Are you updating the old content on your site?
Are you updating the old content on your site?

[Estimated reading time: 5 Minutes]

What are you doing with those dusty old posts hanging around in the archives? Do you ignore them and hope they’ll go away or do you have a blog update plan?

This isn’t the first time I’ve asked you to look in your archives. It was the topic of episode 1 of this podcast where we talked about having a blog clearout. But if you don’t have a process and a plan for updating it’s something that can quite easily slip off your to-do list.

Last week I listened to an episode of Darren Rowse’s Problogger podcast and I felt inspired again.

Listen below to find out more of my blog update plan:



Which posts should I update?

How many posts do you have on your site? I just looked and I have the frightening number of 692 published posts on my website and you can make that 694 by the time you listen to this. Where do I even start updating that lot?

  • Should I start on day 1?
  • Should I, as I’d suggested before, start with the most popular posts?
  • Should I focus on one category at a time?

Darren suggested a time machine method. Each day he looks back to what he posted 6 months ago and 12 months ago and updates those posts. He says this doesn’t take him long, but perhaps he’s a better writer, requiring less editing than I do.

I chose a method I’d read about on Jeff Bullas’s blog.

To follow his process you’ll need to have Google Search Console (used to be webmaster tools) set up. It’s not hard to do, particularly if you have Google Analytics installed on your site already.

In Search Console find ‘Search analytics’ in the ‘Search traffic’ menu

Select ‘Position’ and ‘pages’ from the page navigation

Use Google Search Console to find posts to update
Use Google Search Console to find posts to update

 

You’ll get a list of posts with their ‘ranking position’ next to them. Jot down any posts that rank between 11 & 30. These may need a small push to start appearing on page 1 of Google search results.

I made a huge list in a matter of minutes. Then I picked the most important ones that were either:

  1. Really important for my business
  2. Would be full of outdated information

How often should you update?

Darren, whose podcast inspired me is a full-time blogger. His blog is his business so it’s easier for him to fit updates into his schedule. As small business owners, we probably don’t have, time to update 2 posts a day.

What is manageable for you?

For me, it’s one a week. I have found an hour on a Friday that I can allocate to updating. I know that means that I’ll never get through all my content but it’s realistic, it’s a goal I can stick to.

It’s important to allocate a time once a week to stop it dropping off your to do list.

Creating your blog update checklist

Now you have a list of posts and a schedule but what should you look to update?

I have a checklist of things I go through each time I refresh content. This is what’s on it.

1. Keyword research

Keyword research
Keyword research

if I’m updating a post I created in my lazy SEO days I’ll need to do some keyword research to define what to optimise for. I’ll need to come back to this once you have finished any rewrites.

2. Content updates

What needs a rewrite?
What needs a rewrite?

Have a quick read through of your post and make note of anything that needs updating. Maybe something has changed that makes it look dated,or perhaps your writing style has improved since you wrote it.

Look for opportunities where you can enhance the text, use more detail or add images to illustrate a point. Longer, more detailed posts tend to do better on search engines.

Once you’ve read it through and made notes get stuck into the editing. I usually do this in Written Kitten, or another writing app rather than directly on the site, this gives me time to play with my words before I click the update button.

3. Images

Do your images need updating?
Do your images need updating?

Have you got an image? Is it good? Does it meet the current style of your blog? If not you may want to refresh these. I recommend having at least 2 images, one horizontal for Facebook and Twitter sharing and one portrait for Pinterest. If you don’t have both types now is the time to add them. If there is no text overlay on your images you might consider adding it. It can really help with shares, particularly on Pinterest.

If it is a long post you might consider adding extra images to break up the text.

4. Layout

Layout
Layout

How does the post look? Could you employ some of the layout rules we discussed last week in episode 40 to make it easier to read?

Are you using subheadings correctly? Could you break up some of those long paragraphs?

5. Call To Action

Does it have a CTA?
Does it have a CTA?

Is there a call to action in the post that tells people what to do next? This could be a banner advertising one of your services, a call for comments, a free download in exchange for an email address or a prompt to buy.

We’ll talk about Call To Actions in more detail in a future show.

6. Internal links

Have you included an internal link?
Have you included an internal link?

Are you linking to other content on your site from the post? Can you add fresh links, is there new content on your site you can link to? Linking to your own content can decrease bounce rate and helps guide search spiders around your site.

7. External links

External links
External links

Are you linking your readers to relevant resources on other sites? Are there any links you can add? These are great for readers who want to read more, see the source of your information and they make you look more trustworthy.

8. Could you improve your headline?

Do you have a great headline?
Do you have a great headline?

Use the Emotional Value Headline Generator to see if your headline is powerful enough. I always choose three headlines when I promote my posts, I’d recommend you do the same and pick the highest scoring one as you main headline.

9. SEO

Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation

If you use Yoast you can work through your SEO for your new keyword. If not ensure you have used it in the page title, the first paragraph, in a sub-heading and somewhere else in the post.

It’s a good idea to use related keywords in the body of your text as well, these are words and phrases relating to your main keyword.

10. Promote it

Don't forget to promote it
Don’t forget to promote it

Google search console lets you submit a post to be crawled. Once you are 100% happy with your post you can do this instead of waiting for Google to find your update.

Now you’ve updated your post it will look shiny and new and you should feel great. You’ll want to promote it. So do, share it out on your social channels again. I have a very specific process I follow each time I promote a post. You can see it here.


Blogging Challenge

Prepare your own update plan. Remember to include:

  • Which posts you are going to update
  • How frequently you will update
  • Set a specific time once a week to make your updates
  • A checklist of things you need to check on each post

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

If you’ve been following my challenges or if you have done something on your blog that has worked well I’d love to hear about it. You can leave me a comment below, tweet me @spiderworking or snap me @spiderworking.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

Are you updating the old content on your site?
Are you updating the old content on your site?
Facebook Groups - The New Way To Market Your Business On Facebook?
Facebook Groups – The New Way To Market Your Business On Facebook?

Are you using Facebook groups for your business? Should you be? What’s the benefit?

When Facebook pages first started, or when they were in their early years, engagement was great. You’d get comments, discussion, conversation. All you had to do was post a question and you’d get a range of viewpoints.

We may have used the word ‘community’ to describe our pages but they were far from community. When I look back at the posts that got the most engagement, I notice that they weren’t really conversations. I’d post something, someone would respond, I’d reply. It was me talking to people on a one to one basis, not a group of people in conversation.

We didn’t use groups much back then because we didn’t have to. Facebook reach either wasn’t a thing or wasn’t a thing we worried about too much.

How times have changed.

Today Facebook groups offer us an opportunity to reach our audiences in the way we once did with our pages. But this time, we are building communities.

Watch below for my Facebook Group tips

 

I have a group now. I’m building it slowly and implementing what I’ve learned from being an active member of other groups.

Here are my tips for being successful:

1. It’s not a group about your business, it’s a group about your customers

This is not a direct sales tool but a place to build a community of potential customers and amplifiers (people who will talk about you to others).

To do this you need to base your group on a common interest your customers may have. In my case, I created a group for small business bloggers to compliment my podcast.

2. Brand It

The name of your group shouldn’t be the name of your business but it is important to brand it. I’ve included the name of my business at the end of my group name. ‘Small Business Bloggers (Spiderworking).’ I stole this idea from Donna Moritz’s Visual Content Creators group.

3. Have some guidelines for group and admins

It’s very easy for a group to get out of hand if you don’t have guidelines. These tell people what to expect in the group and tell them what sort of content and conversations you’d like them to post.

Many people use groups as a place to promote their own content. If you don’t want your group flooded with links you should make this one of your guidelines. Think about what would cause someone to get banned from the group, decide if you are going to allow people to promote business products and services.

It is important to have these guidelines for members but it’s also a guide for your moderators or admins so that they know when to remove threads and members.

4. Decide who it’s for and only let relevant people in

If you’ve created a group based on a specific interest you may want to limit membership. For example, one of my favourite groups is UK Bloggers, I had to confirm my Britishness (I’m an English ex-pat living in Ireland) and that I owned a blog in order to join.

4. Have themed weekly threads

Having weekly themed threads is a good idea. People will get used to and look forward to these. You could have a ‘selfie day’ or a ‘promote yourself day’.

