disadvantages of blogging for business
Is Blogging Always The Best Marketing Tool? 8 Disadvantages To Consider

[Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes]

I’m always talking about how great blogging is for your business but what are the disadvantages? If you know what they are before you start you can plan to avoid them.

If I could write a letter to myself the day I started blogging, I’d commend myself on taking such a big step but I’d also tell the younger me what the disadvantages of blogging for my business are. It wouldn’t have put me off but it would have saved me time and helped me achieve better results quicker.

Even seasoned bloggers stumble from time to time, a great fear can grab you and ask you if you are wasting time marketing your business online. The result of one of these panics was this podcast and a better plan for the future. It’s all been onwards and upwards since.

Listen below to hear about 8 disadvantages of blogging for business and how to deal with them



Disadvantage 1: Time

Time is scarce for small business owners and it’s the biggest obstacle in the way of us achieving everything we want to do. It’s a huge disadvantage for bloggers. Blogging is time-consuming, my first post was under 100 words and took me half a day to construct and publish. It wasn’t the writing that took the time but the editing and constant proofreading. Give me half a day of uninterrupted time now and I’d be able to produce 3 blog posts of 1000 words or more.

You do get quicker at blogging the more you do it but that doesn’t necessarily help if you don’t have the time now. You may have decided that blogging is for you but have let it slip down your to-do list. My advice is to allocate time now, allocate time every week to write. Plan your posts in advance so you can maximise that assigned time.

Disadvantage 2: The techie stuff

I’ve seen so many businesses stumble at this first hurdle. If you want to blog on your own website you’ll need to build that site on a platform that allows blogging (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc). If your site doesn’t currently support blogging don’t put it off. There are plenty of places that you can blog offsite.

My first business blog was launched on Blogger, I didn’t have the budget for a new website at the time so I just started blogging on a platform that I could afford. There are so many free blogging sites available now you have no excuse. You can use WordPress.com, Blogger, Medium, Tumblr, Square Space. You can even blog using LinkedIn posts or Facebook notes.

Don’t let the technology get in the way of blogging, just start writing now and worry about the tech later.

Disadvantage 3: The curse of inconsistency

If you’ve ever visited a blog on a website and noticed it hasn’t been updated for a year, or more you’ll know it looks bad. A dead blog is worse than no blog at all. If you are going to blog on your own site or even one of the free blogging platforms it’s crucial that you have a regular posting schedule.

Consistency is not only good for keeping your site looking alive but it also ensures you stay dedicated to your blog. At the very minimum, you should be blogging once a month and preferably more frequently than that. If you don’t think you’ll be able to keep to a consistent schedule use LinkedIn posts or Facebook notes instead of your own site. It’s less noticeable when you are infrequent on those platforms.

Disadvantage 4: Reflects badly on your brand

A good, well written and thought out blog, full of useful posts and information is a great brand asset. A poorly written blog, rushed together, with low-quality posts full of typos and spelling errors could be doing more harm than good.

Blogging can’t be something you do in a hurry, you have to put thought into your content and you should always proof read and spell check before you hit publish. I tend to sleep on a blog post before I publish. I always spot something the next day that needs editing.

(Hat tip to Katia from Proper Food for this one)

Disadvantage 5: Content shock and SEO

It used to be easier to blog when I started out. There was less content online and fewer bloggers. Now it’s much harder. You’ll find thousands of results for every topic you can think of. The days of the Googlewhack are well and truly over.

We are living in the era of what Mark Schaefer calls content shock. Search engine optimisation used to be one of the key advantages of blogging but things have changed. Today I believe blogging is more about building a strong and loyal community around your business. Your customers will get to know and trust you through your content and it’s your social channels in the most part, not the search engines that will help you do that.

That’s not to say SEO isn’t important, I’m battling those search results with every post I write, but focus on your audience, not the search engines.

Disadvantage 6: Your Friends Think You’re Nuts

People who work in normal jobs find it hard to understand the life of a small business owner. They see us working long hours and weekends and think we must be mad. When they find out that much of that time isn’t spent doing ‘real work’ but marketing online they are often astounded.

Look at it from their point of view. If they have a regular job they just have to turn up on time and complete their allocated work. A small business owner has to do the day to day work and market their business, manage their accounts, take phone calls, sell and more. The time you spend marketing may look like wasted time to them but if you plan it well and measure success you know it’s worth it.

When you start blogging you’ll want to talk about it with your friends, be prepared for the confused looks and blank faces.

(Hat tip to Kate from Pet Sitters Ireland for this one)

Disadvantage 7: Employee and Management buy-in

I’m lucky, I am a solopreneur, I work for myself and I answer to no one but my clients. Not everyone is this lucky. If you work in a larger organisation getting buy-in from the people you work with can be a struggle.

Do your homework before you approach your boss. Look at how a blog can benefit your business, find topics that would work well on your site and make forecasts on how you can grow website visitors and how you can channel them into the sales funnel as a result.

It can be harder to get employees on board. If you get management buy-in encourage them to lead by example. Get them to share their insights in blog posts early on. The employees are more likely to contribute if they see the management doing the same.

Disadvantage 8: Customers undervalue your expertise and look for freebies

When people visit your site they will find all the great information you share in blog posts. Your blog is the place where you share your expertise for free but some will want to exploit you further. People will begin to email and even phone you for help and advice. You need to decide how you are going to deal with this. In most cases, I don’t mind when people get in touch. I like to find out what problems people are experiencing, it gives me new topics to blog about. I help whenever I can (within reason).

Some of those enquiries turn into prospects and sales, more turn into advocates spreading the word about me and my business.

(Hat tip to Joanne Dewberry for this one)

Conclusion

The advantages of blogging can outweigh the disadvantages. If you want to ensure you are getting those benefits I’d recommend:

1. Defining exactly the customers you are writing for
2. Planning content in advance that will appeal to your customers
3. Define what blogging success means to you and monitor your path to that success on a regular basis
4. Be consistent

Am I missing anything? What do you think the biggest disadvantage to blogging is? I’d love to know so leave me a comment below.

