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Marketing Monday: Run, Eat, Repeat

A couple years ago, I started following some lady runner-bloggers just for fun. One of these blogs is “Run, Eat, Repeat.” Admittedly hooked by the title (it’s my life story in three words!), this blog has become one of my favorite reading materials. It’s not your average fitness/foodie blog. There’s a cool story about a girl (Monica) who struggled with her relationship with food and exercise (something that I think a lot of people find can relate to), and how running has helped her adopt a healthier, fun lifestyle. Her blog isn’t running-centric or wrapped up in any sort of health-craze. It’s more of a fun lifestyle blog with a focus on health related issues.

Here are some key things that keep me reading:

Quirk. There’s a down-to-earth tone in Monica’s blog posts that make her accessible to readers. She’s hilarious and self-deprecating, always trying new things and sharing them with her followers. She adds a lot of eCards, GIFs, and Real Housewives screen-caps to embellish her posts. We share a very similar sense of humor and would probably get along really well in real life… Some of the titles of previous blog posts include: “The Day I Almost Chopped Off My Toe,” “Do I Look Like Zach Galifianakis or Tori Spelling?”, and “If You Don’t Play Lion King with Your Pets What’s the Point?” Her Instagram is also one of my favorites, and it’s hardly about running. In fact, it’s mainly about coffee, food, and everyday struggles of the modern twenty-something.

An example of a recent blog post.

An example of a recent blog post.

Recipes. What I love about the recipes is that a) they’re pretty healthy and meant to keep you going throughout the day, and b) they’re actually simple. Nine times out of ten, I can whip up one of these concoctions without having to go to the store and get 5 different types of seeds and nuts and several different spices and expensive superfood powders that, let’s face it, I don’t have on hand. This girl knows that, while we all may have fantasies and lofty ambitions about meal preparation, the reality is that snooze buttons exist, late night Netflix binges happen, and driving (back) to the store after a day at work just isn’t going to happen. The recipes she shares are for “the everyday.” They’re boosts of inspiration that are totally attainable and delicious (oh yeah, and healthy).

RERbreakfast

This is just a sample from her “breakfast” section, mainly because I’m biased and love breakfast more than any other meal.



Running (and working out in general). I started reading this blog because of the running aspect. While the blog is less workout-centric than Hungry Runner Girl (another favorite), Monica does excellent race-recaps, shares her training plans, and isn’t afraid to talk about how hard, awesome, sweaty, rewarding and disgusting running can be at times.

But it’s not all running. I’m a one-dimensional athlete, but reading this blog inspires me to try out some other things. She’s tried a lot in terms of cross-training. These posts are awesome for me, because I tend to hang back until I know what I’m getting into with a new workout. She also encourages readers to join in on challenges, like last winter’s 25 days of Fitness (a 25 day calendar of circuits you can do at home-no running involved). You don’t necessarily have to be a runner to follow this blog. In fact, Monica frequently drops gems throughout her blog/Instagram/wherever just for her non-runner followers. This adds to her overall accessibility. And there’s a lot of inspiration throughout.

FullSizeRender

Product Reviews. Last summer, I got to learn all about Stichfix through Run, Eat, Repeat. This summer, it was Le Tote (similar to Stitchfix, but with accessories included). Every once in a while, she’ll write up lists like Best Gifts for Foodies, Playlist Ideas, or Favorite Fall Running Gear. She also writes flavor reviews for things like Chobani…and sometimes donuts. She was the one who informed me that Pumpkin Spice M&Ms are a thing this fall (sidenote: I have yet to find any of these for myself, but M&Ms are my all time favorite candy, and anyone who can help me find these will be my new BFF). She has also written a review about laser hair removal, lash extensions, and laser liposuction. It just adds to the idea that she’s willing to try things out and report back to all of us, which I definitely appreciate.

RERcross

Discounts and Giveaways. This blog is sponsored by a few different companies, but that’s part of the reason why she has giveaways! Race Registration can be a bit steep (especially out in California, where RER is based), but Monica does have discount codes for certain races that she shares. For non-runners or non -racers, she’ll sometimes offer a discount for a gym membership or class. For everyone, she offered a Le Tote Discount Code to the first 10-ish people. She also occasionally writes reviews for products, and as a result, has regular giveaways. There’s been FitBit, Northface, Pro Compression, Starbucks, and Lulu Lemon, to name a few.

Runner or eater, this blog probably has something in it that you will appreciate. Through her work with Run, Eat, Repeat, Monica has proven that she’s funny, hip, and benevolent. Also, I’m completely serious about those Pumpkin Spice M&Ms…

Hey, What’s the Blog Idea?

