We love to receive feedback, comments and questions from our listeners and relish the opportunity to answer any specific questions or pain points that you may have. Recently we received an email from a communications and marketing student from Canada seeking some information specifically around the area of blogging. So we decided to help her out with her school homework and answer some of her burning questions on the topic and offer a few pointers as well.
So I recently received an email from a university student up in Canada, I’ll just read the email. It’s been shortened and edited a little bit for time as well as because there was a part where she was obviously sucking up to me because of the powerful individual that I am, and so I just decided to omit that part and spare you the eye rolling.
“Mr. Brooks aka The Rich Brooks aka Rich,
My name is Victoria and I am from Victoria, BC (insert joke here, Victoria from Victoria). I am a communications designer for the BC Games Society, we put on the summer and winter games for young athletes. We do not sell lottery tickets or issue hunting licenses. And partly – thanks to you – I am also a part time student at the University of Victoria. I’ve been thinking for a while of returning to school to help diversify and expand my knowledge in the field of digital marketing and communication. And after I started listening to your podcast I realized how much there is to learn and how much I love learning it.
But that’s enough of my long-winded introduction. I am emailing you because one of my assignments for my social media class is I have to interview a blogger. The first person I thought of was you! I basically have three questions I need to ask regarding how you feel social media had changed the larger communications industry. Thank you for taking the time to read my email and I look forward to next week’s Agents Of Change podcast.”
Ok, so that was the email from Victoria. Victoria, I feel your pain, because as somebody with the first name, “Rich”, who when I introduce myself half of the human races goes, “Ha! You’re rich, I’m poor.” Like I have never heard that joke before? So I understand where you’re coming from.
Anyway, I thought it was intriguing and I always like helping out students, so I told Victoria I would be more than happy to help her out and we talked back and forth about the best way to do that. And I ultimately just said, why don’t I just record this and turn it into a podcast episode. I had even played around with the idea of Victoria interviewing me and asking me the questions, but ultimately we decided it was just going to be easier if I just recorded it for her and then sent her the audio and let her submit it for her final class project or her homework.
So I promise you, even though you can’t hear her voice, these really are her questions and the fate of her final grade lies solely in my hands. (cue evil laugh) Anyway, on to the questions.
- In what ways do you think social media – specifically blogging – has changed the larger communications industry?
That’s actually a little bit of a stumper. I was kind of hoping we’d ease into the questions, something like, “Who’s you favorite blogger?” or “What’s the best SEO plugin for WordPress?” But ok, I’ll see if I can tackle this one first.
The way I look at this is traditionally communications and the communications industry was in the hands of just a few people or a few companies, and there were a lot of gatekeepers. If I was a business and wanted to reach my ideal customer, my choices were limited. I could buy time on TV, radio or the newspapers. There might be some other ways as well, maybe hire a PR agency who would get me into one of these magazines or newspapers or even featured on a TV show. But that was pretty much it. We got our information from the “powers that be”, and herein the United States it was ABC, CBS and NBC – you could make an argument for PBS and later on FOX – but then all of a sudden it was splintered. There was cable where we went from having 3-4 channels to suddenly having dozens and then hundreds of channels to choose from.
That continued to splinter over time and then with the birth of the internet and ultimately blogging and social media, there;s just so many more channels to choose from that we’re not always getting our message from the same person. And the other thing is – and this is what makes it interesting – once we got to the point with blogs, and later with social media, is now we have the opportunity of being the media. In fact, many marketing experts say that your company should be its own media empire.
There are definitely a lot of businesses that look to this, in fact, at the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference that we just put on Marcus Sheridan – who was our keynote speaker – was successful with his pool company by just blogging about pools. Obviously that’s not anything that you’re going to get the local paper or national magazine to pick up in and of itself, but he just created all this content. He became the content producer and as he said, he wanted to be “the Wikipedia of the pool industry”. And that’s literally what he did, creating hundreds of blog posts answering every sort of question he could about pools.
Now whether you’re a business or a nonprofit, the bottom line is tools like blogging, like podcasting, like online video sites like YouTube, give you a platform where you can create your own media empire and you don’t have to rely on other people, journalists or the media to tell your story for you. It;s your opportunity to have your own voice and reach the people who are most important to you.
- What are 3 reasons why businesses should be blogging?
