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Why Blogging Is Even More Critical In the Age of Social

Every so often I get asked if blogging still matters now that we have Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. That question used to frustrate me greatly until I started making this distinction.

blogging

photo credit: Mexicanwave via photo pin cc

No, the act of blogging itself does not matter any more, but the act of consistently creating education based content that is easy for search engines to find and index, easy to share, attracts links, creates a searchable and archivable body of work on a subject and will never be seen as inorganic by Google has never, ever been more important.

It just so happens that what I’ve described is easily accomplished through the use of blogging software that runs your entire site. Every aspect of this site is built on WordPress – landing pages, contact pages, about us pages and this page. It puzzles me why people still fight this notion or why they would ever consider entrusting their content assets to Facebook or some other social network flavor of the month.

Using blogging software is not a trend or tool or even a behavior, it’s the single most important marketing element of your Total Online Presence and attempting to build a business today without using blogging software as your foundation is simply indefensible.

No matter what the excuse – we don’t have the time, we don’t know what to write, we tried it once, our customers don’t read blogs, our dog ate it – the cost of not actively creating and housing valuable content online is too high and you are absolutely kidding yourself if you think engaging prospects on Google+ with the occasional profound bit of banter is enough.

Blogging is stablest form of SEO

Google likes to keep the SEO community on its toes and every so often adjusts how it ranks sites often penalizing some practice it sees as an unnatural attempt to gain an advantage.

To my knowledge, high quality, keyword rich, education based, properly formatted, highly linked to and consistently updated original content has never been penalized.

Blogging creates a hub for social

Creating awareness for blog content that addresses challenges and provides useful information is the best way to build relationships through social media and one of the best ways to then attract links and traffic.

Quite often social networks are the greatest source of daily traffic to my blog.

Blogging builds your email list

A key action in your Total Online Presence is the capture of leads. One of the greatest forms of currency in this game is valuable content. People willingly exchange their email address in order to receive email they want to open. This can be in the form a subscription to your blog posts or for an eBook compilation of posts related to a specific topic.

Blogging drives point of view

One of the greatest differentiators in business is a consistent and valuable point of view that attracts followers over the long haul. When you approach your blogging content creation as a publisher might with a total body of themed work in mind, you stand a much greater chance of building the credibility and expert status that comes from holding a firm point of view.

By focusing on writing about key concepts through a singular voice you can build an attractive brand message through blogging.

Blogging creates other options

Forcing yourself to create content every day or every other day enables you to think about all the ways you might use your total body of work. Three blog posts can become the makings of a feature article. Ten blog posts on a related topic might make a great eBook. A comprehensive point of view expressed in a blog post might make a tremendous presentation or video. The need to create a workshop might produce five solid blog posts. Answering the most consistently asked questions your firm receives by way of blog posts creates useful content and automatically builds an FAQ section.

So, if you’re tired of hearing about blogging, think it’s a dying fad or that it’s not for you, that’s totally fine. Just make sure you are consistently producing and sharing high quality content that is searchable, subscribable and indexable and house it all on your company’s domain.

And come back tomorrow when I tell you how I do all of that using blog software.

How and Why I Use Photo Pin To Find Free Images for My Blog

I’ve been using relevant images in my blog posts since I starting blogging in 2003. I think it’s pretty much an accepted and expected practice as a way to illustrate how something works with a screenshot or create impact with a shot that helps tell the story or point from the post.

Using Photo Pin

photo credit: Kuzeytac via photo pin cc

Over the years I’ve used image providers such as such a paid options like iStockphoto, shutterstock and the free stock.xchng. A few years ago I settled into finding images on Flickr that were designated as Creative Commons. These images are free to use in blog posts but should carry attribution and a link to the original.

Recently I switched to using a free service called Photo Pin. Photo Pin actually uses the Flickr API to help you find Creative Commons images just like using Flickr directly, but I find that my searches on Photo Pin turn up images faster and the interface is so much better.

When you select an image you are presented with up to nine size options, just like on Flickr, but the killer feature for me is that you also get a box with the HTML you need to use for attribution. Since WordPress now allows you to put HTML in the caption box of an image, you simply copy the code from Photo Pin and paste it into the caption and you have perfectly formatted attribution with links embedded.

Google Plus Hangouts On Air is a Killer App

The Google+ live video chat function called Hangouts has been with us over a year now and I thought at the time it might be the best feature of Google+. However, it was the recent On Air addition, which allows you to broadcast and record your Hangout to your YouTube channel, that made me really take note.

