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How To Be A Prolific Blogger

When I say prolific bloggers, we might think of people like Seth Godin or Heather Armstrong.

These people blog full time and have thousands of people reading every word they say, the moment they say it.

Being a famous blogger is that part recognition for a talent, part interaction with adoring fans (and not so adoring ones I’m sure). It’s what we all kind of want to be when we start blogging: fame without the paparazzi.

Being Seth or Heather though is kind of like being John Mayer or Etta James. These people have reached the top of their field and are making lots of money excelling. But there are only x number of people who get here and it’s part work, part timing, and part luck.

I know plenty of working musicians who are not household names with million dollar contracts. There is plenty of room between destitute wannabe and internationally known rock star.

And many prolific bloggers  fit in an in between category. Not famous. Prolific.

While not everyone who blogs can be famous, I encourage everyone who blogs to at least try to be prolific. I try. I might not always get there but I try.



What are my guidelines for trying to be prolific, you ask?

  • Is what I’m saying new? There are a million blog posts about, say, the birth of the royal baby. I’m not going to regurgitate the same basic information that’s on every news site if I have a lifestyle blog. A comparison of the royal baby to Kim Kardashian’s new baby? Or an interview with my friends Mike and Lynne who had their baby at the same time as the royal baby about how the coverage affected their birth? That’s giving the royal baby story a new angle. If you are a blogger, you are not trying to be The New York Times or CNN (unless you are breaking a crazy story you have firsthand knowledge of, in which case go for it!). You are trying to say something new. So make it new, somehow. If you can’t, there might not be enough of a story there.
  • Is what I’m saying helpful? The other thing I try to do, even if I am writing some silly first-person story,  is have some message or universal truth. I ask myself, can a stranger learn something from this? If the answer is no, there is always some framing I can do. The story about my father’s birthday can be tied to Youtube (they have the same birthday) and how much the internet has changed in such a short time since he passed. See, it’s still a personal story but it’s one a stranger who didn’t know my father can now read and get something out of.
  • Would I link to this blog post? This question implies the blog post is interesting, not completely self centered,  and also that it follows the ‘rules’ blogs have. The first two ideas there are self explanatory but what do I mean by blogging rules? I mean writing a blog in the style of a blog. Blogs people link to are as much about good formatting as subject. I’m kind of long winded for a blogger but I try to help my reader out with bold text for the important parts and at least one image per post to keep things fun and kicky.
    Kicky (from kamibashi.com)

    Kicky (from kamibashi.com)

    See I told you I could show you fun and kicky on this blog. 🙂

  • Is someone not like me reading this? So I don’t like overalls or Family Guy (actually I feel like more than dislike I just don’t ‘get’ either of those two things). There are other things I feel ‘meh’ about. But by writing negative blog posts about either, all I’m doing is making fans of those things angry or making the people who think ‘who cares?’ go elsewhere to be entertained. By thinking of people not like myself, I am thinking about not being 1) negative or 2) inaccessible. Inaccessible meaning trying to be too intellectual, using too many cultural references without explanation, and other things that make people read your stuff and not ‘get’ it. If someone with completely opposite religious/political/overall-wearing beliefs can read my blog, that’s a good thing.

I use these questions as an informal checklist I ask myself before I press publish on each blog.

Is there anything else you feel prolific bloggers do that I might not have included in my list? If so please share in the comments!



Hiring Someone To Write Your Blog: The If, The Why, and The How

Many people are surprised when I tell them we ghost write for other blogs. Despite the fact that this blog is fun and kicky, we can be serious when we need to be. Some of our clients have been tech companies (since we have that knowledge anyway), some are just regular businesses.

Many people know that a blog is great for SEO and building authority. So the natural decision to make at this point is: are you going to do it or pay someone else to?

There are a whole group of people who think blogging can and should be handled within your company.


Why Your Blog Could Be Handled Within Your Company

1) Someone in your company knows what’s going on. A content writer is not in your business so they can’t know close to everything that is going on like someone who is there 40 hours a week.

2) Someone in your company can write. Yes, most people graduate high school being able to string sentences together… and some people have a real talent for it.