If you are scatty like me you’ll need to use scheduling tools to push out these posts. I use Hootsuite to post to groups, it’s also great for managing comments and interaction.

5. Have a list of topics on hand to spark conversation

Don’t let interaction dip on your group. Make a list of questions and conversation topics so you can drop one in when you need to.

6. Ask for feedback

Your Facebook group can be a wonderful place to ask for feedback. I often run blog post topics by group members before I start writing. They always pick up on things I’ve missed.

7. Create a content plan

Just like any digital marketing it pays off to have a content plan. This can contain a mixture of your weekly threads, conversations and curated content. It will help you keep your group active.

8. Join the conversations

At first, you will be the primary person posting conversation threads but as your group grows others will begin to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and share thoughts. When this happened encourage it by entering into the discussion.

9. Reward and celebrate group members

Has one of your members recently achieved something? Hit a goal? Tried something new? Had a birthday? Celebrate them in the group. It’s a great way to nurture your community and it can help people get to know group members better.

10. Cool tool – Grytics Group Analytics

This tool was mentioned to me on Blab by Ian Cleary last year but I’ve only just gotten round to trying it. Grytics gives you analytics for your Facebook group. My group is small so it’s still relatively easy to manage but I’d say this will be an essential tool for larger group admins.

What do you think?

Do you run a Facebook group for your business? Do you have any tips for success to recommend? I’d love to hear them.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

How To Build A Facebook Group That Encourages Community
How To Build A Facebook Group That Encourages Community
12 Blog Post Layout Tips That Will Keep Your Readers Happy
12 Blog Post Layout Tips That Will Keep Your Readers Happy

[Estimated reading time: 8 minutes]

Is your blog easy to read? Is your content great but your blog post layout is getting in the way?

As bloggers, we spend a lot of time writing quality content. We obsess about getting it right, telling the right story, reeling people in but many of us neglect the layout of our posts.

No matter how great your content is, if the layout gets in the way you’ll lose readers as quickly as you pick them up and all that painstaking work that went into writing your post will be wasted.

Today we’re going to look at how to layout blog posts and some of the mistakes we make when creating our posts and our websites.

Design can be subjective, what one person loves another one hates. But, there are some rules that are universal, that are preferred by most and make reading your content much easier.

I’ve picked 12, what I consider univeral rules and that’s what I’m going to show you today. I’ve steered away from talking too much about the layout of your blog as these can be harder to fix fixes but a few general rules may have crept in.

Listen to my 12 blog post layout tips below



1. Column width – have one sidebar

This is less important than it used to be as so many read on their mobile phone. We mustn’t forget about desktop and laptop users though. 80% of my readers read on computers so it’s important that I make it easy for them to read my content.

column-width
column width

What does a sidebar have to do with this?

Have you ever been to a site, you were tempted in with a good headline, but when you get there the content is a sliver in the middle of the screen? Some sites have sidebars on both sides, others have 2 or more on one side. This makes the content look like an afterthought.

If you have two or more sidebars take another look, do you really need them? Do people click the items in your sidebar?

Instead of too many sidebars, perhaps you have none at all. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The weird thing is, if your text is too wide it could turn readers off. It seems, though there is a lot of debate about the issue, that readers prefer shorter lines. A sidebar will help you achieve this and stop your text sprawl too far across the page.

2. Headings

Headings are important for two reasons:

1. They split up the text. Web readers tend to scan posts, your header can interrupt this and capture their attention.

2. Search engines read the HTML behind your title text and use that information to rank your site.

Headings
Headings

I’ve made mistakes with my headers before. The first mistake I made is a common one. Instead of using the H2, H3 and H4 tags WordPress offers I would make the text bold.

This did give some form of heading, one that the reader might pick up on but it meant I was missing out on the opportunity to tell search engines more about my content.

The second mistake I’ve made is using the wrong header text. One of the websites I manage uses a very large font size for it’s sub headers (H2). This meant that my headings would sometimes spill over two or more lines. This didn’t look well so I ignored H2 and went straight in with H3.

Search engines will get confused if you use the wrong tags. You need to use them hierarchically.

  • H1 should be used as your main blog title only
  • H2 is for your main sub-headings
  • H3 as secondary sub-headings

HTML code on the back end of your post will tell the search engines what header type you are using.

WordPress users will find the H1, H2, H3 tags in the toolbar whilst writing the post. Select your heading and click ‘paragraph’ for your header options.

Choose your header type from the drop down menu
Choose your header type from the drop down menu

Blogger users will also find the header options in their toolbar. The language is slightly different, instead of paragraph you’ll have ‘normal’. H2 is ‘Sub heading’ and H3 ‘minor heading’

Select your header type from the Blogger toolbar
Select your header type from the Blogger toolbar

3. Text alignment

Text alignment
Text alignment

Centralised text can look nice but it’s hard to read.

Think about it, when is the last time you picked up a magazine, newspaper or book and the text was centre aligned?

We are used to reading left to right, centralised breaks our rhythm. All that time you spent writing beautiful sentences is wasted if we need to pause looking for the beginning of the next line.

Justifying your text (letting it automatically fill the full width of the screen) is also a problem, it could look good on your screen but then stretch out on different screen sizes leaving odd gaps between words.

4. Opening paragraph

Opening paragraph
Opening paragraph

Your opening paragraph is what leads people into your post. It will tell people that they have arrived in the right place and encourage them to read on.

Make it no longer than 4 sentences and explain in it what people can expect in the rest of the post.

Some bloggers add weight to their opening paragraph by using a larger font or a slightly different colour to the rest of the text on the site.

I’ve recently started adding a ‘pre-opener’. One line that gives a strong indication of what is in the post.

5. Optimal paragraph and sentence length

Paragraph length
Paragraph length

There’s something weird about reading stuff on the web. I’ve never picked up a book and thought ‘there’s way too much text there, I think I’ll leave it. Yet this is exactly what we do when we visit websites. Even the most interesting posts that we know we need to read can be off-putting if we are faced with long heavy paragraphs packed with long winded sentences.

Perhaps it’s because we expect a quick read when we read online. We want to be able to scroll and scan and we can’t do that if the paragraphs are too long.

The secret to keep people reading is short paragraphs, breaking your long posts and paragraphs into digestible chunks makes the reading experience much easier.

I couldn’t find any data on optimal paragraph length but I’d recommend keeping it to three or four shortish sentences. Hemingway is a handy tool for keeping your sentence length short, it flags long and very long sentences in your text.

6. Bullet points/numbered lists

Lists
Lists

Your shorter paragraphs make your posts more digestible and so do bullet points and numbered lists. Go through your blog post, is there anywhere that you’ve a long, comma separated list? Consider breaking this out into a bulleted or numbered list.

This makes the content easier to read, but there’s another benefit too. It puts more focus on the items on the list making them memorable.

7. Images

In Ireland there have been discussions about introducing plain packaging on cigarettes. Instead of the branding we’re familiar with there will be no label, just a health warning. Tobacco companies are up in arms. Customers are brand loyal, they associate the packaging and the logo with themselves, it becomes part of their own personal brand. Remove that and hopefully cigarettes will become less appealing.

Images
Images

A blog post without a hero image is like a product in plain packaging. You are missing out on building brand loyalty with your readers. Choose a stye for your images that will be consistent with your branding, use this enough and people will start to associate it with your site.

There is a certain format that we’ve become used to when reading web copy. We expect to see a hero image at the top of the page followed by the text.

You should create at least two images for each post:

1. Landscape formate for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
2. Portrait format for sharing on Pinterest.

One of these can be your hero image, the one that sits at the top of your page. For me this is the landscape format but choose the one that fits your blog best.

For longer posts include more images to break up the text.

Avoid text wrapping as much as possible when creating your posts. Although I do use this occasionally it can translate badly on different screen sizes and mobile devices. Random words can get squished between pictures or thrown onto new lines. I much prefer adding images centred, breaking up the text.

The one exception to this rule is your hero image. If you choose a portrait one it would look strange if you didn’t float it to one side or the other with text filling the gap, just remember to check how it translates to mobile before you hit publish.

