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top of mind marketing_8 big blogging mistakes

8 Big Blogging Mistakes You May Be Making

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Blogging is tough. Like a potato chip, you can’t do one. One means that you tried blogging and gave up. It was too hard. It makes you look like a quitter. If you can’t sustain a blog, don’t start. I blog every week, then post the blog along with an image to my website, Linkedin page, Blogger and 4 social media sites. It’s a commitment, but if you make it a habit, you can do it.

Your blog becomes the workhorse of your content marketing program

Quality blogs will drive your whole content marketing program. Not only will you be providing fresh content to your website, increasing your SEO value, but you can repurpose that content to your newsletter and use extracts on social media. A blog is a workhorse. Set aside time to work on your blog and own it.

Here are 8 blogging mistakes—reasons why so many people fail.

  1. Setting an unrealistic publishing schedule. There are actually people who promise themselves they’re going to blog 3-4x/week or more. Forget it—this is a recipe for failure. If you can do one blog/week, you’re doing really well. Cut yourself some slack and try two blogs/month. You’ll soon find this is an aggressive goal.
  2. Not using headers to break up text. This one kills me. When I see a big 6-inch block of text on my computer screen, there’s no way I’m going to tackle this. It’s a fortress. Break it up into manageable bites. Use subheads that guide the reader through the copy. Use bullet points to further delineate key points. Seduce your reader.
  3. Using “Click Here“ in links instead of real keywords. The days of “check out our new website” and “click here” are over. Audiences have gotten a lot more sophisticated, and by using your keywords and inserting a link instead, you’re getting a lot more SEO bang for your buck.
  4. Not Answering Your Comments. When someone takes the time to comment, you owe him/her a response. Remember that you’re doing this to build relationships.
  5. Not Using Images. Big mistake. You may be an inspired writer, but the stats tell us that the average visitor will read just 20% of your content. The use of really good images that are relevant to your topic not only enhance your blog but draw in your audience. An estimated 67% of users say that images are more important than descriptions when making a purchase—and the whole purpose of your blogging is to grow your audience and get new clients, right?
  6. Not Adding Social Media Sharing Options. I see this all the time. Time to integrate your messaging across all of your marketing channels. Make sure your website, social media sites, newsletter, business card and any other print collateral are all branded, integrated and connected. We’re looking for consistency of messaging.
  7. Not Using Analytics. Do you know which posts your readers liked best? Do you understand how people are finding your information—what sites they’re coming from and if they’re clicking through your site? If you haven’t installed Google Analytics on your site, do it. Start using this to see what kinds of posts are getting the most attention. (Your comments will also be an indicator.) If you find that you’re getting a lot of response to one topic, you may—or may not—want to write more blogs on that topic and really promote them. Build a niche.
  8. Not Showing Recent/Popular Posts. New visitors are often curious, so give them something to look at! If you’re clever about displaying your blogs, they’ll stick around to see what else you’re writing about. If there are places on your site to call attention to your blogs, by all means leverage them, such as a homepage banner with a title and a link to the blog. Many of the new website designs have tiles and other callout areas where you can post an image along with a message and a link—these are great places to showcase your blogs. On my site’s blogpage, in the righthand column there is also a list of my last eight blogs with their links.

Are you struggling with your blog or your whole content marketing program? We’d love to help you! Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

 

Content Marketing Case Study: Web Referrals up 50%

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top of mind marketing_content marketingI began working with California Document Preparers more than a year and a half ago to develop and execute a content marketing program. At the time, they were doing a weekly blog–working an anonymous blogger in the Midwest; they knew these blogs were neither relevant nor topical.

He wasn’t making any particular effort to stay on top of industry news or local headlines that translated to timely blog topics for our community.

Our program is based on consistency and a weekly blog

We are doing a weekly blog, a monthly newsletter and we’re posting to 4 social media sites 2x/week: Google+, Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. We post our blog to our website and Linkedin and we just began posting it to Blogger–it’s a Google product, and they own the search space, and it’s ridiculously easy to use.

We follow best practices

I do the small things that enhance SEO value–I always include our name in every social media post, I label every image with our company name and I include alt tags with our images. I identify keywords and metadescriptions. These are small things, but they’re cumulative and they make a difference.

In less than a year, our reporting showed that our web referrals were up 60% over that time last year, which translated to $95K in revenue. This is a significant increase for a small company, and we continue to increase our visibility. In mid-February 2016, our web referrals were up 50% over that time last year.