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

 

Disadvantages of blogging
Is Blogging Always The Best Marketing Tool? 8 Disadvantages To Consider
to selfie or not to selfie
Why You Need To Embrace The Selfie In Your Social Media Marketing

When I asked members of a Facebook group for tips on taking a good selfie I got some helpful responses but I also got a negativity.

Selfies are seen as narcissism, as being self-obsessed but I think they’ve been misjudged. Today is SelfieDay so I thought I’d take the opportunity to celebrate this much maligned photographic technique.

Watch below to find out how I learned to love the selfie:

 

The written word is so easy to misunderstand. Is that comment on your Facebook post meant to be self-deprecating? sarcastic, genuine?

The emoji has gone some way to help us express ourselves with text but there’s one thing that can communicate it better than anything else. Our face, the selfie. A simple look can be packed with nuance and emotion that it’s almost impossible to communicate any other way.

If you’ve ever seen someone trying to sound happy when their face is full of misery or a heartfelt apology made by someone who looks distracted you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Posed Selfies

There is room in the selfie world for posed photos. If you work alone and need a new LinkedIn photo, a Twitter or Facebook avatar quickly a selfie can be a good solution.

Here’s one I took and edited ever so slightly with PicMonkey.

Linkedin-selfie
Selfie edited in PicMonkey for profile photos

Scroll down to find tips for taking good selfies from the Irish Bloggers group.

The posed selfie is only the beginning of what you can do. To see selfies in full flow you have to look at Snapchat and Instagram.

Selfies for social media

Selfies may not be the choice for your website but for social they work well. You’ve probably noticed that photos with people in tend to get more interaction on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. That’s because as human beings we like to make human connections, we see a face and we relate to it. It’s a great way to start connecting with your audience. The more they feel like they know you the more they will feel comfortable with you.

I find myself using selfies on Snapchat to express ideas and thoughts. I find you can get as much info into a captioned selfie as you can a 10-second video and they are much more digestible. My trick is to think of the emotion or idea I want to get across and then over act it as I hit the shutter button. It might not always be flattering but it works.

Personality

I don’t want to see beautiful posed photos on Instagram and particularly not Snapchat all the time. Yes, if you are a celebrity and your look is your brand you probably don’t want to be caught looking a bit dishevelled. For the rest of us mortals, a shot where you don’t quite look your best can help people relate to you. Try it if you are brave enough.

Self confidence

When I started using Snapchat in earnest earlier this year I would have cared more about my appearance but the more I use it the less I worry if I look ugly or fat or if I’m posed at an unflattering angle. Instead, I try and tell stories in an entertaining way and I’ve started to feel happier in my skin.

How to take a good selfie

I really don’t know! I’ve followed tips and I know I can make myself look better in photos now if I want. There are a few keys (thanks to the Irish Bloggers group on Facebook for helping with these)

  1. Shoot just above eye level. Not too high, everyone will think you are trying to hide your double chin
  2. Wear makeup, nothing more than you usually would but lighting can be unflattering. A bit of powder, even for you those not used to wearing it can eliminate that glare from the end of your nose. Lip Gloss and light dewy makeup work best. (Thanks Nicola Collins & Rebecca Doran)
  3. Use natural light. This can be hard, particularly in bad weather or the winter months but whenever possible you’ll always get a better picture in natural light. You’ll also get less weird looking shadows
  4. Be natural, forget about duck face or a pout. Catch yourself unaware and get a natural expression, the more you think about it the more posed and less interesting it will look.
  5. Selfie sticks. I know they are hated but I’m a big fan of the selfie stick, you can get the camera further away from your face and get interesting stuff in the background.

    selfie stick selfie
    Using a selfie stick allows you to be more creative. I took this at a Wolfgang Digital event.
  6. Apps. I asked people to recommend apps that would make me look younger. Many recommended PicMonkey I use this myself quite regularly. June suggested the weightloss filterFaceTune, Snapseed and Camera+ were other recommendations (Thanks, Sinead, Claire, Joanne & Cliona).

If you want a real step by step guide to filtering with Instagram here’s a great post from In The Dee Tales. I tried it but ended up looking a bit silly so I’m not sharing.

 

Try It!

If you’ve never taken a selfie before today is the day to do it. Let me know if I’ve inspired you, show me your selfie.

 

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

“Small

 

Celebrate the selfie
Why Selfies Need To Be Celebrated And How You Should Use Them To Market Your Business
How To Create A Never Ending List Of Blog Topics
How To Create A Never Ending List Of Blog Topics

[Estimated reading time 7.5 minutes]

Do you struggle to find blog topics? Do you go through times when you are full of ideas and others when you can’t think of a single thing to write?

At least once a year I get brain freeze, I’ll have been happily writing away and all of a sudden my fingers can’t type anymore. Bloggers block has hit.

I keep a list of blog topics for such occasions but it needs topping up from time to time.

Today I’m going to share a list of blog topics. It should help inspire some ideas. Take these topics and brainstorm around them, find the topics that will work for you and add them to your content calendar.

Listen below and start building your blog topics list:



Reader Persona’s

I discussed the process of creating reader/customer persona’s in detail in episode 14.

Knowing your customer well, knowing the sorts of things they are interested in, the challenges they face and what they value is a great way to generate content ideas.

It doesn’t take long to create a persona, you can download my worksheet here. I always come up with a mountain of blog topics when I work on these.

Newsworthy topics

Putting your own commentary or adding an insight to news or events can make for good reading

This has worked well for me in the past. I wrote about social media policy in the wake of Margaret Thatchers death and gained press attention as a result.

My post was sparked by a specific social media incident, not the death. If you are paying tribute to a death or commenting on a disaster tread very carefully, you don’t want it to look like you are cashing in on grief.

Google News

Google News is a good place to start looking for news stories related to your business.  Select ‘News’ from the search results page to find the latest stories relating to your industry, keyword or local area.

google news search
Use Google News to stay on top of newsworthy topics for your blog.