If you do share inline images it’s always better to float them right so as not to interrupt the reader flow.

8. Links

Links
Links

When we start blogging the technical stuff can get the better of us. I’m not sure how far I was into my blogging life when I worked out how to link to other sites.

I know I’m not alone either, I’ve seen loads of newbie bloggers just paste the link into their copy instead of ‘hyper linking’ within their text. When you post a link select a section of text related to the link you want to paste, click the chain icon in your blog post toolbar and paste your link in the window that appears. Your highlighted text is now clickable.

You should be including links within all your content, both to your own posts and to external sites. When you hyper-link text make that section at least three or four words long. This makes it easier for readers to click, particularly on mobile.

9. Format sections in bold

Bold text
Bold text

Even with all your subheadings, bulleted lists and images your text can still look a bit bland and heavy. Look through your post for key points, learnings or words of wisdom. Select these and make them bold. This will make them stand out and stop readers scrolling by.

10.Conclusion

Conclusion
Conclusion

Don’t let your post tail off or finish abruptly. Look for a way to engage readers further. You can ask for feedback, summarise your post or draw conclusions. It’s a great way to keep people reading to the end of the post and can encourage more comments.

11. Typeface and font

Typeface
Typeface

Take a look at your site and the type face you are using.

  • Is your text a readable size on desktop and mobile?
  • Is the font easy to read? Most designers recommend a sans serif typeface, that’s one with out the frilly bits at the end of letters. It’s far easier to read these online.
  • Is it a standard typeface – there are beautiful and complex typefaces out there but many browsers don’t recognise them. It may seem boring to stick to web friendly fonts but if you want to be sure it’s displaying correctly on every browser it’s a must.

Here’s a list of web friendly fonts.

12. Colour scheme

Colour Scheme
Colour Scheme

I’ve left this to last as it’s something that more relevant to your web design than your blog posts.

I recommend creating a visual style guide for your blog and sticking to it. But, you need to make sure your colour scheme isn’t getting in the way of your words.

You may love pink and it may be the main colour of your logo but it might not be the right choice for your text or the background of your blog posts. Remember, readability is the key to having readers stick around.


Before you commit to a style find an honest friend and ask them to take a look at your blog. Ask them about the design. Then make the changes and ask them to look again. Has your site improved? Is it easier to read? Did they read more before starting to scan?

And don’t just ask one person, design can be subjective, if you’re really brave ask a few of your readers or join the small business bloggers group on Facebook and ask for feedback.

Finally measure using Google analytics, did your average time on site rise after making design changes?

Blogging Challenge

This week’s challenge is to go through my 12 layout tips above and use them when constructing your next blog post. I’d love to see the results and hear about your experiences with layout so leave me a comment below.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

12 Blog Post Layout Tips That Will Keep Your Readers Happy
12 Blog Post Layout Tips That Will Keep Your Readers Happy

 

5 Facebook Ad Tips You Need To Try Before It's Too Late
5 Facebook Ad Tips You Need To Try Before It’s Too Late

Small business owners, if you haven’t tried Facebook advertising yet time is running out. Try these 5 Facebook ad tips to get started.

If you aren’t using Facebook ads yet you need to start experimenting now. Why? Because space is running out, soon the price will go up and your opportunity to play around and see what works will have passed.

We’ve already seen the daily spend on some ad types increase from €1/£1/1$ per day to €5 per day for website clicks and even more for other ad types and as more people start competing for the same audience we’re going to continue to see a leap in the cost per click, CPM and conversion.

I’ve found a hack that lets you get around the €5 limit, but how long until spending anything less than €5 a day becomes pointless?


Do Facebook ads make you tear your hair out? I can save you time and make your budget stretch further. I currently have space for 2 Facebook ad clients. Let me manage your account. Prices start at €150 per month ex VAT (not including ad spend). Get in touch to find out more


Here’s how to change the way you get charged in ads manager

Choose more options under ‘Budget’

change budget type
Select more options to change how you get charged for the ad

Select ‘CPM’ from the options. You should now be allowed to run on a budget of €1 per day

choose CPM
Choose CPM to get a minimum budget of €1 per day

 

If you’re new to Facebook ads or if you are struggling with them I’ve some tips for you, how many can I squeeze into 1 minute? Watch below to find out

Facebook Advertising Tips For Small Business

 

The Problem

Facebook ads are great value, they’ve been a real leveller for small businesses who have been able to reach their audience on a budget they can afford. But Facebook only has so many advertising slots available. They know how many ads their users are willing to accept in their feeds, if they go over that they risk losing users and curbing interaction.

Because their advertising product has become so popular with businesses of all sizes they will soon run out of space. Many suggested Instagram stories were launched not to crush Snapchat but to make more space for ads.

With this in mind there are two things that are sure to happen:

1. Relevancy score will become more important

Each ad you run gets a relevancy score out of 10 depending on how well it performed with the audience you targeted. This score has to become more relevant in the future. Advertisers with consistently high relevancy scores could see their ads perform better over time.

You can see your relevancy score for your ad campaigns in ads manager:

relevance score
Find your relevance score by looking at ‘all ads in this campaign’ in ads manager

2. Higher cost of Facebook ads

I don’t think there is anything we can do to avoid the higher cost of Facebook ads in the future. If ad space is becoming more competitive the price has to go up. This is really bad news for small business. Not only are we seeing our organic reach drop but we will soon be priced out of the market. And that’s why I’m saying you should experiment now, whilst it’s still affordable. If you wait, experimentation will be too costly.

5 Tips for getting more from your Facebook ads

1. Audience size

In the past I’ve limited audience size in exchange for hyper-specific targeting but I’ve recently found that a bigger, slightly looser audience can work better. This gives Facebook a bigger pool of people to choose from for your objective and you eliminate the danger of showing your ads repetitively to the same people.

Jon Loomer also elaborated on how interest targeting can be imprecise. When I use targeting now I ensure I target people who have an interest it ‘interest 1’ and ‘interest 2’ which will help eliminate errors.

2. Eye Catching Graphics

When we set up ads we’re usually on our desktops but most people viewing them are going to be on mobile. That means we need to select images that are eye catching even when they are small. Avoid images with too much detail and look for ones that stand out when you look at them from afar. Bright colours can work well as can photos of people/animals looking straight out of the screen at you.

3. Choose the objective that relates to you

I’m not against hitting the boost post button, it can be a really great way to get engagement on your post and it’s quick and easy to set up.

However, if you want to get people visiting your website you should create a ‘website clicks’ ad in ads manager, if you want people to fill in a form on your website go for a conversions ad (although you’ll need to add code to your website to do so). If you want email addresses, try a lead gen ad.

Why? Facebook knows how it’s users interact when on their network, if you run a website clicks ad it will show it to people who are most likely to click links, the same goes for the other objectives.

4. Switch off Instagram

If you want to advertise on Instagram I recommend creating an ad specifically for that audience. A Facebook ad that has been pushed out to Instagram rarely fits the Instagram style.

For that reason I recommend switching off the Instagram placement for the Facebook ads you run.

Here’s how:

In ads manager scroll down to placements. Select ‘Edit placements’

edit placements
Choose edit placements to eliminate the Instagram placement.

Un-check the Instagram placement

Remove the Instagram placement
Remove the Instagram placement

5. Split testing

When you create ads you have the opportunity to use more than one image. Facebook will then split test these for you and use the most effective ones in future campaigns. I recommend having at least two and preferably 3 images for each campaign you run.

If you are a more advanced Facebook ads user you can also create versions of your ads with different text.

Your Turn

Have you experimented with Facebook ad? Do you have any tips or secrets that work for you? I’d love to hear them.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

5 Ways You Can Be Smarter And Get Better Results With Your Facebook Ads
5 Ways You Can Be Smarter And Get Better Results With Your Facebook Ads
Build Reader Trust And Target Buyer Questions - The Secret To Content Success - An Interview With Marcus Sheridan
Build Trust And Target Buyer Questions – The Secret To Content Success – An Interview With Marcus Sheridan

Are your building reader trust? Are your readers ready to buy from you? It’s easy to overlook these questions but they could be crucial to your success.