3) The same person who can write has free time. You can probably think of idle times in your schedule (or an employee’s schedule) and have the thought ‘Hey, maybe I/they can crank out a blog!’

There are a few reasons though why you may hire people like us to coordinate your blog, write part of it for you, or write the entire thing for you.


Why Your Blog Could Be Handled By A Content Writer/Marketer/SEO Person

1) Content writers are lay people. Chances are your customer won’t care and, most importantly, won’t understand fancy jargon. Someone who can explain things about your business in a way your customers understand and enjoy can be worth some money.

2) Content writers are good writers. Someone who understands how to write for the web and how to write concise blog posts that are both interesting to read and written in the voice of your company will leave website visitors with a good impression.

3) Content writers get the SEO stuff. There is a bit more to blogs than the writing part. It’s part specialized data entry, part understanding how blogs work in the bigger picture of website traffic. You need to  know about the following to do it well:

  • using tags
  • interlinking to previous blog posts
  • how to find, use, and cite legal images in a blog post
  • how to write a grabbing headline that has keywords in it
  • proper formatting for easy reading and search engines
  • and more!

4) Content writers are fast. These people look at websites all day so we should be fast. They’ll work at least twice as quickly as your employee doing the same thing. (I’d be slow trying to ring up a customers purchases at your cash register since I have no idea what I’m doing in that situation!)

In other words, you have options. You don’t have to write the blog yourself! You can have a blog for your business and have someone else write it!

Even if you do hand this off, as the person driving this train (re: your business), you will need to set the person helping you (and your blog) up for success.


How You Can Set Up A Blogger For Success Who Isn’t You

  • A blog site

You’ll need to understand a bit on how your website works to understand if you’ll be able to blog on your current site or if you need to set up something on another domain that links to your site. Talking to a web person is worth it at this stage, mainly because you don’t want to build this blog up (and links coming into it) only to have to move it later. (I have moved my blog three times, trust me, don’t do this to yourself!)

If you are on the fence on the blogging thing, set up a free account on Wordpress.com and try it for a month. If you like it, you can move it to a Wordpress self hosted site by the Import/Export functions under ‘Tools’ without much trouble. All this to say, to blog you’ll need a place to blog. It may be worth it to have the employee you plan to blog with sit down with your web designer for some training on the software.

  • A regular publication schedule 

Whether you are going to publish every Monday or every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, establish this with the person you plan to work with. They are going to be limited by time constraints (like everyone!) and they need to know what is expected. For an employee that’s new to this, allow 3-4 hours per blog post (start off with 4 hours and as the person gets the hang of it, the time will be less). Remember a blog post isn’t sitting and writing: they may need time to contact information sources and do research in addition to the actual writing part.

If you are hiring a content writer, have them create a proposal of what you can expect from them in terms of content and publication schedule. (Note: content writers work much faster than your employee who is not a full time writer. It’s not fair to your employee to think otherwise!)

  • Sources for images

Whether you have a company Flickr gallery, an account with iStockphoto, or just a Dropbox folder where everyone puts in images, make sure whoever is writing the blog has access to this resource. They will need them for blog posts (blog posts with images are much more widely read, and having images has other benefits).

If you are creating the images, make sure to name the files something useful (like the name of the person in the photo). This way, the writer will be able to use the images appropriately and generate captions.

  • Topic structure and leads

Usually at a blog client kick off meeting, we figure out a general topic posting schedule. For example, Mondays are going to be interviews with our suppliers. Here are the questions we’d like to ask them and here is the contact information of some people to start with in terms of the first four interviews. Thursdays are going to be a product review. Donna will email you a list of new products for this season. Here’s a sample review I wrote to kind of give you an idea of what we are looking for on Thursdays…

A ridiculous level of detail? Maybe. But you don’t want your blog writer to stare at the blinking cursor and think ‘What should I write today?’ Having a structure will force ideas for days there are none and give a structure for the writer to work within and make sure the blog stays on topics you want it to be on.

