Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

Seven Tools to Put Your Blog on Steroids

Blogging is hard work. It takes time, effort and creativity.

But there are lots of ways to jump-start your blogging efforts – tools that make you more efficient, productive and creative, while driving distribution.

sevenHere are some of the most interesting tools that I have come across recently:

1. Atomic Reach: a free plug-in that uses an algorithm to analyze and score the spelling, grammar and quality of your writing. For some people, particularly writers, Atomic Reach can be challenging because it changes how you write. In time, however, you begin to understand how to use Atomic Reach, and, in the process, it will make you a better writer.

2. Buffer: After writing a blog post, it needs to be distributed. Buffer is a free and paid service that make it easy to publish updates on multiple social media platforms. It recently introduced a new feature that makes a snap to schedule posts to appear at particular times (e.g. now, tomorrow, next week), which is a great way to leverage distribution over time.

3. Title Experiments: It goes without saying that a good, interesting or eye-catching blog title is an effective way to get people to take a look. Title Experiments is a free plugin that lets you create different versions of the headline, and then promotes the one attracting the most clicks. It’s a great way to test your creativity and get a better feel for the headlines that work.

4. Flare: Along with Digg Digg, Flare is one of the most popular plugins to let people share your posts via share media. Flare can be configured to display particular social media networks, as well as placement in different places on the blog post.

5. PhotoPin: There are many places to discover royalty-free photos, but PhotoPin is one of the most user-friendly and content-rich. You can search by use (commercial vs. non-commercial) and by type (recent, relevant, interestingness).

6. Optimizilla: After discovering the right photo or image for a post, there’s a lot of value in making it the ideal size to save on load times and resources. Optimizilla is a user-friendly and free service to quickly reduce the size of photos and images without losing much in the way of quality.

7. WordPress SEO: Google keeps changes the rules of engagement for search but WordPress SEO (a free plugin) provides a solid SEO foundation for a blog. It’s easy to configure your post’s keyword, meta-description and title.

Should Blog Comments Be Rewarded?

As Twitter and Facebook have become more popular as ways to share and react to content, the blog comment has lost a lot of its mojo.

Sure, there are some blog post that generate a lot of comments but the enthusiasm for comments is nowhere close to what it was like five or six years ago when blogs were shiny and new.

blog commentIt would be interesting to quantify the number of blog posts that attract comments, but I would guess that most posts don’t get any comments.

It’s not that the content is bad or doesn’t deserve a reaction; it’s just easier to do something on Twitter or Facebook. That’s just the reality of social engagement these days.

Let’s take the position, however, that blog comments are a good thing to drive conversation and the exchange ideas.

Using this as our thesis, what about the idea of rewarding blogs for attracting comments, and people for leaving comments.

What if Google and other search engines embraced the blog comment as a front and centre SEO pillar?

In theory, it would encourage more people to leave comments on blogs, and be a great way to motivate bloggers to keep writing posts.

Of course, there would have to be some way to stop the spammers and link-builders from abusing this approach to comments.

It would likely require some kind of effective link and comment analysis to make everything work, but you figure Google has enough technology to make it happen.

For some people, this idea may be far-fetched, illogical or unnecessary. After all, updates on Twitter and Facebook may be enough boost for blogs because they help to attract a bigger audience.

But there is something romantic about blog comments. They require someone to make an investment in reading a post, and then crafting a comment.

In a world world where people are time-strapped, comments required effort, thought and intent. It’s why they have so much value for bloggers.

What do you think? Should there be some way to reward blog comments?

More: Here’s Google’s Matt Cutts on comments made on forums and blogs.

The Difference In Discussion Of Pop News And Real News In Social Media

NEWSI just got back from a vacation in which I completely unplugged myself from all. Even social media. It was actually quite nice to do that for a week. Although, when I did that, I enjoyed my vacation, but had no idea what was actually happening in the world apart from what I was seeing in person.