Google Alerts

You can subscribe to specific Google news results using Google Alerts. When you do this Google will send you an email every day with new stories as it finds them. You’ll find the option at the bottom of your Google News search results.

subscribe to Google news using Google alerts
subscribe to Google news using Google alerts

Twitter trending topics

Check Twitter daily to see what is trending. Even if you can’t tap into the trend straight away it will inspire blog posts.

As I write this the name of an Irish soccer fan, presumed missing in Paris is trending, luckily because he was found safe and well.

If I was a tourism related business I could tap into this topic by writing about:

  • How to keep in touch with friends when travelling if you don’t have a phone
  • How to extend the battery life of your phone when travelling
  • Where to get free wifi, internet access and phone charging points in Paris

Traditional media

The news topics that make it into the pages of our newspapers, segments on the TV or radio are the biggest trending news stories in our local area, country or even the world.

In Ireland both traditional and online media are saturated with two big stories:

#1 Brexit (the UK referendum on whether to leave the EU) – If the result of that referendum will have an impact on your readers and customers you should be writing about that.

#2 The UEAFA Euro’s (that’s a soccer championship for those of you outside Europe) – Is there anything soccer related you can weave into your content? For example, a HR consultancy could use the opportunity to talk about how to referee employee disputes.

Looking into the future the Olympics are on the way. What blog topics can you tap into that relate to that?

Days of the year

Every day of the year has at least one celebration day, some of them are quite bizarre. Days Of The Year is a website that keeps track of them all.

According to the site today is:

  • Fresh Veggies Day
  • Dump The Pump Day
  • Fudge Day

A great day for a food blogger!

Pick out some significant days and start thinking about content that will work. I’m going to give Selfie Day (June 21st) a shot.

days of the year
Days Of The Year shows me selfie day is on the way.

Seasonal Content

Look ahead to regular seasonal content. It’s Father’s day on Saturday, is there something you can write for that. What about Christmas, Valentines Day?

The nice thing about seasonal content is that one it’s written you can share it every year.

Don’t forget your seasonal content either, what can you write for Father’s Day, Christmas, Ramadan? The great thing about this content is you can share it every year.

#ThrowbackThursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly trend where people share nostalgic content. It could be an old photo of your town, something from your own archives or a reminder of objects and toys from our youth.

The American Craft Council have a regular Throw Back Thursday feature on their blog.

throwbackthursday blog topic
The American Craft Council share regular ThrowbackThursday posts

Throwback Thursday isn’t the only dailly theme. Here are just a few for other days of the week:

  • MusicMonday
  • TransformationTuesday
  • WisdomWednesday
  • FollowFriday
  • Caturday (my personal favourite)
  • SelfieSunday

You’ll find a more comprehensive list here.

Checklists

What tasks do your customers have to do on a regular basis? Find out and create checklists to help them.

Here’s an example of a ‘What to pack’ checklist on the Eagle Creek blog. It doesn’t just tell you what to pack, it includes lots of packing tips too.

Packing checklist from Eagle Creek
Packing checklist from Eagle Creek

Analysis

There is so much content available on the internet for free that it can be hard to create something unique. Instead why not take some of that content and add your own commentary or analysis.

Blog posts

You could respond to an existing blog post or try and replicate a process someone else has demonstrated. I’m a big fan of the Pinterest Fail website that shows people’s failed attempts to follow Pinterest instructions. Is there something similar you can do relating to your business?

Infographics

Infographics are a good place to start with analytical content. Find one you like (Visual.ly has a directory), embed it in your post and analyse the stats, compare them to your own experience and how they relate to your readers.

Surveys

Find the latest surveys and studies related to your business (Google News is good for this) and analyse the content in the same way you did for Infographics.

Events and conferences

If you are attending an event or conference keep notes of the key learnings and insights that will appeal to your target market. Take lots of photos and audio and combine them into a blog post.

Your story

Your personal story will attract and engage far more readers than other content. people want to know about you.

Once you start thinking about it, you’ll find stories everywhere, in overheard conversations, in daily experiences. Discussions with customers and clients. What memories do you have that could spark a good blog post?

I used the story of a money box and a conversation with a childhood friend as the basis of a post I wrote for CongRegation.

Stories about your business

What stories do you have from your years in business?  Could you tell your readers about the day you started your business? What you’ve learned on your business journey?

Tell the stories of your staff, contractors, customers, suppliers.

Case studies & Testimonials

Use blog posts to share case studies of work you have done or testimonials from customers.

If you are gathering testimonials be careful to not make them too cold. Interviewing a customer in person and transcribing it will always seem more natural and credible than an email interview. Shooting video or recording podcasts is even better.

Daily/Weekly Diary

If your business is in the early stages consider sharing a diary of your progress. It will help bring your audience on the journey with you.

This is a technique we used the first year we ran Blog Awards Ireland. Our weekly blog posts told the story of planning and launching the awards. Those posts were surprisingly popular with our audience.

Updates

If you’ve been blogging a while you’ve got a tonne of content on your site already. Look back at some of those posts, could you write a follow up post?

What are your most popular posts? Can you elaborate on those and create new posts around the same topic?

How-To

The top posts in my Google analytics are always How-to posts. These are step by step guides on how to complete specific processes.

There is a never ending list of tutorials you can share. Think about different ways you can do this, they don’t all have to be text based, video, instructographics and photographs can make your tutorials stand out.

Instead of a straight how-to post look at how you can answer the question differently. Is there a super fast way of doing it? is there a way of doing it on a budget? Can you do it without a key ingredient?

The Happy Pear are great at creating dairy free, gluten free versions of recipes. Look at this gluten free jaffa cake recipe.

blog topics jaffa cakes
Gluten free Jaffa Cakes from the Happy Pear nomz!

Reviews

What products and services interest your customers? It doesn’t have to be something you sell but something that compliments what you do.