Sometimes people do is hire a content writer to set up a structure for the staff blogger to follow. Give it a month and if it’s not working, you can always change it… but at least it’s a place for the blog to go day to day and week to week, especially those first few months.

  • Access to social media

The best thing to do after you blog? Be able to promote it! If your company has a Facebook page or Twitter account, give this person access so they can promote their posts. Sure you can have it set up so posts automatically go out but letting your writer go onto the social network and respond to comments, share it on their profile, and more means you’ll get way more bang for your buck.

  • Autonomy

By all means, check the first few blog posts before they go online… But nothing will slow down your company’s blogging quite like the bottleneck you will become if this keeps happening. Trust your people to do a good job (and by all means read the blog when it’s online!) but after an initial period of training, let your content writer run with it.


How Do I Find Content Writers?

So you’ve gathered above that while paying an hourly or salary employee to blog is cheaper for you per hour than having a writer do it… but it will also take them at least twice as long as someone just figuring it out. How can you find someone to help your employee get started or to do this for you?

Read blogs.

By reading blogs, you will find bloggers whose style you like. If you want to find someone local, do a Google blog search for local blogs in your area and see who’s writing. If you want someone who specializes in an industry, read blogs in those industries and certain names will emerge. These are good starting points.

Try LinkedIn.

Now that you have some names, look these people up on LinkedIn. Are they legit? Do other people recommend their blogging skills?

With LinkedIn's new skills endorsements, at a glance you can see that while you might not want me to fix your leaking faucet, you probably can trust me to blog for you.

With LinkedIn’s new skills endorsements, at a glance you can see that while you might not want me to fix your leaking faucet, you probably can trust me to blog for you.

You can ever search by skill on LinkedIn (blogging) so think of this site as a way to check someone’s references.

Problogger.net Job Board

If you want to be a bit more general about it all (‘I just want someone who wants the job’), try posting it on the Problogger job board. This is a highly regarded place in the online community to find legitimate paid blogging opportunities. (Well it’s as legitimate as Craigslist for finding an apartment… there are always scammy people but plenty of reputable people use it too.)

No matter the route you go, all bloggers should be able to provide writing samples to you and other pieces of information that can help you make your decision.

Like the rest of the world, you are more likely to find someone you already know for the job. That said, there is no reason you can’t go out and seek a content writer yourself if you don’t know any!
Does this seem like a bit of work? It always is to implement something new at first.
Will your employee need a bit more help then someone who does this all day? Of course.
But is it worth having a blog? This being my 897th entry, I might be a little biased when I say absolutely.

8 Tips to Improve Your Business Writing Online and Off

This guest post is courtesy of Catherine W McKinney, who took part in the 30 Days of Blogging challenge we held in March. Catherine is a writer, always looking for a good story. She is the author of the ebook “Finn MacCool and the Woman”, tales of cats invading her home. You can visit her blog, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter if you want to keep in touch.

catherineWM_cmToday communications run from in person, to telephone, to email, to blogs, to social media. And don’t forget traditional letter writing.

There are newsletters and articles to be written.

The very definition of business writing has changed, expanded, basically exploded during the past decade.

Most of what you learned in school does not apply to all this new media writing. So you wonder, what form should I write in; what tone; what style?

It’s less confusing than you think, and much more approachable.

Today formal business writing has been replaced by the conversational tone, the conversational style. In other words, if you can say it, you can write it.



Here are 8 tips to help you improve your writing:

1 Make the writing easy to understand. Don’t use professional jargon. You want to encourage dialogue not send me running for the exit. Allow your personality to shine through, the personality you showed during the job interview.

2 Be interesting. You want to hold my attention for a least a minute. Give me a reason to continue reading. Add some energy, some life to your writing. When appropriate make me laugh.

3 Be clear. You want your writing to be easy to absorb and answer all questions. Obscurity if your enemy. If I don’t understand what you are trying to say, I am not going to finish reading or seek any other contact with you.

4 Be logical. Provide the right amount of supportive information without overwhelming. Progress through your information step by step. Help me appreciate your expertise.