The only time I saw a TV was on the final night of my vacation when the hotel I was staying in had one in their lobby that was showing CNN. In the brief moment I looked at that TV I saw that they were talking about what was going on Syria, so I watched for a minute to try and catch myself up.

When I returned home, I opened my computer and checked my Facebook. There I was greeted with a plethora of status updates and blog posts talking about Miley Cyrus twerking at the MTV Video Awards, an event that happened the night before I left for my vacation a week before. I was kind of baffled as to how this was still such a big topic.

Being the inquisitive young lad that I am, I needed to know more. I wanted to know why people were still talking about Miley and not the conflict that was going on in Syria, which I thought seemed a little more important. So, I took to MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics tool, to do a little research.

I did a comparison of talk about both Miley Cyrus and Syria from the day after the MTV Video Awards, August 26th, to today. What I found was that out of these social conversations, Miley Cyrus held 61% of the conversations while Syria accounted for the other 39%. In terms of actual social media mentions, there was 10,277,289 mentions of Miley Cyrus in that time period. At the same time, there was 6,599,628 mentions of Syria.

MAP - Compare Chart

I won’t lie, those numbers made me feel a bit uneasy. I decided to dig a little deeper though. I broke down those mentions by individual channels to see where these mentions were actually coming from and found something very interesting. When I looked at the mentions by channel I found that in online news articles, blogs and forums, Syria was the main topic of conversation. However, on Twitter, which most people deem to be more of a conversational channel, Miley seemed to be the topic of choice.

MAP - Compare By Source

These numbers are very telling. While at first I was a bit scared for humanity with the initial numbers I saw in the overall comparison, by breaking them down by channel actually tells something more about us and how we use social media.

The sources that we use to look at to find out what is going on in our world, like online news sites and blogs, are talking about real issues. They are covering the story of what is happening to people in Syria. And they’re doing it significantly more than covering a story about a pop star dancing funny. However, in the more conversational channel, Twitter, people are talking about the lighter of the two stories by most likely making jokes and taking jabs.

What I see this telling is that the real important things are there for us to read, learn and know about. But in conversations, people are more drawn to talking about the lighter topics. Why? Well, it’s easier, it doesn’t offend people and (if I can be honest) it’s more fun.

I don’t want to sound preachy and say that people should be talking about one thing over another, but I thought that this was a really interesting observation as to how we interact and conduct ourselves online.

What do you think? Why do you think people are more drawn to talking about the lighter topics in an open conversation that anyone can read on networks like Twitter or Facebook? Let us know in the comments.

How Many Corporate Blogs is Too Many?

BlogsA recent trend among brands is the creation of multiple blogs, each specific to particular topics.

For digital managers and content strategists, is this a good idea?

Brands like Target and Apple have a variety of blogs that represent the company, which makes a lot of sense from a strategic standpoint.

Different products, services and target audiences need to reach a more narrow groups. As well, a Tumblr blog could make the most sense in certain cases, but it should not be the primary company blog.

In general, large brands or brands with a significant online presence should have more than one blog.

The best way to go about it is from the bottom floor. Determine your primary audiences, and then craft a content strategy for the parent blog. From this blog, brands can spin off  niche blogs aimed at specific customers or interests.

Each blog should have its own content strategist. While this usually means someone pulling double duty, it is the most effective way to ensure each blog has a distinct voice, personality and content.

The bottom line: brands can never have too many blogs as long as each has a distinct purpose and there are resources to manage them.



Five Great Ways to Kill Your Blog

BlogsAs content marketing gains more momentum, blogging seems to be regaining some of its lustre.

While blogs may not have the sex appeal as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, they are the work horses of social media that provide much-needed content, as well as delivering insight and information to target audiences.

The reality about blogging is it’s not easy. It involves people, ideas, creativity, planning and a constant commitment. Blogs are creatures that demand a lot of attention, and success is often a long-term proposition as opposed to overnight success.