For example an interior design shop owner could review:

  • Interior design books
  • The art direction in Downtown Abbey
  • Cleaning products
  • Art exhibitions

Roundup posts

If you are a regular listener I don’t have to elaborate on this much. roundup link posts are a collection of links, with a brief description usually relating t a specific topic. Check out episode 26 for more.

Expert interviews

Interviews not only give you insights that you may not find by yourself but they are also highly shareable.

Write a list of people you’d like to interview. You can aim high with some (but these aren’t necessarily the first people you should approach), then look at local hero’s, local business people, people who are influential to your customers and people you know you can learn from.

It’s not a business blog but I‘m a big fan of Minne Melange’s blog, she’s pulled off some great interviews. In fact, Sinead is on my list of interviewees for future episodes of the podcast.

Best of lists

I love doing these posts, there are so many great people doing great stuff online (and off) why not tell the world. Take a look through your blog feed, who are your favourite bloggers? Can you write about them? Your favourite Instagrammers, Tweeters, Snapchatters, local businesses?

Challenge

I hope you’ve managed to collect some blog topic ideas whilst reading this. The next stage is to edit that list down and focus on the ones that will really work for your business.

This week I want you to pick just 5 from the list, put them in your content schedule and start to elaborate on them.

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

 

Blog Topic Idea Inspiration For Beating Bloggers Block
Blog Topic Idea Inspiration For Beating Bloggers Block
askgaryvee book review
Book Club review – #ASKGARYVEE by Gary Vaynerchuk

Somehow I’d forgotten I liked Gary Vaynerchuk.

The Irish version of Donald Trump is a man called Bill Cullen. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he’s a self-made businessman who played the Trump character in the Irish version of ‘The Apprentice’.

There’s a lot to admire in Bill. He succeeded against all odds, he has ambition and drive. When his businesses failed he picked himself up and started again. But I’m not a Bill Cullen fan, I attended a talk he gave at my local enterprise office whilst he was still riding the Apprentice wave. It became clear to me that he was arrogant and intolerant. He couldn’t see that not everyone could be like him, that we all had different strengths and weaknesses. I admired his success but disliked his attitude.

What’s this got to do with Gary Vaynerchuk?

I’d always liked Gary Vee. I reviewed his last two books on this blog, I even reviewed his appearance at the Dublin Web Summit but at some stage I’d put him in the same basket as Bill Cullen. I’d assumed that as both were loud, brash, self-assured businessmen that they shared the negative qualities that I’d seen in Mr Cullen. But it turns out I was wrong.

Gary Vaynerchuk at Web Summit
Gary Vaynerchuk at Web Summit

When I asked Snapchat and Twitter what my next book club should be people overwhelmingly recommended #ASKGARYVEE* and I have to thank them for that.

#ASKGARYVEE is a collection of questions and answers that have been part of the YouTube video show of the same name. People submit questions they want Gary to answer and he does so on the show.

I found myself enjoying the read. Gary isn’t scared to talk about his weaknesses, he knows he’s a bit of an egotist but he manages to temper this with an understanding that not everyone can be like him. Sometimes his answers are short, even slightly disparaging but all of them open a window into the world of a highly driven and unusual character.

I particularly like the sections that dealt with his struggle with education. It’s so encouraging for young people to see someone who was an academic failure, who doesn’t enjoy reading and whose greatest fear is reading out loud in public be successful.

I usually read business books to learn but this one isn’t just about learning. I find it fascinating to understand what makes someone like Gary Vee tick. How does he keep his energy going? How does he manage the work-life balance? What isn’t he good at? All the answers are in the pages.

It’s also highly quotable. If you grab a marker there are whole sections you could highlight and repeat to people to inspire them or to prove your argument.

Some of my favourite Q&A’s included in the book are:

“How do I create interesting content for a boring product or a stale industry?” See the original answer here.
“People who write essays as their Instagram captions – what the hell are they thinking? We’re there to look at pics, not read endless shit” See his YouTube answer here.

That second one had me laughing out loud, particularly as I’ve written about captioning in detail for AgoraPulse recently. Luckily Gary Vee seemed to fall on my side.

One thing that stands out for me is that Gary Vee wants to be liked, or at least he sees being liked as giving him a business advantage. He’s written about customer service before, he’s written about what it takes to make a customer happy but I’d forgotten. Simple things like referring to business people as ‘she’ as much as ‘he’ got me on side very early on.

The Verdict

Not all of us can be Gary Vee but not all of us would want to either. What you’ll get from this book isn’t a blueprint of how to make money or of how to be Gary Vee but some real inspiration and some affirmation. And if you are like me you’ll find a new warmth for a man who you may have thought was inaccessible.

*Affiliate link – I get a small cut of sales if you buy after clicking this link

 

 

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

“Small

 

Book Club review - #ASKGARYVEE by Gary Vaynerchuk
Book Club review – #ASKGARYVEE by Gary Vaynerchuk
what is a blog
The word blog has evolved. Do we know what it means anymore?

What is a blog?

This isn’t as easy a question to answer as it used to be. When the early pioneers of blogging sat down and recorded their first posts in the 90’s I wonder if they had any idea how the concept will evolve and reshape itself to become what it is today.

What Is A Blog? Watch For My Thoughts:

 

A blog used to be something resembling an online diary, a place where people would keep a record of their daily lives. The term itself is a shortening of ‘weblog’.

But things have changed. The word ‘blog’ has morphed and depending who you are talking to it means a lot of things or very little.

As someone who blogs I feel a definition is needed. If what I am doing right now is no longer defined specifically as a blog what is it?

Many blogs are still online diaries, others are related to specific topics. Mine, it’s a part of my business. It’s a marketing tool. It’s more like a magazine about digital marketing than a diary.

A couple of years ago I tried to re-define what a blog was. I wanted to be able to explain it to my students better. The definition I came up with was:

‘It’s a website or part of a website that is updated with new pages on a regular basis. And allows commenting.’

It seemed like a good explanation to me at the time and it’s one I’ve continued to use right up until this year. Now I’m not so sure.

Does a blog have to be a website, can it be rented space on someone else’s site?