5 Be concise. Don’t waste my time. Stick to the point. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Chunk information together for me so I don’t have to go looking for the next thing I need to know.

6 Keep the message obvious. Remember the reader is the important person in this written conversation. Don’t hide the message, tell me why I should care. Tell me how it benefits me or my team or my business. Tell me how it will improve my life, answer my question.

7 Be purpose obvious. Stick to the topic. Allow the writing to be persuasive. Don’t hide what I should do next or what else I may need to know. Tell me.

8 Be easy to read aloud. Your writing needs flow, it needs rhythm. It needs to reflect how you speak, how you present yourself, your ideas. By reading your writing out loud you will easily spot rough patches, thoughts which are disconnected, sentences which don’t work. Reading out loud helps your editing process.

Whether you are sending an email, blogging, writing up advertising, creating the annual report, sending a thank you note, these 8 tips can help you write better. Better writing leads to better communications. Better communications leads to possibilities beyond your imagination.

It’s all about connecting with clarity, with respect and with a bit of imagination.



How Do I Get More Links To My Site?

There are one of three ways people can get to your website:

1) Using a search engine to look up some term(s) Ex: Google, Bing, Yahoo
2) Referral websites (sites linking back to yours) Ex: A link to your site is posted on Facebook or your local Chamber’s website
3) Direct traffic (this is people typing in or clicking on a link to your site directly)

The top ten referral links on this website for this month. Some are social media listings, some are blogs, and some are search engines.

The top ten referral links on this website for this month. Some are social media websites, some are blogs, and some are search engines.

If you want to read a post about search engines, check out this one. You can also look at everything tagged ‘seo’ on this site.

SEO (search engine optimization) is a combination of techniques that lead more people to find your site on search engines. I actually kind of hate the phrase (it conjures up for me the internet equivalent of sketchy used car salesman) but I am forced to use it because 1) people care about it and 2) what I do for clients actually does help them do better in search engines.

Is it magic? Not really. While reaching the summit of a mountain might seem magical, most of the work involves preparing and the climb to get there.

Is it hard? Not really. It’s more of a consistent targeted effort 1) get more content on your website and 2) to get more links coming into your site.

How do you create more content (part 1)? This is where a blog can come in. This blog post is that other part of SEO (part 2): link building.

More links

Let’s say Website A has 10 links coming into it from other sites, and Website B has 1000. All other things seeming equal, which one will seem to do better?

How do you get links coming into your site? First, understand who is already linking. You can use Google Analytics for this or you can go to Google.com and type in “link:yoursite.com” and see everything linking to it.

How do you get more links? My website can give you some clues:

1) Use social media and share your website on it.
2) Network with other bloggers (it helps to blog yourself). You can offer to do a guest post on their blog for example, which would give you a link back to your website.
3) Get any ‘free’ links you can, like a Bing Local listing for your business or a listing on that vendor’s website you buy $10,000 worth of product from every year.
4) Take advantage of the press and get links from their websites. You want the link and they are an (ideally) credible website to get a link from.

Crap That’s Stopped Working

These are the things that people used to do to build links. Some of these actually worked for awhile, some have always been ‘illegal’:

1) Write generic articles and post them places like EZArticles with a link back to their site.
2) Write one article and ‘spin’ it so it seemed different enough. Then post it a bunch of places.
3) Buying links or joining ‘link farms’.

People who work at search engines (and the search engines themselves) are smarter than this. This doesn’t work anymore. Links from these generic sources aren’t worth much, spinning will mark you as a content spammer, and buying links will get you blacklisted on Google.

Don’t believe me? SEOMoz and others smarter than myself can back me up.

So if you are looking for the website link building equivalent of lap band surgery, I’m sorry to say that in my world at least, it doesn’t exist. You’ll have to grab your sneakers and hit the gym like everyone else.

As you probably realize, a lot of ‘link building’ can be accomplished with blogging and using social media effectively over time. Oh and asking for links from people you have actual relationships with. 

So check out your link situation now, trying building links for six months then do it again. At a certain point, links will just start multiplying on their own. (I’ve got over 3,000 coming into Breaking Even and I can tell you less than two years ago, it was half that amount… in other words, momentum can build once you get going!).