Google+Hangouts On AirThe opportunity to create and record engaging video content just got a whole lot easier with this tool.

Whether you want to do a one on one interview or host an industry panel discussion featuring ten experts, Google+Hangouts On Air gives you a live streaming platform and automatic HD video capture.

I love the immediacy of a live broadcast, but you also have the option to edit the final version in YouTube to take out slower moments or edit out questions or to simply give it punch with an intro or images.

If you have someone monitoring the live YouTube stream you can even take text questions from the live audience. There is a screen sharing option so you can also present slides or share anything from a Google doc or spreadsheet.

I conducted a recent panel discussion with six participants. We had over 300 live viewers and the archive has been viewed several thousand times. The format, platform and ease of use has me hooked.

I could see some great uses for this:

  • One on one interviews vcast style for a video blog
  • Peer to peer industry discussions
  • Pre conference or event showcases
  • Opinion or current event discussions
  • Survey data analysis and discussion
  • Live customer case study or success profile
  • Meet the author book club groups
  • Product launches
  • Educational seminars

The tool is very easy to use, but I thought I would share a couple tips

  • When you create a Hangout you will have the option (in Advanced drop down box) of making it just a Hangout or adding the On Air feature. (You will be asked to confirm ownership of the YouTube channel you are linking to so you must be using a YouTube channel that is associated with the same email as your Google+ account)
  • Privacy settings in Google+ make it so that you may not be able to add or invite someone to a Hangout unless they have you in a circle, so make sure all invitees take this step and be careful not to add Public or anyone will be able to join (Also make sure you click the option that restricts your guests from adding anyone unless you want to give them this option.)
  • Remind your guests to log in to Google+ at show time and join the Hangout that will be listed on their page.
  • Remind them further to have their video camera on, microphone chosen and earphones for listening. (They cannot play the Hangout through speakers or it will echo back through their mic)
  • It’s a great idea to test everything ahead of time if you can so you make sure all plugins and such are up to date.
  • Good, natural lighting is a real plus when it comes to video
  • It is a good practice to share the URL for the YouTube channel so your guests can invite viewers, but remind them not to have the YouTube broadcast live in a browser tab as it is delayed a few seconds and can cause some real confusion
  • When you launch the Hangout the On Air function is not live so you have some time to make sure everyone is on and has working tech. When you want to go live you push the On Air button and wait for the countdown plus add about 3 seconds of you smiling into the camera before you start to make sure you record everything
  • When On Air Hangouts has the host featured in the video box with all the guests in small panes below the main box. It moves whoever is speaking to the main view so any noise can be interpreted by the tool as speaking – tell you guests to make sure they are in a private, noise free environment and that they are on camera at all times, so even the pecking of keys while they return email will move them to the main screen.
  • Once you’ve finished with your event you turn the On Air feature off and have the ability to debrief with guests if you like.
  • Go to your YouTube channel and make immediate modifications if you like such as choosing a thumbnail and adding rich description. You can also use the increasingly full set of editing tools to add more flair.
  • You are suppose to be able to schedule Hangouts as Events in the future and have them show on your YouTube channel as coming soon, but I tried to use this feature and it did not work.

So, there you have it, yet another great way to create content. Use a tool like Speaker Text to create a transcript of your Hangout and you have content in several forms.

So, how have you used or viewed a Google+Hangout On Air?

7 Essential Stages of Building a Total Online Presence

There are many moving parts involved in marketing and the online elements increase in importance with each passing day.

But, marketing is a system, and to effectively operate this system you must assemble and integrate each of the important parts into something that looks like the whole.

Your online presence is your key to success no matter what your business sells – no matter if all of your transactions are done face to face – no matter if you don’t yet see a way to get a return from your Facebook page – no matter if you’ve never bought an online ad.

The key, however, is to build a Total Online PresenceTM, much like you would a tall, sturdy building, by constructing floor by floor in specific order or in stages. Your stages may differ just a bit based on where you are today and you’ll surely come back and revisit, add on and revamp each stage as you grow, but I believe the following model is the surest way to view your online marketing as a system.

Below are the seven stages of building a Total Online Presence.

7 Stages of a Total Online Presence

7 Stages of a Total Online Presence

Content Platform

So much of what happens online revolves around content. It’s how you get found, why people pay attention and how you start to exchange value. Without a content platform to build from a great deal of effort in other stages will be wasted.

To me the content platform starts with building a listening station with tools like Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Trackur, Social Mention, Sprout Social or Radian6. From this point you can you can gain insight into your market, your competitors and important groups, such as key journalists, while starting the work of better understanding your most important keyword phrases.