When I started blogging there were few options. I was only aware of three blogging platforms:

Blogger – Back then it wasn’t owned by Google
WordPress – I had no idea about the two types of WordPress
Typepad – A paid service that only hardcore bloggers used

Now there are many more. We have sites like Tumblr and Medium that merge social networking and blogging. LinkedIn and Facebook both have built in blogging options. Video blogging (Vlogging) has become more accessible as digital video cameras have become prevalent.

Many of these don’t fit my definition.

In the last few weeks I’ve seen bloggers classified as:

1. People who are active online on channels like Snapchat or Instagram
2. Only people who write on their own websites, LinkedIn and Medium posts were discounted

As you can see opinion seems to be widely varied.

So what is a blog? What do I think a blog is? Is it video, can it be audio? Is an Instagram account a blog? Is it only a blog when there are large swathes of text attached? What about a photo blog? Can that work without text?

Doesn’t an Instagram or Snapchat account that shares snippets of the users life fulfil the original meaning of the word better than my business blog ever will?

I don’t have the answer, what are your thoughts? What constitutes a blog and how would you define it. I’d like to hear what you think.

 

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

“Small

 

what is a blog
The word blog has evolved. Do we know what it means anymore?

drive-more-traffic-to-your-blog

Are you a frustrated small business blogger? Do you look at your stats and sigh when yet again you’ve failed to drive more traffic to it? If so read on.

You’ll find me every Tuesday morning ‘doing my stats’. Sometimes it’s encouraging, other times I find it disheartening. 6 months ago when I started this podcast I decided it was time to overhaul my blog, to make it better and to kill all the irrelevant traffic I was getting.

It’s worked, the people who read now fit much better into my customer profile, people stay longer and read more but I can’t help but feeling disheartened when I have lost over a third of my traffic as a result.

It’s not a bad thing, it was planned, most of that traffic was irrelevant and arriving at my site to read one, bad blog post. I’ve fixed the post and I’ve killed the bad traffic.

It doesn’t stop me wanting more traffic but this time, it needs to be the right traffic.

It’s time to stop wishing for more blog visitors and to do something proactive about it. I’m going to share my plans with you today.

Listen below to find out how to get more traffic to your small business blog:



Keyword planning

This is something I used to do more frequently but have lapsed on for the last few years. When I do do it I do it the laziest way possible. I use Google auto complete.

I type my topic into Google and wait for it to finish my sentence for it. Although this is a good starting point for finding the right keywords/phrases to target with my blog content it shouldn’t stop there.

Google autocomplete gave me a range of keyphrases when I started typing ‘small business blog’ into the search bar. I’ve picked 4 to investigate further:

1. Small business blog topics
2. Small business blogging tips
3. Small business blogs list
4. Small business blog guest posts

That’s 4 good topics. Usually I’d just pick one of those and write a post. From now on I’m going to be smarter.

MOZ toolbar

I picked up this tool suggestion at the Content Mastery Summit from Ian Cleary last week. I’ve talked about DA (domain authority) in the past. It’s a score that software company MOZ assigns to your website to represent how likely it is to appear in Google searches.

The MOZ toolbar is a plugin for Firefox and Chrome that lets you easily discover the DA of other websites.

If I search Google for one of the suggested topics above ‘Small business blog topics‘ the Moz toolbar will anonymise the results, it won’t let my previous search results or location skew the results. I can even specify the location I want to search from.

Under each result that Google throws up MOZ adds a line displaying the DA of the site. If some of the results on page one of Google are from sites with a lower DA than you, there’s a chance you might beat them in the search results.

There’s good news and bad news for me. There are two sites that appear in the search results that have a lower DA than me but Moz is also telling me it’s quite a competitive keyword.

moz toolbar results
Can you compete against others for your keyword?

Google Keyword Planner

Now that I have identified a keyword that I have a chance of ranking for I need to see if it’s worth my while. Are people actually searching for it?

To do this I use Google Keyword planner. I asked it to show me search volume results for my keyphrase for those searching in Ireland, UK and USA combined.

It’s not good news for me. According to their information, there are on average only 20 monthly searches for this phrase.

It did offer me some others that could be worth using. ‘Business blogs’ and ‘blog topics’ both have a high volume of search results. I just need to go back to MOZ and find out what I have to beat to rank for those phrases.

Competitive analysis

Who are your online competitors? Who writes about similar topics or targets the same audience?

This is another tip I picked up from Ian at Content Mastery Summit. Make a list of your competitor websites and check their DA, if it’s lower than yours, you have a chance of beating them on some blog topics.

Use SEM rush (you only need the free version) to find out what keywords their site is ranking for. If your DA is higher than theirs and you optimise your posts for those keywords there’s a good chance that you can outrank them.

Headlines

If you do all the work above you could find yourself ranking in search results for lots of keywords but even if you do you’ll need people to click. That’s where the headline comes in. A good headline will make people want to click, a bad one could make them scroll by to the next search result.

I covered writing better headlines in more detail in episode 18.

Guest posting

I haven’t done much guest posting in the past. I have been lucky enough to write for some pretty powerful social media blogs but it’s something I really should do more of.

If you are going to offer guest posts tread carefully. Google are penalising people who just guest blog for a link. If you are planning on guest posting the key is to offer really good, relevant and valuable content.

When seeking blogs to guest post for they should:

1. Have a higher domain authority than you
2. Share your target market
3. Accept guest blog posts
4. Be happy for you to link to a relevant blog post of your own within the post you write.

This means you’ll be reaching a new audience but you’ll also get a good and relevant link back to your site.

Getting more social shares and clicks

Social media is still a great way to drive traffic to your blog. There are specific post types you can write that will get more social shares:

1. Best of list posts – Find the best people in your field or your customers field and write a best of post about them. For example, I wrote a best of post for We Teach Social featuring the best Irish Food Bloggers on Instagram. We got lots of shares and site visits as a result.

Don’t be cynical, if you are doing a best of list you really have to share a best of, not just a list of the people you think will be most influential.

