is the time it takes to actually write.

If you’re a gifted writer, all the best to you. Skip the rest of this tip. For the rest of us who were not born with a pencil in their mouths, it literally takes time to write something really meaty, interesting, and worthy of your blog. The stuff that makes people fascinated and can’t wait to want more. It takes time to research stuff you don’t know about, to find a block of uninterrupted time to actually sit down and write the blasted piece, and then actually get it out in a form that you feel comfortable with.

And for people who have a semblance of a life — husband/wife, kids, a job, other Responsibilities — it can actually come as a bit of a shock, because in the blogging world no one really talks about how long it takes to actually create something you’re proud of.

For the literal minded (who have not yet started to blog), what this means is that at a post a day, it might require one extra hour of your life to produce that single post alone. Are you going to take that hour away from television time? Time with your family? Time to sleep? For most folks, their days are packed to the gills doing Stuff; taking the time to commit to blogging will often mean taking time away form something else.

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7 Steps to Better Business Blogging

Reader-Quick-TipsThe following reader quick tip was submitted by Ann Handley from Marketing Profs: Daily Fix.

One of the questions I often field comes from business owners who are thinking of launching a blog but are wondering, “What can I write about…?”

A recent post by Poynter contributor Vince Maher does an excellent job of giving some guidance on what businesses can write about, and, more importantly, how they can write it. All 11 tips are here but here are the seven points most critical for businesses:

  1. A blog entry is a stub for conversation. Think about creating posts that start conversations, have a point of view, and appeal to the interests of your readers. All writing must consider the audience, but for bloggers, it’s critical.
  2. Write tight headlines that pique interest. Think punchy, short, descriptive headlines that will pique a reader’s curiosity.
  3. Be scan-friendly. Bullet points (like these!) are easy to scan and have the useful by-product of lending structure to your thoughts.
  4. Link to the context. This is really important: if you write about something that other blogs are talking about in a post or conversation, offer links back to their conversations to give your post some context.
  5. Troll the blogosphere for secondary conversation. Tools like Google BlogSearch, Bloglines and Technorati will help you track what other bloggers are saying about your post. Try to update your blog with links to those conversations if they add or augment yours.
  6. Be active in your own conversations. Comment back to your readers. Social media is all about relationships.
  7. Create buzz everywhere. Include lots of relevant inbound links to your post. Via Technorati or other search tools, seek out other blogs that are discussing the same or similar issues, and participate in the conversation there.

So what do you think? Did I miss anything or can you expand on any of these guidelines?

Business Blogging 101

I’ve had an increasing amount of readers writing to me over the past few weeks asking questions on the topic of how to develop a business blog as opposed to a commercial or entrepreneurial blog.

Here’s one reader’s question to help flesh this out a little:

“Hi Darren, can I ask you a question that I can’t find an answer to anywhere?

I have just been hired by XXXXX (ed – a well known company) to develop a blog for them. I’ve had both a personal and a more commercial (advertising and affiliate programs) blog before but haven’t ever written on a business blog. The more I look into it the more I realize that many of the things I’ve learned about blogging previously are just not relevant to this new venture. Can you give me any tips?”

This question is typical of a number of emails that I’ve had over the past month. It seems that businesses are catching onto the power of blogs (or at least are perceiving them to be powerful) but both they and some of the bloggers they are hiring are unclear on how a business should use blogs.

Disclaimer – I’ve never written a ‘business blog’ and am not really sure I’m the person to be asking these questions as any expertise I might have is more in the type of blogging that earns income from ad or affiliate programs. As a result I’m looking forward to the opinions of readers who have more direct experience with business blogging – please feel free to share what you know in comments.

However having being asked the question numerous times – let me attempt to shed some light on the topic from my perspective….

Get Objectives Clear – the advice that I find myself giving to bloggers of all types is to think ahead of time about a blog’s goals and objectives. If I was being hired by a company to develop a blog I would work very hard at finding that company’s expectations for the blog out before starting it (actually – I’d find them out before accepting such a position).

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RSS: Blog’s Friend or Foe?

Is RSS is the downfall of building relationships and commerce on blogs? First, let’s set the record straight. I’ve drunk the kool aid. I get it. I love RSS and that new orange icon is pretty cute too. The ability to read huge amounts of information in one place, receive it at the second it’s published and not worry about email spam is awesome.