In reviewing hundreds of blogs recently for a research project, it was interesting and troubling to see how many corporate blogs fail to perform well or properly.

Here’s a list of five pitfalls.

1. Infrequent blog posts. Posts that appear haphazardly don’t work because an important part of what makes a blog work is consistency. By giving people an expectation of when content is going to appear  it is easier attract and build an audience.

On many blogs, there is no rhyme or reason for when a post is published – sometimes it’s is once a week, sometimes once a month. This suggests there is no editorial plan and/or content is created only when resources become available.

2. Dead blogs. It’s bad enough to write posts on and off, it’s even worse to have a dormant blog. This not only suggests a company has given up on its blog but shows it doesn’t have the insight to place it on the sidelines rather than front and centre on the Website. Simply put, dead blog reflect badly on a brand.

3. Content that is all-corporate, all the time. Even the most interesting brands can’t write about their products and activities all the time. It’s like having  conversation with someone who just talks about themselves. It is always surprising to discover blogs that have a steady stream of inwardly looking posts that don’t meet the needs or interests of target audiences. If this is your blog, it’s time to change your stripes.

4. Not providing value-added insight or information: As much as a brand wants to talk about their products, a key part of blogging is showing your willingness and ability to talk about key issues, trends and developments that interest or impact your target audiences.

Blogs give brands the ability to stand out from the crowd by exposing people to new ideas, people and products. Some good examples are the Mint blog, which provides insight and ideas about personal finance, and the Kissmetrics blog, which delivers a steady flow of great marketing content.

5. Not linking to other sources: A key part of blogging is providing readers with easy access to other blogs or Websites where they can get more information or different perspectives. Rather than driving people away from your blog, this approach makes your blog more interesting by establishing it as a place where people can get lots of value. Linking to other Websites also helps to build  relationships within the industry ecosystem by showing you’re able and willing to acknowledge the efforts of other people or brands.

By not falling into any of the above traps, corporate blogs can be successful and, as important, serve their audiences.

For more insight into the blogging best practices, check out Paul Boag’s post, “10 Harsh Truths about Corporate Blogging”.

Corporate Blogging is Not About You

blogging blogsWhy is it that so many corporate blogs only feature content about their products?

What’s the purpose of this approach?

Why do so many companies believe this content is interesting?

Why would anyone read this kind of blog on a regular or even semi-regular basis?

In doing some research recently on several different sector, it was puzzling to see so many corporate blog embrace the me-me-me approach.

If it’s not about their products, it’s about a partner, events attended, awards or media coverage.

Frankly, these kind of blogs are uninspiring.

Sure, they might be easy to write, “safe” and generate a little search engine juice but they’re more corporate brochures than offering value-added content.

For corporate blogs to thrive, they need to be educational, entertaining or engaging. They need to offer a variety of content that offers information, inspiration and insight.

Most important, it can’t be all about the brand all the time.

Corporate blogs thrive when they feature a healthy content mix. It’s alright to talk about corporate developments but it needs to be balanced by non-corporate content.

This approach serves the company’s needs but, as important, the needs and interest of readers, including potential customers.

Truth be told, these kind of blogs are more challenging and consume more resources because they’re not just marketing and sales collateral being regurgitated.

The upside is these blogs are more interesting and user-friendly.



The Future of Blogs: The Longer, The Better?

long blog postsIs the future of blogging fast and furious or long and insightful?

As blogging matures and content marketing is embraced by more brands, there seems to be a growing amount of conversation around the key elements for a successful blog. Among them is the idea that longer blogs may, in fact, be a great way to attract traffic.

On the Kissmetrics blog recently, Mauro D’Andrea suggested that “small articles, and light content in general, have no future (unless you’re Seth Godin). Look around the web, and you’ll notice that all the major websites in each industry are producing big content.‘s Marko Saric wrote that “the last few few months had “seen the revival of long form writing online. Long form content journalism and in-depth storytelling online are making a comeback. While most articles are still short and quick to read, more and more blogs are publishing long-form features of 2,000+ words, which include photos and videos and need a lot of time invested from the reader to go through it.”