Told with some help from Will Ferrell.

When people ask us if they should have a blog on their website, they aren’t usually expecting to hear “Well, it depends.” Do I think blogs can be beneficial to businesses and websites? Absolutely. But, not all businesses have the resources- that is, time- to blog consistently and run the business. Like anything, if you know that you don’t have the time/energy to commit, then it’s best to leave it alone. Sticking to a consistent schedule (even if it’s only once a week) is kind of important for followers. Recently, I’ve gotten hooked on this awesome podcast (it’s actually 70% of why I watch the Housewives in the first place), and it only took me a week to decipher the schedule (not that it was particularly difficult). Every Wednesday on my commute home, I look forward to listening to the podcast that discusses Real Housewives of Orange County. And, because Ronnie and Ben have a consistent schedule, it’s become part of my weekly routine. Wednesdays are my favorite days of the week. It’s going to be tough when the season ends.



But if you can commit to something consistent and relatively frequent (once a month probably won’t cut it), then yes, a blog can do wonders for you. Here are some unique ways that a blog can do wonders for your business:

Prove you know things.

"...People know me."

“…People know me.”

I don’t mean this in a “I’m kind of a big deal…People know me” way or by spontaneously shouting things like “I party with John-John Kennedy!“, to go back to the Housewives (get it together, Sonja). Sharing industry knowledge shows that as a business, you know what’s what (even if, like Sonja, you may not always know who’s who). Employ the Internet has an excellent, easy to digest article all about this subject. If you’re in the tech industry, sharing information about new releases, recalls, or innovative ways for people to use devices demonstrates that hey, you know a thing or two about this whole technology business. Plus, you’re even willing to share that knowledge with other people.

But hey, won’t people just take my information and do their own thing? There is always that possibility. But, most of the time, people will read your blog and feel a bit daunted about going out and winging it on their own. Or, feeling confident with the wealth of information they’ve acquired, they roll up their sleeves and realize “Oh wait…this isn’t nearly as easy as I thought.” Either way, they’ll most likely remember you as the original source of their information and contact you for help.

Who knows, you might totally blow people's minds with all your knowledge.

Who knows, you might totally blow people’s minds with all your knowledge.

They aren’t just a “one and done” deal. You may think that nothing on the internet is permanent, but as this lesson in Twitter shows, old content that you may thing has disappeared isn’t necessarily gone forever. A more relevant example comes from our own blog. The posts that gain the most attention are those that were written a couple years ago (and this is without any extra sharing or extra promoting on our part). Nicole’s 2010 post on Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact is still in our top 10 most visited pages. This particular breed of posts (referred to in this Hubspot article as “compounding blog posts“) are basically golden eggs of a blog. While they may not directly be making you any money, they have a snowball effect that picks up as time goes on. That being said, blogs are not necessarily the place to go for instant gratification. Compounding blog posts start off handheld snowball size- you aren’t coming out of the gates with a boulder sized snowball.

Not all of your blog posts are going to compound. According to Hubspot, 1 in 10 blog posts will compound rather than decay. Generally, a compounding blog post has a title that mimics something people would search for (think about it: people trying to decide between Mailchimp and Constant Contact are probably going to search for something like “Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact” in a search engine) and cover topics that are “evergreen.” There should be a balance between hot topic ideas (those that are highly relevant now but will probably fizzle out within a month) and those that’ll withstand the test of time.



Mugatu-So-Hot-Right-Now

But will he be hot next season?

People feel like they know you already. Curious people visit websites to do some research prior to making a purchase. In fact, according to this article from Forbes, 33% of millennials consult blogs before purchasing decisions (unclear whether this is a blog written within a business itself or by third parties offering reviews). According to this article from Hubspot, blogs are in the top 5 for trusted online sources. As time goes on, people view advertisements as quick stories or clips, while blogs are seen as more authentic, like a peek behind the mask. When in perusal mode, a blog is often something potential customers use to put out feelers for a business. Speaking from personal experience, I’m usually on the lookout for things like tone (Is it friendly or didactic? Does it match what one would expect for their particular industry? Do they seem like they’d be approachable in real life?), topics (Do they write about the same thing all the time? Are they providing helpful material?), frequency (When was their most recent post?), and of course, the writing itself (words, syntax, the whole nine yards).

bestfriends

I like to imagine that this is how people feel when they read our blog.

We’ve gotten emails from people saying “Hey, we’d really love to work with you on X. I read your blog, and you seem like you’re fun to work with!” Oh…and we know what we’re doing. My point is, many of these people have never met us in real life, so they went to our blog for recon.

No matter what your industry, blogs can bring in business. You just have to think a little outside the box…and be patient.