When Marcus Sheridan started blogging for his failing swimming pool company he went straight in with bottom of the funnel content. His blog captured people who were ready to buy. He ignored the fluffy posts and produced articles and video that people would find when they were researching their purchase. This strategy turned the fortunes of the company around.

I’m not sure when I first heard of Marcus but when I started reading his stuff I realised I’d been doing it wrong. I’d been doing the fluffy, top of the funnel content but had forgotten about the people who were ready to buy.

Marcus has a lot of advice to share with small business owners, how to maximise our limited marketing time, what type of content we should create and techniques to build reader trust.

Listen to my interview with Marcus Sheridan below



The River Pools Story

Marcus Sheridan set up RiverPools, a swimming pool company, with friends and it grew until the economy crashed. Suddenly it looked like they would go out of business. Consultants told him to file for bankruptcy but that would mean losing his home. He needed a solution and it was blogging and content marketing that offered it.

After reading about content marketing and inbound marketing he realised:

“If you are willing to hear the questions people are asking and willing to address them on your website with text and video you just might save your company, and that’s what we did.”

They Ask We Answer

In the past, I’ve steered away from talking about price and I advised others to do the same. That’s until I heard the RiverPools story. Marcus points to a post ‘How Much Does a Fiberglass Pool Cost

That post alone has generated 3 million dollars in sales so far. So it seems talking about price might be a very good thing. In fact, the top five pages on the River Pools blog are all to do with cost and price

RiverPools is now the most trafficked website in the world getting around 600,000 visitors a month. Their goal was to become the Wikipedia of the swimming pool industry and that should be the goal of any small business blog.

How do you do that? Make sure you address any question from your customers. Be it good, bad or ugly.

If someone was starting a business today what would you tell them?

“Small businesses have the opportunity to be a digital David in a land of Goliaths.”

The nice thing about being a small business according to Marcus is that you don’t have to ask permission. You don’t have the red tape and lawyers that hold big business back. This allows us to be outliers and create new rules.

Marcus had customers asking him to recommend his competitors, other people they could go to that do the same as him.

He figured if they were asking him they were asking the internet too. So he wrote a review of the top 5 pool builders in his area. Now if you search for pool companies in Richmond Virginia or any of his competitors you’ll find his blog post.

It would be impossible to get a big company to do that, to take that risk. This is a huge advantage for small businesses, we can have an idea and act on it without having to wait for approval.

5 questions we ask when we want to buy something:

  1. Cost and price
  2. Problems, negatives, drawbacks
  3. Compare with other things
  4. Reviews
  5. The best stuff about those things

As small businesses, it’s important to address all these questions with our content. If we do we’re grabbing customers when they are ready to buy.

The mistake a lot of business bloggers make is the one I’ve made too often and that’s to create fluffy content for the top of the buying cycle rather than tackle buyer based questions .

For example: “5 fun games to play in your swimming pool” could get traffic ,but the people it attracts may not be interested in buying a pool.

Whereas: “Who are the best pool providers in Richmond Virginia?” is a search someone would do when they are looking to buy.

A key takeaway for us as small business bloggers is to focus on what people want to know when they are ready to buy

Is video the way forward? Is written content dead?

In a recent BuzzFeed interview Mark Zuckerburg anticipated that in 5 years most of the content consumed and shared on Facebook would be video.

But no, Marcus doesn’t believe the written word is dead, it will, however, lessen in the future. As web content creators we need to talk about communication rather than writing. World class communication will never be dead.

“Communication, the ability to make people trust you, like you and be motivated by you through your words whether they are written spoken or on a stage is a skill a lot of people miss out on.”

A lot of the principles of good blogging apply to video. For example trust:

Buyers expect sellers to be biased. If we want to build trust, we need to show people immediately we’re not biased.

Marcus wrote an article comparing fiberglass pools to concrete pools and it’s been read 100s of thousands of times. It’s not an article telling readers that fiberglass is better. It’s an article that shows the pros and cons of both.

By doing this he disarms the buyer and encourages them to read on. It builds trust because it’s showing he’s not biased. Readers won’t have expected that.

Video content is a big part of business today and small businesses need to embrace it

Marcus thinks we should all begin to think like a videographer, become the videographer for our own businesses. We might not be comfortable with it, we may not like it but it’s something we have to do.

“Consumers and buyers don’t care if we like video, but they know they like it. Too often as companies, we allow our opinions or size screw up great sales and marketing practices.”

“There’s a reason why we have more rich teens in the world than we ever had. That’s because they aren’t too scared to embrace technology.”

As small businesses, we need to start to focus on progress over perfection. To bite the bullet and be willing to put out more raw content. Perfection will just hold us back.

“I look back on my old articles on river pools and they were bad. The focus on perfection has destroyed a lot of art.”

“Self-labelling yourself that you are not good at something is not a business model. We are so impatient as consumers today. I feel that if I don’t know what you look like I don’t want to give you my money.”

By letting our customers see us we’re building trust, something we will never be able to do if we hide behind perfect corporate content. And it is us, our personalities that are at the heart of our businesses after all.

The Balance

Marcus has recently embarked on his own video project, ‘The Balance’. It’s about finding the elusive work-life balance that all small business owners dream of.

“We’ve heard so much about this hustle culture, grind grind grind work work work. People want to be a success business wise but they also want to be personally fulfilled.”

The Balance is a counter balance to the Gary Vaynerchuk lifestyle. Although Gary Vee is someone we can admire we’re not all going to be able to work the hours he does. It can be hard to measure up to his standards.

When we are online we do compare ourselves to other people, whether that is Gary Vee or a Facebook friend and that can lead to self-doubt and depression.

How can you fit creating content into a busy work schedule and family life:

During the grind years, before you are successful enough to find extra time Marcus has a few tricks, some of them will sound familiar and some of them won’t be easy for us to swallow:

  1. Stop watching TV
  2. Sleep less (Marcus used to write blog posts at midnight for RiverPools)
  3. Use video, we can be more prolific with video as it’s much easier to create.
  4. Don’t be too picky with your content

Small business bloggers often lose their mojo after blogging for a while, but don’t let it get to you. You may be bored of creating the same kind of content over and over but your customers aren’t.

Marcus points to ProBlogger who are writing about the same sort of stuff they did 5 years ago.

If you are stuck for content tell us what you are angry about, if you are in a content rut tell us something about your industry that bothers you.

“When you are angry you sometimes write the best content. When something bothers us there’s a good chance it bothers other people and it needs to be talked about.”

“If you are scared to hit publish there’s a good chance it’s good. Some of the best pieces of content I’ve published my hands were shaking when I hit publish. If you wonder if you are saying something out of anger or truth step away for a while or sleep on it.”

However, it’s important to balance what we say in anger or when we rant. We still need to build that trust. We need to tell people it’s ‘how we feel’ that ‘we might be wrong but this is why I feel this way’.

If you are good in the way that you disagree you can actually endear people to you. If you have the attitude that you are the smartest guy in the room you will alienate them.

“It’s ok to have an opinion but we don’t want to say other people are flat out idiots (unless it’s your brand).”

“If you are really trying to reach as many people as possible then there’s no reason to do that. The quickest way to eliminate trust is for the person we are watching truly believes they are intellectually superior to us.”

So look around you, what annoys you? Don’t be scared to voice your opinion but make sure you do it in a humble way. When people see you rant they are looking for a reason to disagree, make sure you are opening a conversation, not closing one.

4 Key Takeaways

  1. Produce content that will attract buyers when they are ready to buy
  2. Build trust by sharing unbiased opinion
  3. Create video content, your customers enjoy it so you have to conquer your fears
  4. Don’t be scared of controversy but make sure you aren’t arrogant with your opinions

Find out more about Marcus:

The Balance on iTunes
Mad Marketing Podcast 
Marcus Sheridan on YouTube
Email: marcus@thesaleslion.com


Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

If you’ve been following my challenges or if you have done something on your blog that has worked well I’d love to hear about it. You can leave me a comment below, tweet me @spiderworking or snap me @spiderworking.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

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Build Trust And Target Buyer Questions - The Secret To Content Success - An Interview With Marcus Sheridan
Build Trust And Target Buyer Questions – The Secret To Content Success – An Interview With Marcus Sheridan
Business book club read - Peers Inc by Robin Chase
Business book club read – Peers Inc by Robin Chase

Can capitalism save the world? That’s the big and surprising question addressed by Robin Chase in Peers Inc.*

It was less than 20 years ago that I first watched Rollerball. A 70’s movie than imagined a world owned and run by corporations rather than countries. It was a dystopian fantasy then but it’s one that seems to be creeping into our 21st-century world. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft all have control of our lives and it’s something we’ve given into willingly. We even take on specific teams, iPhone v Android, PC v Mac.