30 Days Of Blogging: Setting Myself Up For Success

Starting today, I’m taking 20 people through 30 Days of Blogging, our first ever ‘virtual’ program. The idea is we are going to blog every day. While blogging, we’ll be learning about connecting with other bloggers, marketing our blogs, and more. Here is what I am doing to get started on this. (And if you are a Type A control freak who wants to get ready to blog daily for a month too, here’s what you can do to think ahead.)

Me and my first blog notebook, which I still have. Get something like this for you to write blog ideas, put clippings from magazines, or otherwise collect inspiration for your blog (a virtual version of this is cool too).

Me and my first blog notebook, which I still have. Get something like this for you to write blog ideas, put clippings from magazines, or otherwise collect inspiration for your blog (a virtual version of this is cool too).

Access information in an accessible place

Most people don’t start blogging because they feel like maintaining a website then fall in love with the writing part… it’s usually the other way around.

To keep yourself from saying ‘Ahh!’ too much, make yourself a computer document (or put on a regular piece of paper) the website address where you log into your blog, your username and password, and the link to your blog itself. If you are a bit forgetful, in this same place have a step-by-step on how to write an blog entry, upload a photo, etc. You will probably refer to this a lot the first couple weeks but won’t need it much after that since you’ll be in the habit. (My mom keeps a small notebook on her desk when she learns a new computer trick. And here at Breaking Even we make how-to documents for ourselves as much as for our clients. In other words, even if you aren’t blogging, this isn’t a bad idea to do!)

For now, keep your technology frustration to its lowest possible point by understanding how to sign into your blog and write entries.



Dedicated place/time to write daily

This is kind of a stupid one but trust me, this is key at the beginning. As you get addicted (in a good way) to writing your blog, you won’t need the motivation. But finding 1/2 hour a day that you can write and a spot you feel like plopping in for that moment in time is key. For this blog challenge, I plan on doing it at 7 am every morning (I’m up at 5:30 so by then I feel awake and everything). Nighttime or your lunch hour at work might be better times for you. But make an appointment with yourself and don’t let anything get in its way. This is just 30 days.



A list of ideas for when you are stuck

You will think of blog ideas in the weirdest places: in line at the grocery store, while waiting for your friend at a restaurant, lots of others. Keep a notepad with you or write them in your smartphone… but have a central place where they all get put. This central place may be a pretty notebook or a Google Doc called ‘Blog Post Ideas’.  Trust me when I say you will want that nugget on a day when you feel less inspired.

2-3 blog posts ready to go

What, I’m thinking of failure already? Not exactly. There is going to be a day when you blog time is interrupted by something outside of your control. (Darn that life!). It’s good to have a few entries ready to go (most blog software will let you schedule the post to go online on a certain day at a certain time). When I say have the blog entry ready to go, I mean don’t just write it in a word processing program: put it in your blog software, have the image or images you want to use picked out and resized, check the spelling and otherwise have it ready to go. Then all you have to do is click ‘Publish’ (or if it’s scheduled ahead of time for a busy day, do nothing) and your blog will go on.

Alright, are you ready? We are!


Connecting With Other Bloggers

What’s one of the best ways to get more traffic to your blog and get better at blogging faster? Being friends with other bloggers.

Blogger friends you know in real life can be a great resource. But let’s say you don’t know any bloggers or, more specifically, you want to talk to other food bloggers to get more specific ideas for your blog called All Mac and Cheese All The Time. (Are there ‘mac and cheese’ blogs? Actually yes there are several!)

Like any relationship, you don’t want to meet bloggers and begin immediately leeching on them. You have to build up a rapport first before you ever ask for a link to your blog, advice, or any other blog-related favor.

Stage 1: Hey I’m Here

The first thing you want to do is let a blogger know you are reading. Yes, part of connecting with other bloggers involves reading their blogs. (If you thought you could get out of this without showing any interest in other people, sorry.)

In this stage, you are simply reacting to another blogger in a way that they notice.

