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Monday, 30 March 2009

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting A Business Blog

Blogging is the latest buzzword in online marketing and PR, But with so many marketers jumping on the blogging bandwagon, few people are giving a thought to whether blogs are really up their alley, or taking the time to consider the best ways of going about it.

If you are planning to start a business blog, ask yourself these questions before you take the final plunge.

1. Do you really need a blog?

Writing and maintaining a blog takes a certain degree of commitment, as well as a passion (or at least a liking) for stringing words into a decent sentence. If you don't enjoy writing that much, you could always create an audio or video blog.

But would your business objectives really be served by starting a blog? Or could other methods of online marketing - like SEO, ezine advertising or newsletter publishing work just as well, if not better?

2. Whom do you want to reach with your blog?

The first step to reaching your audience is understanding where they go to find information about your products. If your audience largely consists of people who live in your town or use products that they search for in the newspapers, offline advertising might be more suited to your purpose. If however, your target audience belongs to one or more of these segments, a blog might be just the thing to boost your business.

- Internet users

Does your target audience really use the internet? If not, then starting a blog (or any online activity, for that matter) will just be a huge waste of time and effort.

- Blog readers

Does your target audience read blogs? Or do they prefer to get their information in their inbox? If the latter is true, then an email newsletter might be a better option than a blog.

- Search engine users

A blog is an excellent way to boost your search engine rankings and get listed for a lot of your target keywords. If you know that your audience uses search engines to find information, a blog will increase your chances of getting their attention.

3. What do you want to achieve with your blog?

There are a lot of things that a blog can do for your business. Blogs can help you -

- Increase your visibility and search engine rankings

- Brand yourself, your products, your services, your company

- Build a community and network with people who have similar interests

- Expand your reach to those outside your current sphere of influence

- Establish your credibility as an expert or thought-leader in your field

- Put a human face on your business

- Reach out to potential customers and stakeholders

Deciding exactly what you want to achieve with your blog can help you get focused, so that you can spend your time and effort in activities that help, not hinder your business objectives.

4. How much time can you spend on your blog?

Serious business bloggers not only spend time writing their own blogs, but also spend a great deal of time reading up on current events and browsing other blogs in their field for information.
If you are prepared to put in the time and effort required to do that sort of research, your blog will serve as a good branding tool for your business. If not, you should either hire someone to do the research or seriously rethink your decision to start a blog.


5. What blogging platform will serve your needs best?

Deciding your blogging platform is an important step that you should take only after becoming familiar with the features and benefits of each option. The reason it is so crucial is because it can be extremely difficult to migrate an established blog to a new platform once you have started it. Moving your blog can result in you losing your data, search engine listings and readers, so don't take this decision lightly. Decide which platform will best meet your marketing objectives, time constraints and personal preferences before you make your first post.

According to T.L. Pakii Pierce who writes at "How to Blog for Fun & Profits!" http://blogforfunandprofit.blogware.com, if you are short of time, and want to spend more time writing, then a hosted solution like Blogger, Blogware, Squarespace or Typepad might serve your purpose better.

This might also prove a better option if you want to get started as soon as possible, are new to the internet, or are unfamiliar with scripts or code.

If, on the other hand, you're a control freak (like me) and don't mind spending some time and effort to customize your blog, then a server-installed software, like Wordpress, b2Evolution or Movable Type might be just right for you. If you don't want to install the scripts yourself, choose a hosting solution with Fantastico, which comes with a one-click install of a number of blogging software.

6. How do you plan to promote your blog?

Why is it good to know this before you start your blog? Because it will help you decide where best to invest your time and effort when you need to build traffic to your blog. You'll learn more about the methods to promote your blog when you subscribe to the email course below. Some of these tasks can be outsourced, while others you would have to do yourself. Decide what you want to take on and look out for service providers to handle the other functions so you can start building traffic to your blog as soon as possible.

7. How will you assess the success of your blog?

To determine how successful your blog is in boosting your profile or profits you will have to measure your blog traffic and track sales or leads that have come through it. Planning this in advance will help you take more informed decisions about your blogging metrics, choice of blogging platform and degree of customization you require on your blog. Understand that blogging is not for everyone. It's just another form of communication. Don't get so hung up on the technology that you end up ignoring more appropriate ways of communicating your message. Some things may be easier to communicate face to face, in a conference room, or even through the good old telephone. But if you asked yourself all the questions above and decided that blogging meets all your objectives, then a blog may be just what the doctor ordered for your business.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priya Shah is a former journalist who writes on business blogging and publishes an internet marketing newsletter. Subscribe to her free eCourse on Blogging for Marketers



Sunday, 29 March 2009

Blog Construction

Blogs like all forms of writing are an art form that takes knowledge and practice to do well.