When Darren asked if I would help “blog-sit” ProBlogger I couldn’t say no. Last time I guest blogged here I met the talented Peter Flaschner from the BlogStudio. It led to a great bloggy relationship with Peter redesigning the skin of Diva Marketing. However, as creative as the design is, it doesn’t matter squat if the content of the blog is read in a reader. Nor do your ads or affiliate links show you the money if your readers never click through to your site.

Oh sure partial feeds may entice click throughs and not having live links in your feeds is another (spammy) way to go. Visitors coming in from the search engines might click on a link or two but it’s the folks who know and trust you who are most likely to click and convert…and that’s what makes the cash register ring or new sign-ups for your newsletter or site visits that go deeper into your blog. Keep in mind that comments and trackbacks are useless features without click-throughs to your blog.

What’s the solution? Should we kill off RSS? No way Jose! RSS is a valuable tool. Who wants to remember to click on Favorites on a daily basis?

The challenge is ours, as bloggers, to encourage those click-thoughts to the blog by creating -

1) enjoyable on-blog experience: look and feel, navigation, layout
2) providing information that can only be obtained by clicking through to your blog: podcasts, articles, photos, videos, terrific blogroll, archive links
3) including cues in your posts that talk about value-added content on your blog: new podcast tells how to go beyond the ProBlogger status to zillionarie!

Blogger achieves 5000% ROI from Blogging

Debbie Weil writes that Charlene Li has apparently brought in close to one million dollars in business to her employer, Forrester, in the last year – all through her blogging.

That’s a 5000% Return on Investment!

‘That’s based on her calculation that her $14.95 / month account with TypePad triggered $1 million in new business for Forrester last year.’

If that’s not the best argument for business blogging going around at the moment then I don’t know what is!

Blogonomics Blog Cruise

 Content Images Port Port Sequence Carib Carib Caw Fll 42C977F LgThe last few years have seen quite a few blog conferences but here’s one with a twist – Blogonomics – the world’s first floating blog conference!

I’ve been hearing about this one for a little while now and it’s just gone public – they’re actually running a Blog Cruise which takes off from Fort Lauderdale in Florida and sails to Mexico!

Confirmed speakers so far include Jeremy Wright, Jim Turner, Scott Goldblatt, Tris Hussey and B.L Ochman all of whom are great value bloggers.

The overall focus of the conference is Business blogging and the more details sub-topics include:

* Choosing and Developing Content
* Blog Metrics
* Return on Investment (ROI)
* Blog Marketing
* Using a Blog for a specific campaign
* Business Applications and RSS
* Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Monetization
* A Study in Real Life Business Blog Success

Sounds like a fun few days!

Yahoo offers Movable Type for business bloggers

Six Apart and Yahoo have announced a partnership as Yahoo will use MovableType as to provide small businesses with websites through it’s existing small business web site management service:

‘Yahoo will effectively act as the preferred provider of Movable Type for small business users, taking advantage of its scale and efficiency, Anil Dash, vice president of professional products for San Francisco-based Six Apart, said in a phone interview.

“This is going to be our recommended (sales) channel for small business,” he said.

Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo said it will offer commercial blogs based on Movable Type as part of its existing small business Web-site management service.

Yahoo provides customers with a unique Web address, blogging tools and business-class e-mail services with spam and virus protections for less than $12 a month.’

Congratulations to Anil and the team at MT.

found via blog herald

CEOs and Blogs – Mixed Opinions

news.com reports that 59% of CEOs believe blogs are a useful internal communication tool while 47% believe that they are useful for external communication. Of course this means that 41% and 53% are not so excited by blogs:

””Most CEOs are still in a wait-and-see mode when it comes to blogs, mainly due to time limitations and concerns about what they can say publicly,” Leslie Gaines-Ross, a research officer at Burson-Marsteller, said in a statement. “Even though there is greater awareness of the power of blogs today, CEOs may feel that employees expect them to be spending their time running the business.”‘

I’ve had emails and calls today from 5 Aussie company execs interested in blogging after this morning’s interview – looks like times could be changing here in Australia at last?