This is an interesting discussion for a number of reasons:

1. A rule of thumb has emerged that blog posts are usually 300 to 500 words, which allows the writer to offer some insight and value without asking the reader to invest too much time. It’s based on the idea that online users are multi-tasking and impatient so asking them to read more than 500 words can be a challenge.

2. Quantity has won over quality, particularly for Websites looking to generate advertising revenue. Giving people a lot of content makes them come back more often, which is great for Website traffic and Google rankings. While this approach works for the high-profile Websites, it has also been embraced by bloggers looking for the spotlight.

3. People don’t read long articles online because it is not seen as the ideal medium, particularly in swipe and scan world.

So why are D’Andrea and Saric suggesting there is interest in long blog posts when short and sweet rule the roost?

One theory is so much content being produced that long-form journalism is a way to stand out from the crowd.

By writing long, insightful and informative posts, you can give people “a proper dinner” as opposed to serving them “fast food”.

While long blog posts take more time and require more of an investment, they can also be more rewarding for both the author and reader. When written well about an interesting topic. long blog posts can be wonderful food for thought.

A good example is Peep Laja, who writes the ConversionXL blog. His posts are long but they’re also chock-a-block with insight, advice and examples. When you read one of Laja’s posts, it offers such good content the length becomes a good thing rather than a hurdle.

The bottom line is there is a place for longer, meatier blog posts in a hurly burly, fast-moving world. There are people who are willing to take the time to read content that offers lots of information and insight – just as there are many people who love to read features in the New Yorker or New York Times magazine.

What do you think? How often are you willing to read a blog post that is more than 50o words? Would you ever read something that tops 1,000 words?

Everyone Gets Writers Block

Coming up with blog topics and content isn’t easy. Especially if you’re blogging a lot. We have posts five days a week on this blog and it’s not an easy task always having something to say that we think you would enjoy. We manage to pull it off though (in my opinion anyways), but it can sometimes be a struggle.

Do you ever get writers block when trying to come up with something to blog about? Well, don’t worry because you’re not alone. I had a bad case of it while trying to come up with a topic to blog about today, but luckily it wound up serving as my inspiration as well.

I started thinking that I couldn’t be the only person who suffers from contant bouts of writers block, so I decided to see if anyone else was talking about it as well. Using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics platform, I searched for other people talking about having writers block. Since January 1st of this year I found almost 130,000 mentions of writers block through social channels. While not an insanely large amount of of people were saying they had it, it’s also not a small amount for the past 100 days. In that time I found “writers block” mentioned in 5,299 blog posts, 285 online news articles, 4,681 forum postings and 119,461 tweets.

I then looked at those mentions over time to see if I could find a pettern in when people were talking the most about having writers block. For instance, I thought that we might see a spike in mentions around the middle of February when students were coming up on mid-term papers. While I did see a slight increase higher than most weeks towards the end of February, it wasn’t that signifficat of a mention spike. One interesting thing I did notice though was how bouts of writers block seem to fall away on the weekends. Looking at the chart below we can see that mentions of writers block rises during the weekdays and then falls significantly every weekend. Perhaps people get more creative on the weekend. Or maybe they’re just not writing then.

I then searched to see if certain areas of the world were more prone to writers block than others, and it turns out there is. The writers in the United States seem to get more writers block than anyone else (or at least they’re more prone to actually admitting it through social media than others). Of the 100 days I looked at, 54.7% of all the social mentions of writers block that I found came from the United States. People in China seemed to suffer from writers block the second most, but they only accounted for 17.9% of the conversation. Something interesting to point out is that the other countries that had a significant amount of chatter about writers block were also “Westernized” countries like the UK (8.5%), Canada (3.8%) and Australia (3.5%).

Do people in these countries actually suffer from writers block more often than people in other countries? Or are they just more prone to admitting it?