Tech Thursday: Where Should I Blog?

This week, we’re discussing blogging! More specifically, we’ll discuss the “where”- that is, blogging on your own site or someone else’s. There are pros and cons to each option. Tune in to learn more, and as always, feel free to send us suggestions for future videos!



Blogging 201: The Not So Basics

Hi and welcome! If you are just hitting this post, have you seen Blogging 101: The Basics? If not, go there first. You can follow just what’s in basics for at least a couple months. During this time, you are going to figure out your writing style, which is honestly what will hold your audience.

It took me probably six months to find my voice. Was I funny? Was I informal? How long should my posts generally be? Writing online is different than writing a newspaper article, an essay… anything really. And the best way to get good is to practice.

Let’s say you’ve done that. You get what your blog is and isn’t, contentwise. You have a voice. You have three blog posts in your head (or drafted in your blog software itself) ready to go. Now it’ time to get into the more technical issues you’ve probably noticed, especially reading other blogs.



What ways do you want to make money?

There are some different ways to make money blogging and what you want to figure out at this point is what does and doesn’t feel sleazy to you.

I was confronted with this month 4 of blogging. I got an email from a potential advertiser. How much would I charge? What kinds of ads did I have available?

It was an excellent question, one I hadn’t even asked myself yet. After looking around at blogs, I realized I would feel comfortable with ads in the sidebar of my blog only. I didn’t like written ads in content (made it hard to read) and I wanted to have control over what ads appeared there. (Once this blog became a business itself, I yanked ads entirely.)

Now that was my answer. Yours may be different and that’s ok. You want to balance the making money part with the not being a sleaze part. Looking at what other bloggers are doing, you’ll see some things you like and some things you don’t.

Other things people will approach you with:

1) Sponsored posts. (Here’s a pretty comprehensive look at the concept.)
2) Getting sent products to ‘review’. (IE the sponsored post’s friendlier seeming cousin.)
3) Can someone write a blog post that gets published on your blog about X? (Sometimes people want this free, sometimes they seem willing to pay.)
4) Affiliate programs (where you get link(s) to share to a product online and, if someone buys, you get a cut. More here.)
5) Other things I can’t anticipate.

By deciding what you will and won’t do for money, you’re setting a precedence for your blog. And remember, saying no to something you don’t want means that when something you do want comes along, you can be ready.

(We’ve written in depth about some of these: Affiliate programs, Display Advertising, PPC Advertising, Ad Networks. Since I’ve never done sponsored posts, I linked above to someone who had looked into them more deeply. )



How big do you want to get?

Contrary to popular belief, seeing comments is not the only way to know your blog community is getting bigger. For example, on ours, we get maybe 1 comment for every thousand or so people who look at something something. Really! Below a screenshot of views from Google Analytics versus comments:

views-versus-comments

I will also say in our case, interaction is taking place more on social media for us so having comments on the blog itself is less important to me. To make this an anaology, I’ve built the internet equivalent of a small coffee shop in a small town.

But some people want to build the internet equivalent of a shopping center:  a website with contributing members, product upsells, advertising revenue, etc. To become the go-to resource and community about X or Y.  If you want to build the online headquarters for all base jumpers or the next HuffPost, you are looking at building an online community. (Yes, I like to feel Breaking Even has a small specific online community but we are intentionally small.)

If you want to create the large shopping center of a website, you’re going to need a few things.

1) Actively write in such a way that encourages people to leave the comments on your posts. This may include writing posts whose topics may be a bit controversial or even just opinionated. (Sometimes the term ‘click bait’ is used to describe sensational headlines that drive clicks.)
2) You need a robust commenting system. (My only opinion on this? Don’t make someone create an account on your site to leave a comment. Everyone hates one more password to manage. Let your commenters log in with Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. to leave their comment. I use Disqus because it lets people use whatever login or create one just for my site, among other features.)
3) You need to respond to comments. If you want people in your community interacting, you have to lead by example. If you have any commenting standards, make sure they are enforced.
4) You need some way for these people to contribute in addition to leaving comments. (IE they need to be able to not wait for you to start a discussion.) It could be as simple as a hashtag people use to contribute photos to a curated page or as complicated as members having their own subsites on your site.

Will your community evolve? Absolutely. But will a bit of planning and intentionality on your part of the ‘mall developer’ make the evolution and growth go much smoother? Yes.



How do you want people to get your information? 

You probably have die hard fans now that want to get ALL your posts. You may want to add the ability for people to subscribe, via RSS or email, to your blog.

Your blogging system will have a way to do this but I just wanted to put it on your radar. Now that you have a following, make sure those people can see posts easily. Here’s a lovely example:

hubspot-subscription-page

 

Do you like your software?