Writing…Blogs…Blogs are on-line journals where people express themselves through writing. Writing…Writing is the process where one puts down words of a language on a format that others can read. This process has not been around very long, to use one of my writing teacher’s favorite sayings, “Writing has only existed for one day in the one year that humanity has existed.” Speaking and thinking come much easier than writing. These processes just flow out naturally like a river of consciousness; sometimes we hardly have to think about doing them. Anyone and everyone can write words down on paper but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘good writing’, myself included. Like most things in life, our society already takes writing for granted which is proving to expose more of our ignorance. Writing is a new form of expression, and if we want to do it in a way that the masses can connect with our ideas, we have to think much more simply and clearly about this art.

Now that was quite a big paragraph, you’ve got to wonder if I really needed to say as much as I just did to introduce this article on the best way to write your blogs on the Web. I didn’t even mention this main idea, and that’s what an introduction paragraph is meant to be for. This is a common mistake in many blogs out there. We try to get too many ideas across in one paragraph, sometimes even in one sentence! The key, as in all things in life-is to keep it simple. Simplicity means that readers won’t get confused about what your journal entry is actually about. Introduce your main general topic at the start, and use the subsequent paragraphs to discuss separate ideas that relate to this topic. Try to tie everything up in the concluding paragraph, your main argument and the reason why you’ve written in the first place.

Grammar and sentence construction are not easy systems to master, especially if you come from a school system that spent more time telling you about historical battles and quadratic equations than on how to read and write. This is a real problem. When we speak we can get messages across to others easily, but if we put these words down on paper, the writing just isn’t interesting and doesn’t connect with people’s curiosities and fascination. When you write you are not talking to a close friend. You can’t use slang and colloquialisms that only your local community can understand. The aim is to connect with all the people in the world, so let’s make it crystal clear and enjoyable to read.

Your computer has spelling and grammar checks, as well as access to a thesaurus. Use them, but remember that the machine can’t decipher all the intricacies of language. Language is a world in itself, and much of its territories are undiscovered by the masses. So, again keep it simple. Short, precise sentences with single ideas are great. Many words in the English language have the same meanings (synonyms). Use the thesaurus so you don’t repeat the same word over and over throughout the text. It keeps the story fresh and doesn’t turn the reader off. There’s nothing more boring than repetition. Using different words can be a lot of fun and a learning experience, just make sure you use a dictionary (also on the computer/Internet) to make absolute sure of the word’s definition.

Readability…Simplicity…Make your blog accessible by all people. You can even take into consideration that many readers will have learned English as a second language. As I’ve said in previous articles, keep to the point-don’t go on tangents. Stick with the article’s topic, and definitely stay within the realms of your blog’s main area. If your blog is entitled “Jazz music”, people who go there don’t want to hear about how your football team won on the weekend! Please be consistent. How irritating is it to visit a blog that hasn’t been written on in months or years?

I hope these little tips will help you on your quest to producing ‘good’ writing that brings new friends and acquaintances of similar outlooks into your world. If you want people to read, the aim is to produce an emotional reaction in your reader. Pretend you are writing to another form of yourself, if it were not readable, interesting and fun…would you stick around?



By Jesse S. Somer

M6.Net

Jesse S. Somer is a ‘grasshopper’ writer attempting to inform other beginner writers on how they might one day become masters or ‘sensei’s’.

Jessesomer@hotmail.com




Thursday, 26 March 2009

8 Tips Search Engine Optimazion for Blog

Blogging software is really a simple Content Management System (CMS) that easily adds new pages and integrates them into your site's navigational structure and linkage.

Blogs and blog posts are naturally search engine friendly because they are text-rich, link-rich, frequently-updated webpages that use stylesheets or CSS, and have very little extraneous HTML.

Optimizing a blog is very similar to optimizing a website, and optimizing a blog post similar to optimizing a web page. But depending on the blogging service or software you use, the results may look somewhat different.

If you follow some simple rules for search engine optimization, your blog can rank much higher than static website pages in the search engine results pages.

Here are the most important rules to follow to get your posts listed for keywords of your choice.

1. Use your primary keyword in your blog domain

Whether you purchase a separate domain (recommended) for your blog, or host it on a blogging service or a subdomain of your own site, try to ensure that your URL contains the primary keyword you want to optimize for.