Man, there are so many reasons why businesses should be blogging, but the first one that always pops into my mind is SEO, or search engine optimization. The bottom line is every single time you create a new blog post, you’re creating a new web page. And every web page is another opportunity to rank well for a very specific search term. So if I want to rank well for specific search terms – whether it’s “Victoria dentist” or “Portland, Maine web designer” – what I need to do is create content around those phrases.
And I know that Google and SEO is less about keywords than it used to be, but it’s still about keywords. Think of keywords as the words or the language that your customers are using. So if you can understand the words that your customers are using, then you can create valuable content by using those keywords in your answers. I’m not saying that you want to spam your own articles with keywords and do what used to be referred to as “keyword stuffing”, nothing of the sort. I’m talking about creating valuable content and blogging just makes it as easy as possible for you to get that content out in a timely fashion.
I often say that if somebody wants to rank well for a keyword, just start blogging about it. Not just one post, create 5, 10, 20, 50 posts – if that’s what it takes – for you to establish your expertise with the search engines that you know what you’re talking about. then create a lot of cross linking between those different blog posts using some of the keywords in there. And then of course have those keyword rich links go over to your regular website so you can promote some of the things that you’re doing.
Years ago in middle school or high school we did the old electromagnet thing, we basically connected an iron rod, 2 copper wires and a battery together. When you connect them you get this very low level magnet. But as you wrap the copper wire around the iron, time after time with every wrap around, that magnet becomes much more powerful. Blogging is much the same way. If you’ve got a concept that you want to rank well for – dog training, gluten-free pizza – whatever it is, the more valuable content you create around it the more magnetic your content becomes. So that’s one reason, SEO.
Another reason is to build authority, and they kind of go hand in hand. If I want to be seen as an expert in my field, I need to start blogging about it and start sharing my expertise. Now some people say, “I don’t know if I know enough to start blogging.” I’ll tell you a story that when Nikki who used to work in my office came to work for me – smart girl right out of college – had a marketing degree but had never done any SEO. I had her start a new blog about search engine optimization. Not about what she knew, but about what she was learning. And from that, not only did she become a much stronger writer – and something that continues to this day – but she also picked up a lot of people who were asking the same questions that she was, and Google was directing them to her blog. So she was sharing what she was learning, but those were the answers to the very questions that people were asking and it brought people to her blog and ultimately to our business.
Now one concerns that I hear time and again is, “But what if I give out all my best answers, and then people go somewhere else or decide to do it themselves?” Well the bottom line is if your corporate secrets can be summed up in one or two blog posts, you’re probably in the wrong business. The other thing is, chances are that content is already out there. Your competitors have already written that blog post. The only thing you have to offer is your own, unique, perspective on it, and it’s been my experience that the more I share and the more I give away, the more business comes to me. So don’t be afraid of giving away that content, it’s only going to help you grow your business.
And the third item – after SEO and building authority – is build your email list. The #1 thing that businesses should be doing, the most valuable asset, is an opt-in email list. More powerful than social media, more powerful than search, because the inbox is the most valuable real estate on the internet. So your customer’s inbox is what you need to get access to, and you can only do that ethically by getting their permission to email them. So when they come to your blog, have more options for them to opt-in to your email newsletter.Tell them that if they like this article they’ll get a whole bunch more content for free delivered right to their inbox, all you need is their email.
Have popup boxes, have giveaways, email lead magnets. People want that content so they are more than happy to give you their email address so you can send it to them. But just constantly build your email list so that then you can continue to market to the very people who want to hear from you.
- What do you see businesses doing badly in blogging and how can they improve?
Oh Victoria, the list is so long. I put together a short list and let’s see if I can’t run through these quickly. One thing I see them doing wrong is talking about themselves. In fact recently a new client came to me and said they wanted to start blogging and they had some great content they wanted me to take a look at, and he sent over what he thought was about 3 blog posts of content. He sent it over to me and I read through it and it was about 500 words long – so I don’t know where he got the idea that he could spin that into gold of 3 different blog posts – and basically what it was was a sales letter. He spent the entire time talking about how amazing his products and services were, and there’s probably a place for that, but it’s not a blog.
A blog, in my opinion, is where you establish expertise – not by selling – but by teaching. When companies talk too much about themselves on their blog, that’s a problem. Now certain blogs, you might have a product support blog where you talk about how to get more out of the software for example, slightly different thing. But for most businesses blogging about something that helps your customer succeed, that’s really what you want to be doing.