Do you like the way at the bottom of all our posts we have five related posts? Do you wish you too could have an online store to sell your t-shirts? You are going to start having ideas (now that you’ve gotten used to the writing part) about how your blog should work technically.

You’re going to want more than you ever thought you would. Make a list of what you want, put it in order of importance even. Maybe the software you’ve been using is not up to snuff. Or maybe it is and you just need to learn how to do what you need to do.

Now I’m sure some bloggers will argue with me that it’s best to start where you’re going to end up. But who still lives in the first house they’ve ever lived in or has the first job they ever had? Very few of us. We grow, we change, and as we know more of what we want, we can move towards it.

Once you have the writing part down for your blog and you start thinking of the technical stuff, that’s the good time to make the software decision. And you don’t need to worry about moving your posts. A simple Google search of ‘moving from X software to Y software’ will tell you exactly how to do it. And if you hate the idea, you can pay some nerd to do it for you in a few hours of their time. In other words, no endless copying and pasting, I promise.

So to me, those are the big second level questions of having a blog. I have my answers to them, and you’ll have yours. But just a reminder, just start writing and think of this other stuff once your blog’s content has a clear voice. Also, please comment with your blog URL so we can see it.



Blogging 101: The Basics

I’m just going to say it: I think people get way too caught up on perfection and don’t just start things.

How many people do you know who are waiting on redoing their logo, designing a website, reprinting their business cards, whatever before they start blogging? I know a few.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Blogging is just writing with a few more technical things built in.

I got into blogging precisely for this reason. I wanted to be a writer. There seemed to be a lot of gatekeepers to me becoming that. Rather than jump the fence or wait around at gates, I built my own place. Over time, I fixed it up. I still feel like it needs fixing up! But nothing worth it is ever static.

I wanted to write this blog post about what you need to start blogging. No it’s not a domain name or branding guides or ‘SEO’. It’s easier than that.

1) You need a topic. 

Of course your Mom will read your blog… but unless you’re Oprah, no one is going to care about you just living your life. You need to weave your life into a topic. Ex: maybe you’re really into cooking paleo. Maybe you really like Italy. Maybe you want to make yourself learn more about running. Give yourself a general topic with enough room to move around that the topic can weave throughout your blog while being interesting and personal.

This blog’s original topic? Personal finance. Sure, I tried to tell fun stories and include photos in but I also tried to have some knowledge to impart (I use that term loosely) so I wasn’t limiting my audience.

Let’s test some topics:

Water- Ok this could work. How to drink more, how to test it, how to conserve it, bottled water taste testing. Yup, I could write 50 blog posts on this and just be getting started. “Water Girl” or “Hydration Situation” maybe?

Art Supply Review- If I am keen on buying new stuff all the time, this could work. But review only? I may be pigeon holing myself. (The reason I never became a fashion blogger? Too much clothes to buy to have writing topics!)

Books- Who is my audience? If I’m going to be reviewing ‘Fault in Our Stars’ one week and ‘War and Peace’ the next week, that may be too much jumping around. This may be too broad to appeal to a specific audience.

You get what I’m saying. Don’t give yourself something so specific (four leaf clovers) that you’ll run out of material in a year and don’t give yourself too broad a topic that your audience won’t know whether they like it or not… though I will argue so long as you yourself are clear about what your blog is and isn’t, the ‘too broad’ will be less of a problem than too narrow. For example, I had a hard time coming up with another ‘too broad’ example besides books.

2) You need a name.

This is like your topic but you are going to be referring to this name all the time so don’t pick something you hate. In your chosen topic, a quick Google search will reveal what other blogs in your niche are called. How can yours be different? What ideas do you like from some of them?

OK so some in the personal finance niche at the time I started were:

Sense to Save
Budgets are Sexy
Almost Frugal
Get Rich Slowly
Counting Pennies
Wisebread
Daily Worth (ok that wasn’t a blog but a newsletter at the time)

Looking at these names, I knew what wasn’t me. I didn’t want to be frugal necessarily. I also didn’t want money in the title, in case I wanted to change topic later (which I did). Daily Worth was a sort of direction I liked best for myself. When Breaking Even got put on the list, it just felt right to me. But seeing other ideas made me realize what could work… and not work.

Make a whole list of names and sleep on it. Pick your favorite and go with it. Don’t worry if the .com domain is available. Just pick something you like and you can always make it work.

3) You need a place to blog.

Don’t stress out about software choice. You can always move it later. Really, I’ve moved this blog three times. (It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to hire someone to do this for you as more and more people blog.)