For example, if you want your blog to get found for the keyword "rss" get a domain with the keyword "rss", or use the keyword in a subdomain.

Getting a domain name with your own name might make for good branding, especially if yours is a personal blog.

But if you're doing it for business and want the targeted traffic to flow your way, keywords in the domain or subdomain are a move in the right direction.

2. Use your primary key phrase in your blog header tags and the title of your posts

If your primary key phrase is "business blogging" make sure that the word business, or blogging, or both, appear in your blog headers (the H1 or H2 tags) as well as the title of each of your posts.

Most blogging software will take the keywords in your post title and put them into the file name of the permalink posts it creates.

For example, if you have a blog on Blogger and title your post "Search Engine Optimization For Blogs", Blogger will automatically create a page with your post and name the file "search-engine-optimization-for-blogs.html" or something similar.

With other server-side software like Wordpress and Movable Type, you may require the mod_rewrite command to save the title of your entries as a permalink.

3. Use your secondary keywords in the body of your post

If you want to get listed for secondary keywords use them infrequently in the body of your post and pepper your blog titles or links with them appropriately.

Don't overdo this or your posts will end up sounding unnatural and spammy to readers.

4. Use your keywords in the anchor text of links

Keyword in links have more importance than simple text.

Use your primary and secondary keywords in the anchor text of links when linking to other blog posts or to other pages on your main site.

Link keywords where they naturally appear in the body text, but again, don't overdo it, or you'll end up with spammy looking pages.

5. Make sure search engines can spider your blog easily

Set up your blog so that the side navigation bar is present on all pages.

Make sure your archives and previous posts are accessible from all pages of your blog so they get spidered easily.

6. Get backlinks from other blogs or websites

Links pointing to your blog or posts are essential to build pagerank and make your blog rank higher in the search engine listings.

I've seen many people recommend Blogrolling as one method of building links to your blog.

But all this service actually does is give you a bit of javascript code that "calls" the links.

As far as search engine rankings go, this method of linking is of little use, because spiders can't read external javascript code.

Instead I recommend that you focus your linking efforts on the methods here.

* Submitting to Blog Search Engines and Directories:

Submitting your blog and RSS feed to blog search engines and directories is essential for getting high-quality links back to your blog. Here is the best list I've found of places to submit your feed or blog.

Best Blog Directory And RSS Submission Sites
http://www.masternewmedia.org/rss/top55/

* Link Exchanges:

Many similarly-themed blogs are often willing to exchange links with other blogs and form richly interlinked networks or communities. Link exchanges with other blogs are easy to implement with most blogging software.

* Trackbacks:

You can also get links back to your blog using trackbacks. One of the disadvantages of using Blogger is that it does not automatically create trackback urls that others can use to link back to your posts.

Haloscan is a free service that will automatically add comments and trackbacks to your Blogger blog.
http://www.haloscan.com

But if trackbacks are an important component of your linking strategy, I would advise using another software or system that adds this feature automatically.

* Comments:

You can also get back links to your blog by posting legitimate comments in response to posts on other blogs.

7. Update frequently

There's no better food for search engine spiders than fresh content.

Post and update your blog frequently using all the rules outlined above and there's no reason why your blog will not get you top rankings in a short period of time.

8. Stay put

Once you create your blog, try to stick to the same domain and blog host or system for as long as you continue to publish.

You could end up losing a lot of your traffic, your readers and all your search engine listings if you decide to move.



Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Basics of Blogging to Niche Markets

In the previous article, we discussed how blogs can help you generate traffic for your main website. But what if you don’t have another site? Or what if you want your blog to be your main website, the exclusive carrier of your moneymaking ventures?

This can be achieved, of course. Such is the versatility of web logs.

Standalone blogs are best utilized for online businessmen or women who have decided to pursue what many people call as nicheing. Yes, the word is ungrammatical, but it is a term that many Internet marketers have come to embrace with fondness. Nicheing involves the creation of many sites that cater to particular niches. Niches, of course, are very specialized markets, most of which are so obscure that they do not garner the attention of businesses, hence creating high demands with low supplies. The purpose of nicheing is to find these markets and provide for their needs. These enterprising businessmen would earn through the following ways:

* Creating and eventually selling products that aim to serve the said niches.

* Selling existing products that the said niches need.

* Providing for information that the members of the said niches can access for free, and enrolling the site that contains the information in a Pay Per Click (PPC) program like Google AdSense.