2. Roundup link postsI talked about these in detail on episode 26. Make sure you tell people you’ve included their posts in the roundup and you’ll find some of them will share.

3. Expert interviews – Who are the top people in your field? What knowledge do they have to share that will appeal to your target market? Interview these people and you’ll find most of them will happily share your post on their social media channels.

4. Tips from the experts – This was a suggestion from Ian Cleary who I interviewed in episode 19.

Make a list of the people who are influential to your target market. Ask each one to share a quote or a tip relating to a specific post and curate their answers into a blog post. Not only will some of the contributors share your post but lots of their audience will too.

Images

Images are to social media what headlines are to Google. A good one will catch the eye and encourage click throughs, a poor one will get scrolled by.

Make sure you are creating at least two images for each post you write. One in landscape format for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and one in portrait for Pinterest. Find out more about images for blogging in episode 13.

Challenge

It’s an easy one this week. Use the tools above to identify at least 5 keywords/phrases to target with your blog posts.

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.

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drive more traffic to your small business blog
How to get more blog readers.
4 Crucial Tips To Take To Your Next Networking Meeting
4 Crucial Tips To Take To Your Next Networking Meeting

I’ve been going to networking events for small business for as long as I’ve been in business. I’ve learned loads from the people I’ve met and forged relationships that have stood the test of times.

Last week I was in a pub, not an unusual place to be in Dublin but what was different was I was at the pre-drinks for the ‘Content Mastery Summit’.

I was there to meet my fellow conference attendees. Meeting people offline is something I don’t do enough of. Yes I meet lots of people as a trainer but I rarely get to talk to them beyond the lecture hall. I’ve been doing a lot of this recently and it’s been great. I’ve started building relationships with people that I hope will blossom long after the conference doors close.

I share my top networking tips for small business below:

#1 Use social networks prior to the event

Use Twitter and other social networks, find out who else is there. Twitter is a great ice breaker, you can arrange to meet in tea breaks or after the event. Use the hashtag for the event to track who is in the room with you, look at their profiles, find common ground and introduce yourself.

At the Inbound conference last year there was a hashtag just for those attending alone. This tag meant I didn’t have to dine alone and gave me some great new contacts.

#2 Concentrate on making a few strong contacts

I was at an event once where we were asked to take part in a networking task. In the space of 2 minutes, we were to collect as many business cards as we could. We ran around grabbing business cards rarely looking up to see who was handing them to us. I collected about 20 cards in that session. Do you know what happened them? Most of them ended up in the bin.

Why? I wasn’t making a meaningful connection with the owners of those cards. Networking like so many other things is about quality over quantity. Instead of trying to meet everyone in the room I find it more valuable to focus on 3 or 4 people and really get to know them. These stronger relationships always pay off and continue to blossom long after the event.

#3 Be an introducer

A good networker brings new people into the circle and introduces them. They’ll remember you for it and pay it forward in the future.

Of course, you’ll have to be good at remembering names to do this. Try using a new contacts name a lot when you first meet them, this will keep it in your memory longer.

#4 Never, ever let people stand alone

Don’t ever let anyone stand by themselves. No one likes being left on their own at an event. We’ve all been there, standing in the corner, shuffling, uncomfortable. If you see someone on their own ask them to join your group. You know you’d appreciate it if someone did the same for you.

Your Turn

What tips do you have for nervous small business networkers? Have you had a good or bad experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them.

 

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

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4 Crucial Tips To Take To Your Next Networking Meeting
4 Crucial Tips To Take To Your Next Networking Meeting

 

 

Everyone Says You Need A Blog Niche But How Do You Find One?
Everyone Says You Need A Blog Niche But How Do You Find One?

Do you struggle to find your blog niche? Do you really need to have one? How do you go about finding yours?

I just celebrated my blogging birthday. 9 years ago I sat down and put my fingers to the keyboard to construct a blog post for the first time. It was easier back then we hadn’t reached the age of what Mark Schaefer calls ‘Content Shock’.

Back in 2013 ChartBeat reported that there were 92,000 articles posted to the web. I don’t have stats for 2016 but can you imagine how much that figure must have grown?

This poses a challenge for businesses trying to market themselves with content. It’s not easy to be noticed in a world where every topic has been written about 10s, 100s even thousands of times. If you are blogging it’s time to meet that challenge head on and become the go-to person for your topic.

But how do you do that if you are in a content saturated industry? You need to find an angle, a niche a space that you can own on the internet.

Listen below to discover how I found my blog niche (eventually)



What is a niche?

The marketing definition of Niche according to Dictonary.com:

“a distinct segment of a market.”

I prefer the Ecological version:

“the position or function of an organism in a community of plants and animals.”

If you can find an area of your business that no one else, or at least no one good is already occupying you have a niche. In that way, you are performing the function of an organism in the community of the Internet.

Still confused. Let’s look at potential niches for a business blogging about fashion (note I know nothing about fashion):

  • Hipster
  • Anti-hipster
  • Budget fashion
  • Charity shops chic
  • High street catwalk
  • Bespoke tailoring for women
  • Designer fashion

This list only scratches the surface, there are hundreds of niches within fashion you could choose to inhabit. The questions you need to ask yourself before committing are:

  1. Is the niche big enough?
  2. Are your customers interested?
  3. Is it over saturated already?

How to find your blog niche

Step 1: Write an elevator pitch

It wasn’t until last year that I really started to carve my niche, that’s over 6 years of blogging for Spidrworking before I found it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

My journey started whilst listening to the ProBlogger podcast with Darren Rowse from Problogger. The first episode was a challenge to write an elevator pitch for your blog.

As a business owner, I’d written elevator pitches before but this was the first time I focussed it on my blog. The idea is you get into an elevator with a potential business prospect and you have the time it takes to reach the top floor to tell them about your business.

Here’s what I came up with:

“I write a blog for my business Spiderworking designed to help small businesses who want to learn more about how they can get more from social media.

My aim is to give people enough information to allow them to run their own social media. I also rely on it to show people that I know what I’m talking about. I often feel like my readers are on a journey with me as I pick up new tips.”