In Peers Inc Robin Chase offers a counterbalance to this future. She imagines a better world, where capitalism can be used as a force for good.

Robin was the founder of Zipcar, a car-sharing service that allows people to rent a car by the hour rather than own one. I saw her speak at Inspirefest earlier this year and was so impressed I picked up her book.

Excess capacity

The foundation of Zipcar, AirBnB, Uber, Google Maps even WhatsApp is what Robin calls ‘excess capacity’, making full use of the resources we already have.

Airbnb lets us rent our spare rooms, transforming that excess capacity into income. Zipcar means we don’t need to buy a car that sits in the drive all the time, we can share one with others. Google maps let us use the unused computing power on our phones and the satellite system to find our way around.

This is a concept I can buy into, it’s green and I can see why Robin thinks it could help address climate change as a result.

Benefits of excess capacity

Convenience

I often look back to the days before the internet. I felt crippled back then, even the simplest tasks could take ages. I spent countless hours on hold on the phone, making visits to the post office, getting lost travelling. Having the internet at my fingertips is more than convenience it is an essential part of my lifestyle.

Excess capacity makes my life even easier. I can now book a room in any city in the world, not just a soulless hotel room but a place embedded in the culture. I can hire a cab, I can make a call for free on WhatsApp and most importantly for me I can find my way around. All whilst sitting in a cafe waiting for a friend.

Price

Earlier this year I rented an apartment in East Village NYC. Have you seen the price of hotel rooms there? I had my own front door, a fridge full of beer, wifi, the cleaners didn’t come in to disrupt my lie ins and best of all I didn’t have to chat to people at the front desk. It was wonderful to step outside the door and feel like a New Yorker. Yes, I could have stayed in a hotel but this was cheaper and infinitely more comfortable.

If you own a car you have to look after the parking, the maintenance, insurance, tax, fuel. All that for something you probably spend as little time in as possible. With Zipcar or it’s alternatives you can own a car for an hour and pay by the hour. Imagine how much hassle and cost that saves.

Disadvantages of Peers Inc.

Getting banned

When you enter into a relationship with an excess capacity company it’s a two-way relationship. Yes, you are the customer but your Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts rate you the same way you rate them.

Robin gives an example in the book of a client they banned from the service after not reporting an issue with the car she’d rented (an issue she had caused).

If you get banned or get bad reviews you have very little recourse, you are no longer a part of the organisation.

It’s worse for service providers. Have an off day driving your Uber and you could be banned from providing transport in the future. If we all give up our jobs and become self-employed excess capacity providers, we are at the mercy of the big companies. We have no recourse if we are struck off the register, no rights as an employee.

Corporations can fail

If there is one thing we learned from the financial crisis it’s that no one is too big to fail. We may commit our time and resources to hosting on Airbnb but what happens if they change their model or go out of business? We’re left without a platform to market ourselves on.

A manifesto for change

Excess capacity is the basis of the book and there are many case studies that made me feel warm and fluffy. Stories of people who wouldn’t be noticed or be able to excel without the tools that it allows.

There was the teenage Minecraft fanatic Ethan who built a games company just through online interaction. On the Internet no one knows you are 12 years old or cares.

There was Gretchen, the frustrated artist turned lawyer who found a market for her art on Etsy.

There were Uber drivers, Airbnb hosts, all of whom were enjoying a better quality of life because of Peers Inc.

But does all this good news really mean capitalism can change? Can we encourage corporations to abandon the quest for wealth, even a little bit to make the world a better place?

Can corporations be a force for good?

This is where the vision collapses, at least a bit. Although Robin does address how some large companies are adding environmental and social goals to financial ones in their formal requirements, I wonder can this takeoff. Will corporations see the value in collaboration? In exploiting excess capacity?

Can every business engage with enough peers, employees and contractors to make the world a better place? I’d love to think yes but it seems a bit far fetched.

Is it worth the read?

There are some wonderful moments in this book. I didn’t know that reCAPTCHA, those annoying photos of numbers and words you have to re-type to register for some web pages, was also repurposed as a way of turning scanned newspaper and book images into machine readable text.

I hadn’t thought about how we got access to all those satellites to help us navigate around using SatNav (Because governments gave us free access).

I didn’t know that if I take a language course for free with Duolingo I’d be helping translate content for other companies.

Final thoughts

Although Peers Inc is food for thought I wonder it’s really a solution to climate change? To unemployment? I believe it does nothing to change our two tier society. Those ‘with’ keep their big homes and cars and those ‘without’ service them. Can capitalism save the world? I’m not convinced.

It’s a manifesto that still hands power to the Inc’s. It doesn’t smash the power of corporations but instead makes us all participants. Instead of breaking free from the RollerBall model it could just push us one step closer.

*Affiliate link, I get a small cut of sales if you buy using this link 

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

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Business book club read - Peers Inc by Robin Chase
Business book club read – Peers Inc by Robin Chase

 

7 days in I'm kinda liking Instagram Stories
7 days in I’m kinda liking Instagram Stories

7 Days ago Instagram released ‘Instagram Stories’, a Snapchat clone. It’s taken me a week but I think I like it. 

I’ve always been fond of Instagram. When I first started using it, shortly after it’s release I just wanted the funky filters, then I found the amazing content. Last year I reluctantly experimented with using it for business for a co-project I was working on. I was pleasantly surprised, Instagram was a place where I could find and chat to my customers.

2 weeks ago I launched the Spiderworking Instagram account and I was enjoying it. Yes the algorithm means I’m not seeing everything I expected but I still find it an interactive place full of great content.

Someone must have told Instagram I was back because they released Instagram Stories. A Snapchat like interface that you can post to in addition of your regular feed.

It took me a while to understand what it was for? Was it just a snapchat rip off or did it have the potential to be something different?

Exactly one week on I’ve grown to like them and see room for them in my marketing.

Watch my initial thoughts about Instagram Stories below

 

Yes it’s like Snapchat

There is no doubt that Facebook deliberately stole the idea from snapchat. The ability to upload a series of photos and videos to tell the story of your day, the 24 hour deadline before they disappear, the direct messaging from the story interface, the filters, the drawing. It’s all exactly the same.

However Instagram users are different to snapchat users. The content we’re used to sharing is better quality, it’s less frivolous and more serious. A lot of Instagram users won’t have used Snapchat so they have the opportunity to invent the language of stories themselves.

Instagram is different

It’s not the tool that’s different, it’s the network. Yes I know there are a lot of Instagrammers out there that do ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’, I just don’t follow them. Instagram is less about opinion and more about moments. I see this being the crux of Instagram Stories. Most of the stories I watch are exactly this, people going about their everyday lives with filters and none of those annoying dog faced lenses.

Back to basics

I fell in love with Instagram one day 4 years ago. Ireland was in recession, the Olympics were on in London and we all had our hopes pinned on boxer Katie Taylor.

The whole country stopped and watched her fight for her gold medal. It was only a few minutes but her win lifted our spirits. It was a glow of happiness in a depressed country. When I looked at Instagram I saw photo after photo of people in offices, at home, in pubs across Ireland watching the fight. I suddenly felt connected, part of a community.

When Instagram introduced their algorithm earlier this year it was this moment I thought of, there could be no more moments like this if my feed wasn’t in chronological order.

I’ve been advising businesses ever since to focus on quality of content. Even if you take a bundle of great photos in the day you should choose only the best to share. These great photos should get more engagement meaning more of your images will get shown to followers in future.

With stories we can return to sharing lots of moments, in real time throughout the day. If Katie makes it to the finals this year I’ll once again be able to watch the reactions but this time in Instagram moments.