Keywords are like chapters in your total body of content plan. Doing research, using tools such as Google Keyword Tool or Wordtracker, on the most important ways to show up when people search for a business like yours and creating blog posts around these chapters, using an editorial calendar approach, is how you fortify your content platform.

Once you start consistently creating content, you can produce valuable eBooks that will be the pivotal element of your email lead capture stage.

There’s really very little reason to play this game if your don’t put the effort in at this stage.

Organic SEO

Having someone type a search phrase that is key to your business and finding a blog post or page from your site on page one of the results is the ultimate payoff and, long-term, may be the difference between success and failure.

Search Engine Optimization can be complex and time consuming, but most businesses can generate significant results without making it so, if you simply focus on the following three elements.

Produce keyword rich, educational content – we covered this above, but search engines live on blog posts and other educational content. Use a tool like Scribe from Copyblogger to help you write more search engine friendly content.

Make it easy on the search engines – Make the on page elements such as your blog titles, URLs, ALT image attributes, subtitles and internal links work for you and use XML sitemaps that make it easy for search engines to grab your latest. Check out Search Engine News for great primer.

Draw lots of links naturally from other sites – Simply writing great content will start this process, but so will writing guest posts, uploading content to places like YouTube and Slideshare, making thoughtful comments on other blogs, submitting online press releases and amplifying your content in social networks. (Covered below)

Email Marketing

An engaged email list, eager to hear from you, is the most valuable asset your can build. 1000 responsive email followers trumps 25,000 Twitter followers every day when it comes to actually promoting the things that make your money.

Focus on building a list of email subscribers that want to hear from you and social media will become a tool set to help you do more of that.

Choose an email service provider (ESP) such as Constant Contact, GetResponse, AWeber, MailChimp or Infusionsoft and go to work on building email capture forms with the offer of your free eBook or weekly newsletter before you move on to social media.

Social Media Marketing

This is certainly an area where you should consider strategy before tactics.

The first step is to understand how your current customers are using social media and how you can use social media to somehow serve them better. If you do that, you’ll get immediate value.

Create Twitter lists of customers and add their social profiles to your CRM tool. Add a tool like Rapportive to your email.

Then claim and build your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Picasa, Slideshare and Pinterest.

Your plan to work and engage prospects in all of these networks may not be clear yet, but the first step is to claim the free real estate so you can start exploring.

Once you start to share content, build connections, reshare other people’s content and discover best practices in each individual network, you can begin to amplify your content and start finding ways to drive prospects to your eBook and newsletter in an attempt to start a relationship headed towards conversion.

Online Advertising

Many people waste advertising and then conclude it doesn’t work. Pay per click advertising can be very effective when done right. One of my favorite things about it is that a platform like Google AdWords allows you to test your thinking a dollar at a time.

Here’s my take on how to make ads pay – Use your ads to drive content awareness instead of simply to sell. Drive Facebook users to sign up for your eBook first and then you can sell them over and over again.

The basics of PPC are this: Use lots of punchy, dramatic ad copy, but test, revise and test. Create tightly focused ad groups with highly relevant ad copy, work negative keywords out of your list. Test some more.

Mobile and Location

Mobile is more of a behavior than a tool. The first step is to analyze what behaviors your customers are exhibiting before you dive into or dismiss Foursquare or text messaging.

I can assure you this however, your customers are reading content, searching for things to buy and using reviews to make decisions on mobile devices. Claim your location based profiles in places such as Foursquare and Yelp.

Create mobile and tablet friendly viewing options with tools such as WPTouch, Tekora or GoMobi. Start creating mobile specific ads, landing pages, coupons and offers that take advantage the growing use of mobile devices as a major part of the purchasing process.

Analytics and Conversion

Like many stage-based processes there is a cyclical aspect as well. For some, creating benchmarks and key performance indicators is really the first step. So, if you’re one of those folks you can start here, because no matter where you are in the process this stage will always evolve.

Many people can’t start the process of measuring success until they are measuring in real time or can’t start the process of tweaking and testing until all of the elements are in place.

As you build make certain you install tracking code from a tools such as Google Analytics, Spring Metrics or KissMetrics so you can begin to build the data to test and refine from.

Then you can start building conversion goals, funnels and events, tracking your ads and split testing your landing pages, opt-in pages and sales pages to discover ways to increase conversion.

Even something as overwhelming and complex as the changing face of marketing online get just a bit more manageable I think when you start to view it as a system.