Another interesting fact I found was that women tended to admit to suffering from writers block more than men did. When I looked at the gender divide of those talking about writers block, women accounted for 59% of those mentions while men were the other 41%.

Again, this begs the question, do women suffer from writers block more often than men, or do they just admit it more often?

So, what do you do when you suffer from writers block and can’t think of something to write for your blog?

Everyone seems to have different ways to deal with this. Marcus Sheridan, also known as The Sales Lion, who we’ve talked about previously on the blog, comes up with content for his blog by writing about questions he gets from his customers. I personally take to Twitter when I have writers block to see if someone or something there inspires me towards a topic. I also talk to people like you who read this blog and will just directly ask people what they think would be an interesting topic to see on this blog. In fact, by talking to a Twitter friend yesterday was how I came up with the idea to write about writers block today.

Those are just a few ways you can get ideas for blog topics. We want to know what works for you. Leave us a comment and let us know how you get inspiration for blog post ideas when you seem to be suffering from writers block.

I’ll leave you with this little quote I found when I looked up the most retweeted tweet about writers block, which comes from the very talented singer/songwriter Erykah Badu:

How is Blog “Success” Defined?

BlogsWhat makes a blog successful?

Is it all about the number of visitors? Is it the number of comments, tweets, shares or links?

It is an interesting question posed by venture capitalist and blogger Tomasz Tunguz, who wondered if there was a way to know the identify of blog readers to get more insight into how a blog content was resonating.

The thing about blog success is there are many ways to measure it given it depends on the goals and objectives.

For some blogs, it’s all about the number of visitors. The more, the merrier. Many of these blogs use advertising to drive revenue so more visitors means more cash.

For other blogs, success is about attracting the right kind of visitors as opposed to all kinds of visitors. These blogs are focused on specific targets, and they aim to deliver value-added content that will start to establish a business or personal relationship.

There are bloggers that base their success on thought leadership and domain expertise. A blog is an ideal platform to put new ideas into the spotlight.

And then are bloggers who see success as having a place to express themselves.

At the end of the day, blogging “success” can be defined in many different ways. While pageviews are the best known metric, it probably doesn’t apply to most bloggers.

The common denominator for blogging is doing it with passion and creating content that meets the needs of the blogger and the people they want to reach.


When It Comes to Digital Influencers, Blogs Rule

There are many reasons for brands to embrace bloggers?

Technorati’s “2013 Digital Influence Report”, which was published recently suggests blogs are powerful influencers when it comes to how consumers make buying decisions, ranking third behind retail Websites and brand Websites.

The interesting part is that blogs rank low on the totem poll when it comes to how much brands spend on social advertising. More than half of social spending goes to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter get 13% each, 6% is spent on influencers and only 5% on blogs.

“Though blogs and influencers don’t get a large portion of brands’ digital spend, they rank high with consumers for trust, popularity and influence,” the Technorati report said. “When making overall purchase decisions,for consumers, blogs trail only behind retail and brand sites.

“With regard to overall sources for information on the internet, blogs rank among the top five “most trustworthy” sources. As an example, according to consumers, blogs aremore influential in shaping opinion than Twitter, and when it comes to affecting purchase decisions, more important than Facebook.”

In other words, Technorati suggests the places where brands spend their money is “not fully aligned with how and where consumers are seeing value and being influenced”.

For brands, the big lessons is they need to spend more time and money on bloggers given how much clout they have with consumers.

This is valuable insight given blogs have been shuffled to the social background amid the enthusiasm about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

For brands not engaging with bloggers, it is important to develop a well-articulated plan about who to approach, how you’re going to communicate with them, and who is going to maintain relationships on an ongoing basis.

The important thing about a blogger outreach program is not treating it like a one-off or infrequent exercise. Brands that have strong blog communities have spend time to nurture them. It means treating bloggers the same way they treat reporters, and providing them with the same access to information and people.