Quality, well-written content that’s topical and relevant

It’s the steady posting of quality, well-written content that’s enhanced my clients’ web presence. We’ve noticed other things. We’re not killing ourselves on social media. We post religiously, rotating through our services, always including an image. We used to get 15-20 views on our FB posts. Now we’re consistently getting 90-150. It’s all part of our steadily increasing presence.

We’ve made other changes. We’re a company that provides a high level of customer service—we’re about our people. So we did a photoshoot, and we featured a team member each month in a profile. We want people to get to know us, and these have proved very popular.

A new website and a new approach

After a heroic effort to rehab our old website to make it more accessible, we had a come-to-Jesus and realized that rather than try to beat this old site into submission it was time to bury it and start fresh. We wanted a new, modern site that was straightforward and attractive, with significantly streamlined navigation.

Content that reaches people on an emotional level

We’d gone through a complete catharsis and knew that we needed to dump our old content. We’d been laboriously trying to educate people about the legal services we provided, yet metrics showed that people weren’t reading these pages. Our new approach is based on simpler content and good images; we want to reach our clients on an emotional level. Our message is that we’re there for them to help them through their uncontested divorces, living trusts, probates and other legal matters. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. 

Need help with your content marketing program?

Content marketing works! Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Successful Blogging Requires a Strategy

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If you’re blogging just to be filling space, you’re wasting your time and effort. I’m working with several clients who have blogs on their websites, yet for neither of them is her blog working—no followers, no traction on her website, and it’s easy to see why.

Client #1: Original mediocre content: missed opportunities

top of mind marketing blogging strategy

If you’re blogging just to fill space, you’re wasting your time. Blogging requires a careful, consistent strategy

Client #1 writes her own blogs, but they’re haphazard. They’re neither thoughtful nor well-written; it’s clear she hasn’t put much preparation and effort into her posts. There are no compelling or funny stories, no case studies that they might share. No opinions shared on what might be going on in her industry. She also doesn’t take advantage of posting her blog on Linkedin to reach a whole new marketing channel.

While she uses images, they’re poor, and she’s not adding a caption, which can be an additional keyword source. She misses the opportunity to use alt tags with her images and doesn’t write metadescriptions. Most of her blogs are short and lacking substance—good blogs should be at least 300 words. The results are entirely predictable: she’s neither deriving any SEO value from her blogs nor positioning herself as an industry expert.

Client #2: Content curation: nothing personal, insightful or compelling

Client #2 has a huge volume of blogs on her site, but none of them is hers—they’re all repurposed from a range of industry sources. No metadescriptions, no alt tags on images. Google Analytics shows that she’s driving almost no traffic from these posts.

If you’re simply reposting whatever you can find that is vaguely related to your business, you’re wasting your time. It can be challenging to come up with a snappy blog every single week when you’re drowning. This is why many bloggers become derailed.

Here are 9 ideas to jumpstart your blogging program

  1. Buzzsumo is my current favorite—a wonderful source of shared content on a wide range of topics.
  2. SlideShare is another great source of ideas. Read a few articles/presentations and you will come up with ideas of your own.
  3. Still struggling? Use the premise of someone else’s blog and do your own spin on this. Make it personal—provide an example or personal experience.
  4. What’s going on in the news in your industry? Talk about this—share your experience or opinion. Share some stats or data.
  5. Showcase a deserving colleague or highlight a recent workshop or seminar
  6. Be mindful and think about what you could be blogging about each week as you interact with your clients; set aside a regular time every week to write your blog.
  7. Look for occasional guest bloggers—it takes the pressure off and gives your colleagues some exposure. Ask them to reciprocate.
  8. Delegate—identify someone on your team to help share the blogging responsibility.
  9. Develop an editorial calendar to take advantage of key industry events.

Blogging can be the workhorse of your content marketing program; make it work for you.

Need help with your blogging or content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and digital marketing experts.

Blog Best Practices: Think Thoughtful Posts with Depth

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top of mind marketing blogging best practices

Blogposts need to have depth to be effective and provide SEO value. Think 300+ words

I’ve never been a big fan of best practices—they’re right up there with mission statements for me. They’re usually boring, self-righteous and way too general. I’m a very pragmatic person, and I want information that’s actionable.