Just writing this helped me focus my ideas. Spending time thinking about it was just the kick I needed to start evaluating my blog and finding my niche.

I was even inspired to ask others to write an elevator pitch. Here are some of the ones they shared. 

Takeaway

Take a few minutes to write an elevator pitch for your blog, you might be surprised with what you come up with.

Step 2: Know your customers

I covered this topic in detail in episode 14, you can listen to that here.

There really is no point writing a blog for your business unless you know who you are writing for. Remember our fashion blogger from earlier? The niche they choose will depend very much on their customer.

If their customers are students on a tight budget ‘Charity Shop Chic’ could work well. A slightly more wealthy customer might enjoy ‘High Street Catwalk’. If you are targeting high-end clients or others working in the industry ‘Haute couture’ might be your niche.

Takeaway

Download my worksheet and create at least one customer persona for your blog. You’ll find yourself brimming with ideas by the time you’ve finished.

Step 3: Find your voice

I struggled with this when I started the Spiderworking blog. After writing about Organic food for 3 years the transition to marketing seemed hard. My writing became antiseptic. What I really needed was the confidence to let my personality in.

Whether it’s a recipe or a how-to post look at how you can add a personal spin. When you write your next post think about where the idea came from, what provoked you to write it. What experiences have you had of what you are writing about? These questions will spark stories that you can incorporate into your post.

Something else I do is imagine I’m talking to my customer. I read my posts out loud (mostly to my cat) to see how they sound, do I sound real, am I telling it in an engaging way.

I love this opening paragraph from a post from Kimberly Crossland’s post on finding your voice:

“Take a look at the playlist on my phone and you might be confused.

Although it’s primarily made up of Texas Country artists – Stoney Larue, Turnpike Troubadors, Dirty River Boys, Randy Rogers, the list goes on – I also have Adele, Sara Bareilles, Christina Perri and Sia sprinkled in there too.

Pretty diverse, right?

Each of those artists (even the Texas Country ones) is unique. Each has a distinct sound to their voice. But here’s the thing. If you put them together in a lineup and ask them each to sing Diana Ross’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T and it’d be easy to name the artist – even while they were singing karaoke.

Why? Because their voice is their voice.”

Not only is it an awesome opening paragraph for but it makes the concept of  ‘your voice’ easier to understand. Can someone read your blog posts and recognise the style as being yours?

Read Kimberly’s full post here.

Takeaway

Try recording your blog posts on a voice recorder instead of typing. Read your posts aloud and find ways to inject stories into your content.

Step 4: Know your knowledge and limitations

Did you listen to my interview with Christopher Brennan from Phorest salon software? He told us a story about when he first started writing content for salon owners.

He wrote about facials and manicures but he didn’t really know anything about these topics. It wasn’t long before his customers called him out.

So he changed his content strategy and started to write about what he knew, marketing. By combining his knowledge with the needs of his customers and by injecting his infectious personality he managed to create a successful blog that converts.

Takeaway

Make a list of things you have expertise in and things you are passionate about. Do any of these topics fit the needs of your customer?

Step 5: Research

Now you know what you can talk about, who you are talking to and you are comfortable with your own voice. It’s time to see where you can fit in.

Take your list of ideas and go and search Google, how many of these niches are saturated, which ones have potential?

People used to associate me with Facebook marketing but that’s not where I went with my niche. It’s a pretty saturated space and I felt I had more to share elsewhere. I chose blogging because I already had an audience, I’d run networks and events for bloggers for over 5 years. Although lots of people write for bloggers not many specifically target small business bloggers. So that’s where I am today.

Before I chose my niche I tried some on for size. Over the last two years I’ve been concentrating on specific themes. One quarter I would write about Facebook ads, the next Twitter, Storytelling, Facebook competitions. By trying these on I could find out what people were interested in and I also found the content that I was best at writing.

Takeaway

Come up with a list of possible niches and spend a month writing about each.

Bonus

That was where this blog post was going to end but on Tuesday I was at the Content Mastery Summit in Dublin with Mark Schaefer and Ian Cleary. Both of them shared tips on finding a niche in a saturated market. So before I go I’m going to share some of their wisdom.

Mark Schaefer

If you find your niche is saturated look at your competitors, look at the content types they are not exploiting.

If our fashion blogger finds that there are already a lot of ‘Charity Chic’ blogs she should see if they are creating video content and podcasts too. If not there’s where she can squeeze in. Also, take a look at what is being done badly by your competitors and focus on how you can be better.

Ian Cleary

Ian showed us a process for looking for topics where you can beat your competitors.

He showed us how to look at what our competitors were ranking for using SEM rush. He showed us how we can compare their domain authority to your own (this is a score that MOZ creates to rank how high your site is likely to appear in search engine results)

If you can find a search term your competitor is ranking for and you are not, and if you have a higher domain authority, write your own post targeting the same keyword. You should beat them in search results meaning you can still dominate the niche.

Challenge

My challenge for you this week is to start looking for a niche. I don’t expect you to find one in just one week but you should be able to nail some options. Follow the steps above and you never know what you might come up with.

Let me know if you have success, leave me a comment below

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.

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Everyone Says You Need A Blog Niche But How Do You Find One?
Everyone Says You Need A Blog Niche But How Do You Find One?
small business owners learning
Are you always upgrading your skills? Do you spend time learning and staying up to date?

As small business owners it’s hard to find the time to keep learning, but it should be an essential part of what we do. Do you make room for learning and developing personal skills in your year?

This time of year is conference season for me. As regular business slows down a bit for the summer holidays I use this time to pack in the knowledge.

In my business, you can’t afford to stand still, everything changes at a breakneck pace. Your industry might not change as fast as mine but I’m sure every business needs to keep up with changes.

Watch  below to find out how I keep up to date:

How 5 ways I ensure that I keep learning:

1. Online

I spend at least an hour a day reading posts and news relating to social media and small business. It’s an integral part of my day and although it tends to put stress on my to-do list I’m aware I just have to do it to stay up to date. I rely heavily on Feedly to subscribe to the blogs and newspapers I enjoy and Google Alerts to see what’s hot.