I like Wordpress.com as a free option. But if you like Blogger.com, Typepad, whatever better, I am not here to tell you there is only one answer. There isn’t. Just find something you like to use. Because you’ll be playing around a lot the first couple of months. (How do I add pictures? How do I make the font bigger?)

Just grab a template (all software comes with some choices) and start blogging. And if you don’t believe me when I say people don’t care what your site looks like, think of 2 or 3 of your favorite bloggers and try to sketch out what their website looks like. Can’t remember? Yeah, thought so.

Someday, if this goes well and you like it, you’ll want a custom design and you’ll start caring about things you NEVER thought you’d care about (How can I get more comments? What if I want to ad advertising?) But for now, just start writing.

4) Have a day/deadline for when you will blog (at least once a week).

Start out with once a week. Maybe Wednesdays are a good day because you get a long lunch break. Wednesdays is your deadline. Now every week, you have to write a post that goes online on Wednesday.

Your entries don’t have to be long or super deep, just get in the habit of it. Every Wednesday, write something.

Now you’ll see your blog traffic spike every Wednesday. This will either be rewarding to you or you won’t care. If it’s rewarding that someone is reading your work, you’re a blogger. 🙂

That’s it, you are blogging now! Next post I’ll get into more specifics but it this is the only post you read about blogging for the next six months, that’s ok. Just start. And leave the link here so I can start reading it.

Once you’ve been writing several months, you can move onto Blogging 201. 🙂

Online Ads: Display Ads

onlineadsdisplayadsSo last week, we discussed PPC (or Pay Per Click) ads. Many networks have these now but the idea is you pay when people click.

But what if you don’t have an online store where people can make a purchase? What if general awareness is what you are after? What if you want the ads you serve up on your site to display depending on what people have been looking at. (Don’t act like you’ve never been freaked out where, after browsing for shoes, you’re on some complete other website and you see an ad for the very shoes you were looking at!)

Display ads started out as banner ads and they were typically wide (you know, like actual banners are). I remember when I too added my first banner ad on top of my Geocities website (if I could remember the URL of my site, I’d so go to the Wayback Machine and get the screenshot but alas, this one will have to do):

If you are also slightly nostalgic for Geocities websites, please visit this lovely blog: http://code.tutsplus.com/articles/top-10-reasons-why-the-closing-of-geocities-is-long-overdue--net-7393

If you are also slightly nostalgic for Geocities websites, please visit this lovely blog: http://code.tutsplus.com/articles/top-10-reasons-why-the-closing-of-geocities-is-long-overdue–net-7393

Got to love the Yahoo Geocities display ad!

Now, display ads are much more comprehensive. They can be videos, animations, pictures, etc. and they can be everywhere on a website, from pop ups to sidebar items.

For display ads, you pay a certain amount of money per 1,000 impressions. (I’m over generalizing clearly.) Up until relatively recently, like the newspapers of today, you put your display ad on a website and hoped people saw it/remembered it, as you paid whether they clicked on it or not. So these ads were being served up to a wide variety of people.



Google, however, has changed all this again with a concept called ‘remarketing’. The idea is displaying these ads to people who have already been to your website. (You setup a way to collect cookies from people who have visited your site, creating what Google calls a ‘remarketing list’.) It’s definitely sneaky but you can see where it would be more effective to display an ad to someone who has been to your site than someone who has never heard of you.

Just for fun, I went to Mashable.com and took a screenshot (I am a 33 year old woman):

My Mashable experience includes a 'website in 3 minutes' post (I've been doing research on a blog post about these 'automatic' website builders) and one for Old Navy (I've been looking for some staple clothing items to fill in gaps in my closet).

My Mashable experience includes a ‘website in 3 minutes’ post (I’ve been doing research on a blog post about these ‘automatic’ website builders) and one for Old Navy (I’ve been looking for some staple clothing items to fill in gaps in my closet).

I asked Kassie for fun to screenshot what she sees when she goes to Mashable.com:
kassiesmashableexperience

The takeaway, besides the fact that Kassie is way more intellectual than I seem to be, is that display ads can now be different for different website visitors. And that’s pretty cool.

So display ads are just another way to do online ads. Many of the sites that have them (like Mashable) are quite large (they have pretty detailed specs for ads for example but since they don’t have pricing, I’m guessing you have to have pretty deep pockets to play with them).

Next week, we’ll talk about a solution to this problem of not having, say, multiple ad agencies and your own sales people to sell ads on your website: ad networks.

More on display advertising on Wikipedia (of course) and Google has documentation on remarketing. If you want someone to set this up for you, our friend Colin at Root Deeper Marketing is a Google certified specialist and could totally do it for you.



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