Regardless of what path the online entrepreneur decides to take, he should first create a site that serves as the repository of his commercial methods. Niches can be very rewarding. Since there is but a few competitions in the field, your search engine placement is sure to be higher than usual. Traffic should also be at a sustainable level since the members of a niche have nothing else to visit. This will mean a greater possibility for more sales, if you’re selling a product, or a higher Click Through Rate (CTR) if you’re enrolled in a PPC program.

Now, making a site can be quite cumbersome. You have to deal with the aspects of web design, graphic creation, and content writing among other concerns. What more when you have to create numerous sites for numerous niches?

Thankfully, blogs will make things a whole lot easier for you. Every online marketer who has attained success with niche marketing can attribute this to their proper exploitation of blogs. Whereas it would take you a couple of weeks to come up with 10 websites, it would only take you a couple of hours to come up with 10 blog sites. The sheer convenience and ease of web logs have made nicheing a very potent business model.

Blogs can very much substitute for a regular website. As we have previously discussed, high quality content is, ultimately, what will drive traffic to your site, and this kind of content can easily be carried through a blog. Also, you don’t have to change the entire page whenever you want to update your content, as you would with a regular website. With blogs, all you have to do is to write your update in a designated box and press the publish button. Of course, different blogging software have various features, but none comes more loaded than Wordpress (www.wordpress.com).

Blogging is the way to go if you want to create, and maintain, several niche sites. And Wordpress is the weapon of choice for most Internet marketers. To fully realize the potentials of the medium, therefore, you should be able to exploit all the features that Wordpress does offer. Again, David Pankhurst’s excellent report on powerful Wordpress secrets (http://www.malkeenan.com/top10tricks) will help you excel in this area.

Look out for the next article, where we’re going to discuss how you could efficiently integrate the Google AdSense program into your blog, and make it a passive income generating machine.



About the author:
Get Your Hands on My FREE and Exclusive 7 Day Blogging Report by Sending and Blank Email to mailto:freeblogreport@getresponse.com In this Report I Reveal All The Secrets for Creating and Running A Successful Online Blog, Including Blogging to Niche Markets.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Blogging: Just How Much of a Phenomenon?

In a post in my blog, The Webquarters (www.webquarters.blogspot.com), I talked about blogging’s future. Here we will try and arrive at a “measure" for how successful blogging has become, and how much more it is capable of achieving.

It is pertinent to note that we are not talking about measuring the success of a specific blog, but of blogging as a phenomenon.

Before tackling the admittedly difficult question of measuring its success, let’s pause and ask, What is blogging? At one level, it is a tool which individuals use for communication and self-expression. Indeed, this was the only use conceived initially. As its usage soared, it also emerged as a tool for on-line 'communities' to interact and disseminate news or useful information. The most recent emerging use (completely unancticipated in the early years of blogging's existence) is for commercial organizations to interact with various stakeholders.

Thus, a reasonably general definition of blogging would appear to be, a technology that lends itself for use by individuals, communities or organizations as a means of communication, information dissemination or interaction.

How do we go about establishing a measure of the success of anything? One way is to identify its "potential", and measure what proportion of that potential has been achieved. For example, if your company sells flat-panel TVs, the potential market would probably be equal to the number of households in the world having a household income of more than a certain figure. If you are trying to popularize a new 'world language' that you have invented, the potential probably corresponds to every human in the world speaking the language. If you sell beer, the potential sales would probably correspond to each adult in the world drinking 150 liters a year!*

However, it is frequently difficult to assess potential in this manner. A surrogate, more practical approach would be to identify the 'best' achieved by anybody so far. If you are an athlete, your 'best achievable' may be the current world record in your event. In the TV example above, the ‘best achievable’ may be the sales volume achieved by the market-leading company.

Thus, the problem reduces to discovering the 'best achievable' usage of blogging. To do this, we must stretch our imagination a bit and ask, what are the "best" technologies** that meet roughly the same needs that blogging does, and what is the usage they have achieved? The “best” technologies we have that allow communication, information dissemination or interaction are probably telephones, email, and conventional web sites.

The number of telephone lines (fixed and mobile) in the world is estimated at around 2.1 billion. Similarly, the number of email users is in the region of 600 million.

How many websites exist in the world? Yahoo indexes 19 billion web pages, while Google indexes about 9 billion. Taking the smaller of the two, and assuming the average website has around 20 pages, the number of websites may be approximated as about 500 million.

Let’s be conservative, taking the smallest of the 3 figures (for telephones, email users and websites) which is 500 million. To be play it even safer, let us assume that many websites represent uses that blogs just cannot. So let us say that the figure of 500 million overstates the figure we are looking for by 90%. This leaves 250 million (assuming many websites are defunct, etc.). It appears safe to say that this represents the usage that blogging must achieve. Thus, the “best achievable” number of blogs is, at the very least, 250 million. The current number of around 80 million thus suggests that blogging has covered about a third of the distance to its “best achievable” usage.