Who to follow

Snapchat’s biggest failure has been discovery. It’s hard, really hard to find people to follow. I think it was this that held me back from investing time in it for so long.

Instagram makes finding people to follow easy. What’s even better is you can get the measure of who you are following from their home pages. I can see straight away if someone loves cats, is a travel blogger, is an amazing photographer. This means I’ll be able to follow the right people and will want to hang around to see their stories.

Will Instagram stories kill snapchat? I don’t think so but it may stop Facebook and Instagram haemorrhaging users to the platform.

Are you using Instagram stories? Will you abandon snapchat for them? I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

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7 days in I'm kinda liking Instagram Stories
7 days in I’m kinda liking Instagram Stories
How To Get Your Favourite Bloggers To Contribute To Your Blog
How To Get Your Favourite Bloggers To Contribute To Your Blog

[Estimated reading time: 9 Minutes]

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get your favourite bloggers and influencers to contribute to your blog? What would happen to your blog as a result?

This week I’m going to do something different. I’m going to tell you the story of how I accepted a blog challenge and wrote and Influencer blog post.

Listen below to find out how I got on with the challenge



I’ve been working on something. A little experiment sparked by Ian Cleary and his RazorBlazers community. He challenged us to write a blog post that would get a lot of shares.

We had options, different types of post we could create but I chose ‘The Influencer blog post’

What is an influencer blog post anyway?

In this case, it’s a collection of tips or contributions from people who are influential to your target market. My job was to collect them, add my own commentary, make it look nice and get it shared.

I mapped out the steps I needed to take:

  1. Come up with an idea
  2. Define who the influencers are
  3. Decide how to approach them
  4. Collate the post
  5. Promote the post
  6. Measure results

But first, what is an influencer?

This is a term that will make many people cringe. The word ‘influencer’ has a bad name but that doesn’t have to be that way. We encounter influencers every day but they aren’t always online.

Do any of these people sound familiar to you?

  • The mother at the school gate who organises or takes on an organisational role in all the school activities?
  • The charismatic office worker who glues the workforce together?
  • The local hero, a sportsperson or a business owner who is well known and respected in the community?
  • The family gossip monger who keeps everyone abreast of the news?
  • The friend who always knows the best restaurants and pubs to go to?

Get on the good side of the right influencer and some of their influence can rub off on you.

Choose your influencers carefully. Who will appeal to your audience, it won’t always be Kim Kardashian.

The question

what question will you ask
What question will you ask?

I needed to ask my influencers a question. A question that would have diverse answers that would be useful to my readers. It took me a while but I came up with:

“What would you do differently if you started blogging from scratch again?”

Not a bad question, if fulfilled my objectives but it was also my first mistake. I hadn’t looked at my list of keywords, if I had I would have noticed that ‘blogging mistakes’ was going to be hard for a site like mine to rank for.

If you want to create a post like this go do some keyword research. Find a question that will tie into a keyword that isn’t too competitive.

The influencer list

Make a list of influencers
Make a list of influencers

It wasn’t hard for me to make a list of influential people to include on my list. Over the last 7 years I’ve begun to recognise the truly influential and brilliant people. It didn’t take me long to come up with a list of 40 people.

I split these into three groups:

  1. Those who knew me and were most likely to contribute
  2. Those who may have heard of me
  3. Those who hadn’t heard of me and were likely to get a lot of requests and emails

I started with the people I knew, Ian Cleary was a safe bet, it was his challenge after all. There were one or two others that I knew personally too. I was delighted to get responses from most of these.

Once I had a few people on board I could approach my second tier but now I could mention the names of bloggers I’d already secured. I figured this added legitimacy to me.

Finally, I targeted a few in the hardest group. Unsurprisingly these were the ones I got the least response from.

The email

What to put in the email
What to put in the email

I get a lot of emails from people requesting guest blogging slots or infographic shares. I rarely respond. The emails are so generic. I ignore them because they aren’t personalised or if they are it’s done badly with mail-merge or automation.

I wanted to avoid sending emails like that. I spent time writing and personalising each one. This made the process time consuming, it took me at least five minutes to compose each email.

The emails were sent out in batches. I didn’t want to send them all at once, I wanted to test the reactions and tweak my approach if I got it wrong.

The hardest part of the email was the subject line. I’m imagining these people get a lot of emails, I needed to ensure that they opened my one. It couldn’t be the type of subject line I use in a marketing email, it had to stand out as being both personal and clickable.

My email wasn’t unsuccessful, I emailed 15 people and got 10 positive responses and 2 apologies. That’s not bad but I still think i could have done better.

How to find email addresses

The first few emails I sent that weren’t to people I knew were via website contact forms. I wasn’t  comfortable with this approach but people don’t just display their emails on their sites.

I felt the contact form lacked the personal touch so I decided to have a guess at some email addresses. I use the Gmail plugin Rapportive It tells me if the email I have is connected to a LinkedIn or Twitter account. I tried various versions of the bloggers name and web address until I got a hit.

For those I failed to guess I used Rocket Reach.

When the responses started coming in I was surprised and delighted, this had been easier than I had expected. I stopped looking for new answers once I reached 10, that seemed like a good round number.

Collating responses

Collate the responses and write the post
Collate the responses and write the post

I had my 10 responses and I had a publish date, all that remained was for me to write an intro, a conclusion and create some images.

This took longer than expected. I needed images for the main post and individual images for each contributor. Over all, it took me 3 hours to pull the post together, considerably more time than I’d allowed.

The main issue was procrastination. I’m not sure why but I struggled to write my opening paragraph. Maybe it was the thought of my favourite bloggers reading it. I got there eventually.

So far time wise I’ve clocked up around 1-hour finding email addresses, 1-hour emailing and 3 hours writing the post. That’s not even taking into account the time spent procrastinating!

Here is the finished post. 

Promoting

Promote your post
Promote your post

Before I sent a single tweet I wrote to each contributor, another personalised email, thanking them for their tips and giving them the link to the post.

Then I started sharing. I followed my usual blog promotion schedule and added in some extra tweets tagging the contributors.

My influencers started sharing too. my Apple watch started buzzing on my wrist as the shares started pouring in.

On top of my usual promotion:

  • I asked my friends to share, something i never do. Many of them did, so I owe a lot of people a pint.
  • I spent some money on Facebook ads and some on Instagram ads. a total budget of 20 euro
  • I created images of each influencer with a quote from their section and made them into a powerpoint for SlideShare.
  • I made a video from the SlideShare and uploaded it to YouTube
  • I shared each individual image on Twitter tagging the featured contributor
  • I shared in relevant Facebook groups

It’s Monday evening as I write, I have a week left to go until the competition closes. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve so although I’m going to share the results I’m hoping I’ll have done even better by the time you read this.

The results

Measure the results
Measure the results

There are a few things I wanted to get from writing this post:

  1. Relationship building with the influencers – Hopefully I’ve made enough of an impact on those I included that they will remember who I am. The first step in a business relationship
  2. Brand awareness – If I got a lot of shares that would be a whole bunch of new people finding out about my blog.
  3. Traffic to my website – Getting small business owners interested in blogging to my site.
  4. Lead gen – I’m listing this as a goal but I did little to capture those who visited my site. I still don’t have a good email incentive in place

How did I do?

  1. Not only did I start building a business relationship with those included in the post but I also had email chats with those who weren’t able to contribute.
  2. I have 288 shares and counting
  3. The post has 340 unique views and counting. More importantly, those visitors are staying almost 50% longer on my site than the average visitor
  4. Lead gen – This is a work in progress. I have an incentive in the works and hope to capture website visitors with a website custom audience ad on Facebook.

Blogging Challenge

Are you ready to try your own influencer post? Follow my steps above and take note of my mistakes.

If you do create a post like this let me know, I’d love to see how you get on and I won’t even be jealous if you do better than me.

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

If you’ve been following my challenges or if you have done something on your blog that has worked well I’d love to hear about it. You can leave me a comment below, tweet me @spiderworking or snap me @spiderworking.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

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How To Get Your Favourite Bloggers To Contribute To Your Blog
How To Get Your Favourite Bloggers To Contribute To Your Blog
facebook organic reach
11 Tips To Boost Your Facebook Organic Reach

Marketing your business on Facebook has become more challenging over the past year as Facebook organic reach has dropped, consistently.