Similar to that is not writing to your audience. And what I mean by that is the purpose of the blog is to help our customers and engage our customers. So if I am – as a web designer – writing a blog about what web designers need to do or complaining about the kinds of clients web designers get, that’s a great blog if I’m selling to web designers. But it’s not a great blog is I’m selling to everybody who’s not a web designer. I’ve seen this before, copywriters writing blogs about how to become a better copywriter. Unless that’s your business, that doesn’t make any sense. Instead, that you want to be focusing on is your audience, your customers, what are they struggling with and how can you help them. So again, really make your blog very user or audience focused.
Once you start writing that blog post, generic titles. I see a lot of blogs out there – especially from solopreneurs – with blog posts like “Taking It Back”, or “And Then This Happened”. With these very generic names taken from some mediocre album cover or something like that, they don’t say anything. Then they ask me why isn’t anybody reading their blog. It’s because nobody is searching for, “And Then This Happened”.
You need to have keyword rich blog post titles that promise something and then ultimately your blog post delivers on that. So it could be a blog post on how to paint your truck red – if that’s what the blog post is about – be very specific in the title about what that blog post is going to be.
Also, lame or no pictures. People are very visual and this has always been true, and maybe never more true than it is today. So you want to make sure that you’ve got some great pictures, eye catching pictures, I’m a big fan for bloggers on a limited budget for Dollar Photo Club. You can get really awesome high-res versions of photos for $1 a piece, it’s like a monthly subscription of $10 for 10 photos, great resource. Or pick up your iPhone or Android camera and take some pictures, you can use tools like Canva to overlay different words over your images so it’s got nice visual to them. If you’ve got the time and the skills maybe you want to create an image that has a caption underneath so people will be more likely to pin that to a board on Pinterest. And then when the people see it on the Pinterest board they will see what your article is about.
For example I had a blog post called something like, “Fifteen way To Generate Online Leads With YouTube”, and I started with a photo of a crazy looking woman behind a video camera, but then I added the title of the blog post to the image. So when people shared that on Pinterest, the people who follow their boards would see what the article is about and not just a picture of a crazy woman behind a video camera.
A lack of consistency and publishing can also be a problem. If you write a bunch of blog posts and then basically abandon your blog for 6 months and then wonder why nobody is reading it, that’s a problem. I understand that it’s difficult to write content, I’ve actually been going through a little bit of a dry spell myself, but I’m trying to get back into it. It’s important to continually publish good, high quality content. Not just publish for publishing sake, but chances are there’s a lot of valuable content in your head, you’ve just got to get it out there. If people are still asking you questions in real life about your business, about your industry, about your offering, that’s all great ideas for content.
So the same thing along those lines, don’t publish mediocre content. I see a lot of people publishing blogs because they were told they had to, but there’s really not value behind it. So consistently does not have to equal often. If you can create one great blog post a month, that’s going to be better than 30 average blog posts a month. You want to spend a lot more time researching and polishing your blog posts, and that’s the kind of stuff that gets rewarded with inbound links, with shares, with Google high rankings, with a bunch of other things. So spend more time researching and polishing your blog post so they really stand out, because you’re never going to beat the internet on volume so you have to beat it on perspective, clarity, quality of your content.
And perhaps the last thing that I see businesses doing when it comes to blogging is no call to action. Now I’m not saying that every blog post needs to end with, “Call us today for a free consultation” or something that bold, but if it is something that you can absolutely help people with, maybe you do end with some sort of call to action such as , “Hey, if you have any questions or problems about this or if you don’t understand it, call us today and we’d be glad to help.” Something along those lines can go a long way.
So I think if businesses do a better job of talking about their audience and the problems that their audience are having and trying to help them solve those problems, having keyword rich titles and dramatic images and trying to create a consistent publishing calendar, and then making sure that you’ve got some strong calls to action as appropriate, they’re going to see more traffic and more leads coming from that blog.
Ok Victoria, I hope this was helpful, I hope you get an ”A” on that report, and I wish you the best of luck in your future digital marketing career or wherever life takes you. Thanks for this opportunity in creating some content for my own podcast.
Did you miss the illustrious Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference this year? Fear not, if you hurry you can still snag yourself an “on demand pass” to catch up on all of the amazing content you missed out on.
A couple helpful resources that Rich mentioned pertaining to visual content to accompany your blog post:
Rich is the President of Flyte New Media, a web design and marketing firm in Portland, Maine. He speaks, he blogs, he podcasts and he puts on a killer, yearly conference! (Is there anything this guy can’t do?!)
Transcriptions services provided by Jennifer Scholz Transcription Services.