Of course, we will be shortchanging blogging if we end this analysis without considering time frames. While telephones have taken 20+ years to reach their current usage (counting only from the time mobile phones were invented), email has taken 15+ years, and the web 10+ years, blogging has been around only 6 years or so.

To dwell a bit on how technologies evolve over time, let us look at an elegant concept, the 'S' curve. What this says, very simply, is that every technology has an initial period during which it grows very slowly. As it improves and gains usage, it crosses an 'inflexion point', beyond which growth takes off rapidly***. Further down, the technology reaches a maturity stage where growth once again slackens. Metcalfe's Law, which holds that the usefulness of something goes up exponentially with the number of its users, applies during the high growth section.


Thus, in S- curve terms, blogging can be thought of as having crossed the inflexion point, and being about 30% of the way to the peak. In other words, 70% of its potential is yet to be achieved.
______________________________________________________
* If that sounds high, the Czech are reputed to drink 167 liters per capita per year!

** As is clear from the context, we use ‘best’ not as an indicator of quality but to mean ‘the one that has achieved the greatest or most widespread use’.

*** Not all technologies, of course, actually cross the inflexion point - many (indeed, most) die out well before they reach that point.



About the Author

Dr. V P Kochikar has published widely and serves on the editorial advisory boards and review panels for several international journals and conferences. He has lectured in a guest capacity at business schools and industry fora worldwide. Dr Kochikar has been profiled by Knowledge Management Review magazine, and interviewed by, among others, BBC, Business Today magazine, and the Economic Times. Views expressed in this blog are entirely his own.





Monday, 2 March 2009

Blog Problems

What in the world is up with the world of blogs? Blogs are meant to be this great new technology where people can share their ideas and interests with others around the globe. As far as I’m concerned the state of blogs is one of chaos, confusion, and anti-interactivity. The other day I decided to do some research on the Web and try to connect to some blog writers out there that interested me. Let me tell you it was not an enjoyable task as I had envisioned. I spent four painful hours surfing through around a thousand on-line journals, and I found only a few that interested me. What are we doing out there people?

First of all, just getting to a blog can be a pain in the arse. For example, you type in the words ‘Philosophy blogs’ and a whole bunch of sites come up. Some are conglomerate sites with thousands of journals, but the area you’re searching for may have only one blog in it! This is because they separate the blogs into a million different categories, like ‘love’, ‘lovers’, ‘lovable’ etc. Why not have just a few main categories to choose from?

The next problem is the content. People with ‘philosophical’ blogs are having personal chats with their mates about the local dance competition on Tuesday! Why not go to a chat room if you just want to talk to your friends? Blogs are supposed to be a personal viewpoint expressed to the whole Web community. Wouldn’t you actually like to meet more people like yourself? How is this going to happen if you talk in strange uncommon slang and acronyms that you and your friends can only understand? Please stick to the subject at hand, and take it at least half seriously.

Another major problem is the fact that you can find a really cool blog that sparks an interest, but then find that the writer hasn’t added an entry in over a year! What’s it doing on the Net? Have these people passed away? I seriously doubt it, as there are so many blogs in this ‘lost’ state. Having a blog is a responsibility; it’s a shared diary for the whole community. How can someone form a relationship if you only write in your blog once a millennium?

Back to the subject of content: These on-line journals are a real chance to communicate regularly with others with similar views to yourself. We can learn a lot from each other, as each human is an individual with special traits and skills that only they have. So why do we see so many blogs just talking about trivial nonsense like ‘Who the coolest movie actor is.’ Humanity is an intelligent species evolving everyday towards a higher consciousness. So where are all the thinkers out there, the people who have taken us to the next levels of spirituality and scientific exploration? I’d really like to hear what you’ve got to say, but all I can find are philosophical beliefs on why died pink jeans express one’s true inner self.

The issue of making comments on someone’s blog is also a controversial one. Why have comments sections if you’re not going to reply to people who have expressed an interest in what you’ve had to say? How is this community going to function if all the conversation is one-way! Come on people, wake up and smell the onions! Let’s change the blogging community into the awesome structure of shared knowledge that it was intended for. Please don’t let it turn into the small-talk world of chat rooms.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesse S. Somer
http://www.m6.net
Jesse S. Somer is a concerned human attempting to inform his fellow people of the real possibilities hidden in the Internet.