2. Offline Networking

Events and conferences aren’t always full of good knowledge but you’ll always pick up a few gems, you’ll also make valuable connections that are often more relevant than those you make at broader networking events. And you’ll learn loads from those connections too.

3. Training

A big part of my job is training. I sometimes think I learn almost as much from the people I train and the challenges I experience as they learn from me!

4. Books

I’m reading at least one business book a month at the moment and I’ve started a book club for others who want to join me (more on this soon). You can subscribe to my newsletter to find out more about my book of the month.

5. Evaluation

This is probably the most important one but the one that we tend to ignore. What were you doing a year ago? What were the results of your last project? Evaluating old and historic projects will help you become better. You need to do more than just know a project was successful or not successful you need to know why. So measure, assess and look at how you can make it even more successful next time.
Many professions require that you top up your knowledge every year with CPD (Continuous professional development) and I think this is a good model for small business owners. I think it’s a good idea to set aside a certain number of days a year to dedicate to your own CPD, is there an online course you can do or a conference you can attend?

How do you keep learning? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

 

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

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 Small Business Owners, Are You Still Learning?
How do you stay educated and on top of your industry?
From Blogging To Books - The Surprising Story Of An Irish Farmerette
How Lorna Sixsmith Turned Her Blog Into A Successful Series of Books

When Lorna Sixsmith started ‘Irish Farmerette’ she thought of it as a personal blog. Somewhere she could share her farming life and advocate for farming and Irish food. She’d also always wanted to write a book. It took a blog post about marrying a farmer, a trip to Wales and a crowdfunding campaign to bring the two together.

Listen below to hear the story of how Lorna turned her blog into a writing career:



 

How did Lorna turn a personal blog into a book?

In September 2012 Lorna hit publish on a blog post that would change her life. She didn’t know it at the time but her post ‘Advice to those considering marrying a farmer‘ would go viral and spur her to finally start on that book she’d been meaning to write.

It didn’t take her long to write the first 10,000 words but she put it on the back burner. Would people really want to read it? Could she get a publisher? If she self-published would she end up with hundreds of copies stacked in the attic like so many others?

Then she went to Wales. It wasn’t a holiday, she was attending a conference and one of the speakers introduced her to the concept of Crowdfunding.

We all know about crowdfunding in 2016. Many of us will have invested in quirky and unusual projects, some of us will have given a dig out to our friends, a few of us may even have run our own campaigns.

Back in 2013 it wasn’t as widespread but Lorna decided that it might be a good way to publish her book. If successful it would guarantee sales in advance. On her return from Wales she discovered that her viral post had hit 50,000 views in a week. All her ducks were in a row, it was time to take the plunge.

Between June of 2013 and Christmas of the same year, she crowdfunded her book, wrote it and published it in time to appear in stockings.

I shot the video for her campaign.

Why such a tight deadline?

Lorna loves deadlines. If she doesn’t have them things don’t happen. Her first deadline was very tight, she had just 3 months to deliver her book for Christmas as she’d promised her crowdfunding investors. The second and upcoming third book have an easier. To me, 1o months is still an insane schedule but it ensures she has the book ready in time for biggest farming event in Ireland the ‘National Ploughing Championships’. This isn’t just a competition for ploughing but a massive trade fair/country show, the perfect place for her to get press coverage.

Is blogging a good gateway to writing a book?

Lorna had struggled to get started with her blog. Her first plan was to write fiction, instead of assisting she found blogging was a form of procrastination. It was good practice for getting into the habit of blogging but it wasn’t until she chose non-fiction that it started to pay off.

The first book  ‘Would You Marry a Farmer’ could be written in sections. If she got writers block she’d just tell herself it was a blog post, write 1,5000 words and come back to it for editing.

Getting press coverage

It’s not enough to just write a book, particularly when you self-publish. You need to promote it too. Press coverage is hard to get when you start from nowhere but Lorna found that blogging helped with this too.

She’d been told media wouldn’t be interested in her crowdfunding campaign until she had completed it. So instead of sending press releases she started to update her blog once a week, sharing how the campaign was going. These blog posts attracted the attention of a journalist in one of Ireland’s biggest newspapers ‘The Irish Independent’ who wrote a feature on her in the paper.

Lorna continues to get press coverage, in fact, she’s become a minor celebrity in Ireland when it comes to farming, appearing on current affairs and light entertainment television shows.

She now writes a column for ‘The Scottish Farmer’ a job she got partly because the editor was able to check out her blog and style in advance.

Having a niche

There are other farming bloggers in Ireland but Irish Farmerette stands out. Lorna started it partly as a therapeutic exercise. She shares moments from her farming life but she tries to find humour in even the biggest disasters on the farm. It’s a warts and all blog about farming.

Where should someone who wants to write a book start with blogging?

  1. It helps you grow your following and your audience. When people read your blog and get to know what your writing is like they are more likely to buy. They’ll also follow you on social media and chat to you there.
  2. Write in the same style that they will be writing for the book. It will attract the right readers. If you want to write historical fiction write about history and stories around the era that your book is set in. If it’s going to be a humorous blog the content of the blog has to be funny.
  3. Your blog is a trailer, a sample of what your book will be.

To see what other writers are blogging Lorna recommends the Alli (Alliance Of Independent Authors) blog and I’m a big fan of Charles Stross’s blog.

If you could start your blog fresh again today what would you do differently?

I always like to ask people this. For Lorna, it’s pretty simple. She’d like to have started with www.lornasixsmith.com instead of IrishFarmerette. Although she owns both domains and both point at her blog the term ‘farmerette’ has been a bit controversial. Some see it as being demeaning.

Find out more about Lorna’s journey, life on the farm and her books here.

 

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

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Blogging for writers. How one Irish Farmer turned her blog into a career
Blogging for writers. How one Irish Farmer turned her blog into a career