The latest algorithm change has kicked in and many pages are reporting an epic slide in stats. It’s not going to be easy to reverse the trend completely but there are a few things you can do to maximise your reach.

Watch 11 Tips For Increasing Your Facebook Organic Reach

 

I sometimes show people a slide when I’m teaching email marketing, it’s the response to a question I asked on my Facebook page about popup windows a couple of years ago. There are over 20 responses to that question. That amount of interaction seems almost impossible now on a business to business page unless you use Facebook Live (we’ll talk about that later).

Whenever I show that slide it reminds me how much Facebook has changed. People seem reluctant to comment and it can be a struggle at times to get a few Likes due to the tiny number of people Facebook choose to show posts to.

Does this mean you should give up on getting Facebook organic reach? Should you quit Facebook or should you commit to spending more on Ads?

Before you do I recommend measuring your reach for a while. You might be surprised at how much per post you are actually getting.

You’ll find this statistic in your Facebook insights (see below)

facebook organic reach benchmarking
Keep an eye on your organic reach over time with Facebook Insights

Keep a record of this on a weekly basis. I have seen a decrease in reach over the last month but it’s not as bad as it looks on page.

The chart below covers my average organic reach for the last 32 weeks. The red line represents the average reach for that period.

facebook organic reach for my page
I have seen a decline in reach over the last month

How can you increase your Facebook organic reach?

Now you are measuring your success here are 11 things you can do to get better reach on Facebook for free:

1. Avoid words like buy, book, download and don’t add a price

The Facebook algorithm is designed to penalise reach on sales posts. Facebook want to control the number of promotional messages users see in their news feeds. By using the words above, amongst others you are indicating that your post is promotional in nature.

2. Avoid words like contest, competition, giveaway, win

Facebook doesn’t like ‘out of context competition posts’. Just like sales posts, it will limit organic reach if it thinks you are running a competition so avoid the words above unless you are willing to boost your posts.

3. Is your content shareable? Does it provoke emotion; happy, sad, angry, laughter, nostalgia?

The latest algorithm update, the one that has seen so many of us experience a dive in organic reach means that unless your content gets shared you’ll reach very few people.

One thing that will encourage more sharing is emotion. If you can find or create content that makes people happy, sad, angry, shocked, nostalgic you are more likely to get shares.

4. Curate popular content from other pages

Look at other pages that share content that will appeal to your target market. Which posts have the most shares? The most interactions? Facebook knows this content is popular so if you share it to a new audience they should give it more reach.

The easiest way to do this is to set up a newsfeed for your business page and Like pages as your business. 

5. Share your posts rather than links to groups

If you are in Facebook groups that allow you to share links to your content share your Facebook post rather than a direct link. This way you’ll get link clicks and extra reach. Make sure you are abiding by the group rules when you do this or you might find yourself getting thrown out.

6. Use a variety of posting types

Different Facebook users like different sorts of content. For example, I like reading articles and blogs so I see a lot of link posts in my feed. Other users prefer video or images. By posting a variety of content types you will reach more of your audience no matter what their preference is.

7. Use video but make sure it’s good

Video content is still hugely popular on Facebook. In fact, Mark Zuckerburg imagines a future when most of the content on Facebook is video. If you haven’t created video content for your page yet give it a go. There are lots of apps that can help you create better video. Here are some of my favourites.

8. Try Facebook Live

Facebook Live rules organic reach at the moment. Not only does it get great reach but you’ll also get a lot more comments and interaction than you will on other posts.

If you are in a ‘boring’ business like mine you could try a weekly show or an interview. If you have a more interesting business go live when something noteworthy is happening. If you are looking for inspiration search the #facebooklive tag on Facebook.

9.Monitor timing, which times and days are getting the best reach

There is no universal best time to post on Facebook, you’ll need to experiment yourself. Make a note of times that seem to get the best reach. Last year 6am was the best time of the day for me to post, this has shifted to 11am for me recently.

It’s also worth mapping out the day of your ideal customer. When do they have time to look at Facebook? What sort of content are they able to consume at what time of day? Your customer is going to be interested in different content when they are out and about on their mobile than when they are at home in front of a computer.

10. Re-share most popular posts … after a few months

Take a look at your Facebook Insights and make a note of your most popular posts. Add these back into your posting schedule a couple of months later, you should see them perform well again.

11. Be surprising, interesting, entertaining or educational but stay on topic

This is easier said than done but if you create great content you’ll get a better reaction straight away and Facebook is more likely to show it to other people. Before you hit publish check it over. Is it surprising, interesting, entertaining or educational? If not don’t share.

Your Turn

That’s my 11 tips for getting better organic Facebook reach. Do you have any tried and tested techniques to add? I’d love to hear them.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

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11 Tips To Boost Your Facebook Organic Reach
11 Tips To Boost Your Facebook Organic Reach
start a blog for your business
The ultimate guide to setting up a blog for your business.

[Estimated reading time: 10 Minutes]

Have you been meaning to start a blog for your business but not gotten around to it? It’s difficult to take the plunge but it doesn’t need to be as hard as you think. I’m hoping this post will give you the spark you need to finally put your fingers to the keyboard.

I’m not sure what the tipping point was for me. All I know is that one day I sat down and started a blog, my first business blog and I never looked back.

Listen to my 7 steps for creating a blog for your business:



Taking the plunge

If you’ve been procrastinating about blogging for a while let it stop here. Don’t wait and decide on a platform, on hosting, on getting the perfect design, just sit down and write something.

take the plunge
Take the plunge

Sit down, set a timer to keep you on your toes and write. If you are stuck for inspiration try some of these ideas. Once you have written your first post, be it 100 words or 1000 you will have the motivation to get it online. You’ll be excited and nervous and ready to share with the world.

I remember how I felt when I wrote my first post, it may have been short but I was delighted and shaking with excitement when I hit the publish button.

Of course, you may have written some content but you haven’t started your business blog yet. Grab that excitement you feel, it will keep you moving onwards.

Now it’s time to get thinking about the nitty gritty. There are seven things you need to consider before you create your business blog.

1. What platform should you use?

I’m going to suggest something that you might think is a bit odd. I’m not going to recommend setting up a blog straight away. Instead, I suggest you publish your post to LinkedIn or in Facebook notes. Whichever you have the strongest presence on.

For both, you’ll need an image.You can choose one of your own or snag a free one from a site like Unsplash or Pixabay. Now you are ready to publish.

LinkedIn Publishing

Publishing on LinkedIn is simple. Go to your homepage and click the ‘Write an article’ button. This will bring you into a blogging interface. It works just like a real blog, you can add text, images links and embed rich content. Your master image appears on the masthead of the page.

linkedin publishing
Publish your first post on LinkedIn

There are advantages of publishing on LinkedIn:

  1. Everyone you are connected to will get a notification that you have published a post and the title of the post. it’s a great way to get eyes on your content.
  2. Your 3 most recent posts will sit just underneath your photo on your LinkedIn profile, it will show visitors you know what you are talking about.

Here’s an example of a LinkedIn post from my profile.

Facebook Notes

To publish Facebook notes to a business page you may need to add the ‘Notes’ app.

You can add links, text styling, and images to your note. Your key image, similar to LinkedIn, forms the masthead on your post.

Here’s an example of a Facebook Note from my own page.

LinkedIn Publishing or Facebook Notes are a good place to start and test your own commitment to blogging but once you are comfortable with creating regular content you should move over to your own platform.

Your own blogging platform, which should you choose?

what blogging platform should you use?
What blogging platform should you use?

Your own website

Ideally, your blog should be part of your existing website. This isn’t always possible, your existing CMS (content management system) may not allow blogging.

Each blog post needs to act as an individual page on your site. Many websites try to fudge this by either having a very long page that they update each time they want to blog or they do something like upload PDF’s each time they have a new post. Neither of these workarounds constitutes a blog.