One way to do this is to leave a comment on their blog. Here’s a blog called ‘From Away’ that I commented on:

Key to blog commenting 1) Read the post, 2) Be sincere, and 3) If you want your face to appear, go to Gravatar.com and register your email for a free account.

Key to blog commenting 1) Read the post, 2) Be sincere, and 3) If you want your face to appear, go to Gravatar.com and register your email for a free account.

As you see, I left a pertinent comment (not just ‘Nice post’) and I linked to my blog in a non-obnoxious way. So if you follow a few blogs and leave comments over the course of a few months, the blog author (in this case Jillian) will get to know you by name and sight, even though you two have never met.

Don’t comment on *every post a blogger does though, makes you seem desperate. Play it cool, dude, you are courting these bloggers.

In the social media world, you can do this by replying, commenting, or liking their blog post. They’ll start seeing your name or Twitter handle and say, “I wonder who this person with fabulous taste is.”

Stage 2: Hey I’m Sharing Your Stuff You’re So Cool

Once you’ve been making yourself visible to the blogger, it’s time to take your relationship to the next level. Now you have to share their stuff to your network.

Here’s my cousin Celina sharing a blog post:

 

My cousin Celina liked my blog post and shared it with her Facebook friends. Awww. That 'Awww' is how bloggers feel when you share their stuff.

My cousin Celina liked my blog post and shared it with her Facebook friends. Awww. That ‘Awww’ is how bloggers feel when you share their stuff.

So yeah, if you’re a blogger, you can share a link to another blogger’s post on your Facebook page, on your Twitter account, or on your own blog. They’ll notice the traffic spike… and if you do it in a way that associates your name with said traffic spike, they are going to like you. (P.S. The iStockphoto use was completely intentional. If you read the blog you’ll see what I mean.)

Stage 3: Hey Can We Talk Sometime?

So you are becoming something of a blog groupie. You’ve been reading comments, you’ve been sharing their stuff. You have asked nothing of them. This is the way true friendship works people so good job!

Over this time in your blog reading, you are probably going to powerfully connect with a few bloggers because you like their stuff and end up liking them as people. When I think of this, I think of my relationship with J at Budgets are Sexy and Kelly at Almost Frugal. Love them!

Now that you are contacting your bloggers directly, there are any number of things you might want to do with them. You may want to interview them for your blog, or ask them some blog advice… you could want any number of things from them actually.

As a blogger, I get pitched at least once a week (As a former daily blogger, I was pitched way more back then). Here’s a fairly typical email I got last week (Think of this as ‘how not to do this’):

When you contact your new blogger friends, don't do this. Remember it's about relationships people!

When you contact your new blogger friends, don’t do this. Remember it’s about relationships people!

Here’s the thing, even if you do ask for a favor in that first email, at least the people you are talking to will know who you are because you have gone through the first two stages0. What I’m showing above is an email version of a cold sales call. Don’t do this unless you want to face more rejection then acceptance.

If your message is personal and you’ve actually done the thing you are asking the other person to do (like your Facebook page, leave a blog comment, etc.) then you are much more likely to at least get an email back.

Stage 4:  Hey Let’s Do Something Together!

Here’s what’s weird, you are actually going to make friends from blogging. Yeah, like Phil from London who is now one of my best friends… I met him from my blog. Cool right?

If you’ve been corresponding with a blogger, reading their stuff, etc. it might be really cool to do something together. Maybe you do a podcast or guest blog on each other’s sites for a week… It’s up to you really. And now that you are friends with this blogger, you can combine your powers and get more done. More could mean more traffic to your blog but it could also mean more interesting topics/kinds of content, more opportunities to sell your product(s), or other versions of more… In our case, Alice and I got an awesome place to stay in London for three weeks last spring.

If you blog long enough, you will get to this point of having blogger friends. But remember the internet is like real life. You wouldn’t go on a first date and immediately ask the person to be your boyfriend. You wouldn’t go to a job interview without looking around a little at the company’s website. Do your homework and build relationships in the blogosphere and you too will have a great blog that many people you don’t yet know will get to see.

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