Here’s why. Each post needs its own URL (link):

  1. So readers can find and share it. If you have one long page they will be unable to find the post they want to read. If it’s a PDF they are limited to where they can read it and often leave rather than click.
  2. So that search engines can optimise the page, understand what it’s about and index it correctly.
  3. So that you can analyse the results of your blogging efforts and understand exactly what is working for you and what isn’t

If you existing site doesn’t allow blogging set up a blog in the same hosting space as your existing site. It’s not the perfect solution. You’ll be running two websites and it will be harder for readers to transition between the two. But it’s a good quick fix until you have the time and budget to upgrade your whole site.

WordPress.org

When I teach blogging workshops I put a big smiley face next to WordPress.org on my slides. I’m a big fan. WordPress.org is self-hosted so you will need to buy hosting space and a domain name (I’ll talk about this shortly) but it will give you far more control. You can customise, add little applications (plugins) and make it do exactly what you want. Once it’s installed it’s really simple to use. There are other self-hosted alternatives, Joomla and Drupal are just two. I haven’t used either but I’ve heard good things.

If you have an existing hosting space you will need to check that it’s capable of running WordPress. Contact your host for more info.

Other options

Having your own site in your own hosting space is the ideal but if you aren’t ready for that, perhaps you don’t have the budget to upgrade your site and hosting, perhaps you need tech help, there are some alternatives.

Square Space

Square Space allows you to create attractive blog sites from templates for a monthly fee. I haven’t used it myself but Mandy over on The Vlog Blog uses it and the site looks great.

Blogger

Blogger is a blogging platform from Google, it’s pretty basic and is really designed for personal blogging. On the plus side, it’s very easy to use and set up (you basically sign up with your Gmail account). There are some really successful bloggers using Blogger, take a look at Cherry Sue Doin’ The Do for a good example.

Medium

Medium is the cool kid on the block at the moment. Visually it’s very similar to LinkedIn posts or Facebook Notes with its clean design. Medium is a community as well as a blogging platform so has the added benefit of reach beyond your regular social channels and search engines. I like the simplicity of this platform. As a primary blog for your business, it lacks features that will turn readers into customers.

Tumblr

Tumblr is a mini-blogging platform. It’s for sharing snippets of info, photos and videos. It’s often used to curate content. Like Medium it’s a social network as well as a blogging platform so it can be a good place to connect with people. Some large organisations have embraced Tumblr. General Electric have a fun one 6 Second Science Fair, where they curate user-generated vine videos of science experiments for kids..

For me, this isn’t a good place to create your core company blog but it might be a good second blogging platform for content you want to curate.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com. Although I’m a big WordPress.org fan I’m not a big advocate of WordPress.com. It may share the name and be owned by the same company but it’s very different. You don’t need to invest in hosting space or a domain to get started on WordPress but if you want business features like Google Analytics or your own web address you will need to pay.

It’s a great platform for personal blogging but I’d rather spend money on hosting and domain than have to pay for business functionality on WordPress.com. It’s not all bad, some excellent business blogs are hosted on WordPress including believe it or not the Facebook newsroom.

2. Hosting

If a website is your house, hosting is the land that it is built on and your domain name is your address.

Choose your hosting service
Choose your hosting service

If you have an existing website for your business you probably have website hosting already, in many cases you will be able to add a blog to your existing site but if not you should be able to upload your WordPress (or other blog site) to the same space.

There are some requirements for your hosting to allow WordPress or other blogging platforms to run. Check with the company you host with to find out which packages they have that support them.

3. Domain name

choose your domain name
Choose your web address

Your domain name is your web address. It’s the link that you give people so they can find your site. If you have your own website already you will have a domain. It will be www.nameofyourwebsite.com.

In most cases your blog will reside in the same domain: www.nameofyoursite.com/blog. If you host your blog in a different space to your main website you’ll need to create a subdomain for example blog.nameofyoursite.com.

The first option is preferable. It’s thought that subdomains restrict your search engine rankings. SEO is one of the major benefits of blogging so you don’t want that.

If you don’t have a website yet it’s time to get creative choosing a website name. You have lots of options for your top level domain these days. In the past you were limited to .com or country specific domains like .ie or .co.uk. Now you have hundreds of choices.

I’m a bit old school so I like to go with a .com. I’m sure those new top-level domains will grow in popularity but I have the feeling that people still tend to type .com at the end of a business name when they are looking for their site.

If you are worried about others stealing variations of your domain you can purchase as many as you like. If you are in Ireland you might want to get .ie as well as .com you may even consider buying .porn and .xxx so they can’t be used to troll your business, this can prove pricy though.

You only need one website, if you want to use more than one domain you can point them at the same site. I know Lorna Sixsmith does this. Her irishfarmerette.com domain points at her lornasixsmith.com site.

4. Design

Design is a big consideration when you create your business blog but don’t let it tie you down. Your blog design will probably evolve over time, I know mine has.

I recommend putting a style guide together for your business before choosing a design. Find out more about visual style guides here.

Review some other blogs for inspiration. Try out the navigation, is it easy to find what you want? Can you contact the company? find their products and services? Make notes about what you like and don’t like.

Try to avoid the temptation of doing exactly what everyone else is doing. Just like clothing web design has fashions and trends. For example, never-ending scroll websites are popular at the moment. If you choose this style your site is likely to blend in with everyone else’s, you want to stand out.

If you find a WordPress site you really like you can use What WordPress Theme Is This to find out what theme (if any) they are using.

Here are some basic blog design elements you need to consider:

1. Do you want a sidebar?
2. Do you want your homepage to be your blog or a stand alone page?
3. What items is important to have in your main navigation bar?
4. What do you want readers to do when they land on your site?

The more specific you are about what you want the easier the relationship you will have with your web developer.

5. Define your audience

Define your audience
Who are your ideal readers?

Blogging has the tendency to be self-indulgent. Take a step back and think about your ideal reader, will your content attact them? When you know who you are writing for you’ll always get better results.

You are likely to have more than one kind of reader. Segment your customers into groups and create a customer persona for each type. Find out more on how to do that here.

6.Content plan

I try to have at least two months of content planned in advance. This makes it easier to be consistent, I also find that the quality of my posts is better when I’m not writing off the cuff.

create a content plan
Create a content plan

How often will you blog?

The bare minimum is once a month, this shows visitors that your site is active. I recommend updating your blog more frequently. It’s easier to stay motivated when blogging is a common task. I’ve always struggled with my monthly newsletter precisely because it seems more like a chore when I have to write it once a month.

Although I encourage frequent blogging, be careful of over-stretching yourself. Starting a blog is a bit like the honeymoon period in a relationship, at the beginning it’s wonderful and you can’t get enough but you soon find yourself slipping into something more comfortable.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the most of the inspiration whilst you have it. Write as many posts as you can and schedule them out one week at a time. This gives you some breathing space and gives you the chance to re-read and improve those posts before they go live.

I use a combination of an excel spreadsheet, the WordPress plugin Co-schedule and Evernote to manage my schedule.

  • The spreadsheet helps me plan the next few months and tie the content to my social posts.
  • Co-schedule helps me plan content and social sharing of that content for the week ahead.
  • Evernote is where I keep ideas when they fly into my head.

If you are stuck for content ideas have a listen back to episode 31, write a list of blog topic ideas and start to slot them into your schedule.

7. Measurement plan

Measure your blogging success
Measure your blogging success

Measurement is what keeps me blogging. If I can see my statistics going in the right direction I know that the work is paying off. Without some sort of measurement you’ll find your motivation waning. If possible install Google analytics and keep tabs on some key statistics.

If you are new to blogging you might want to keep it simple at first and focus on website visitors. As you become more accomplished you will want to add things like time on site and goals completed (sales). I’m not going to go into analytics in detail today but it’s something I’m going to cover coming months.


Blogging Challenge

This week’s challenge is for you blogging newbies. I’m not going to make you take the plunge, I’m just asking for you to paddle in the shallows today:

Write a post now, today and publish it either on LinkedIn or Facebook notes.

Let me know in the comments if you publish, I’d love to see your work.

Do you believe in Karma? If so I highly recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast, you never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

If you’ve been following my challenges or if you have done something on your blog that has worked well I’d love to hear about it. You can leave me a comment below, tweet me @spiderworking or snap me @spiderworking.

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

The ultimate guide to setting up a blog for your business.
The ultimate guide to setting up a blog for your business.