I did, however, come across some blogging best practices that I love—mainly because they reinforce what I’ve been telling my clients for a long time! First of all—do start blogging. It provides significant SEO value—you need fresh content on your website, and blogging WILL raise your search engine rankings. Sharing quality information that helps people do their jobs also positions you as an industry expert. Get some mileage out of your content. Repurpose it to your monthly newsletter; extract parts of it for social media posts. Make your content work for you.

Blogging best practices

  1. Forget quick-hit blog posts: A tiny blogpost doesn’t do you or anyone else any good. If you’re writing just to reiterate your keywords, you can’t outsmart the almighty Google—it knows the difference. Do think of crisp thoughts, but these need to be thoughtful, useful and fully fleshed out: 300+ words is the rule for a website landing page, and I just read that they’re recommending pages much longer than that—up to 1,000 words or more.
  2. Avoid self serving comments: Don’t make comments including a link to your website. You can be reported to Google for spammy comments. In fact, sometimes Google puts out a blog post of its own asking for reports about comment spammers.
  3. Link exchange for higher search ranking: If you link to another blog because they’re a referral partner or the people in your networking group get together and create a Resource page to host links to the group’s websites, that’s fine, but it probably won’t improve your rankings—unless these are very influential, high-traffic and/or high-authority sites.
  4. Directory listings: Don’t submit your business to mass directory or listing services. They provide irrelevant links that make you look bad. Syndicating articles for links leaves you with a lot of duplicate content online—another search engine no-no. Besides, this takes forever—sometimes these lists have hundreds of sites on which you could hypothetically list your site. You have plenty of other things to do.

Struggling with your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Time Out for the 4th of July

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I believe there’s a big streak of patriotism in even the most jaded Americans

top of mind marketing 4th of july

Time to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy every single day

We get caught up in the struggles of our daily lives, lose faith in our leaders and wonder if we’re ever going to be able to trust a politician again. Is it another war in the Middle East inevitable or did it ever really end? Yet I believe that even the most jaded of us has a big streak of patriotism. There are situations that never fail to give me a rush of pride and gratitude for the freedoms that we enjoy—or the people who helped provide them.

  • It gets me every time. Standing up to sing The National Anthem at Giants games at AT&T Park—42,000+ people peacefully united in their love of baseball. The line about “the land of the free and the home of the brave”—I look around me at the hugely diverse group of people that can only happen in the Bay Are and I get a lump in my throat every single time.
  • Pursuit of the American Dream. At last year’s 4th of July celebration, I sat at a table with an Iranian family who fled political persecution during the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah. It’s a familiar tale: they came to the US with hardly more than the clothes on their back. A family of privileged intellectuals in Iran, their first home was with their brother in Sacramento—five people in one room. They found minimum wage jobs, worked hard and sent their kids to college.
  • My father, a medic in WWII. He must have seen unimaginable horror. Yet he never—ever—spoke of the war or the battlefield. He never told war stories or talked about the men he saved or the friends he lost. He came home, got married, started a successful business and a family and got on with his life.
  • The rule of law. Terrorism is a fact of life for everyone these days, but we don’t live with its threat on a daily basis—at least not yet. We live in a society that respects the rule of law. Celebrate freedom from torture and mistreatment, the freedom to gather and protest without fear of recrimination.
  • Women’s rights. Sure, we have a long way to go, but we’ve made enormous progress. I see young women today who are growing up with one important ingredient that was missing as previous generations matured. They’re fearless—growing up with an unparalleled belief that they can do anything.
  • Achieving business success. This is my sixth year of being a business owner. I launched Top of Mind Marketing because I had to, not out of a burning desire or fulfillment of a lifelong dream. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m finally enjoying success from a lot of hard work. The spirit of entrepreneurism was born right here in America and nowhere has it flourished the way it has right here in our own backyard. Starting and growing a business–this opportunity simply does not exist in other countries.
  • Freedom to marry. I just did a little research, and there are 79 countries around the world in which homosexuality is illegal; In 10 of these countries, being gay is punishable by execution. In Egypt and countless other countries, the morality police raid homes and clubs and throw gay people in jail. Here in the US, just in time for the 4th of July, everyone now has the right to marry, regardless of sex. In the words of President Obama: “We’ve made our union a little more perfect.”

Every 4th of July, I look around me and I think about the simple pleasures we enjoy that make me very happy to be an American.

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re marketing writers and marketing strategists, adept at building customized marketing solutions.

Post Your Blog on Linkedin–Reach a New Marketing Channel

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I’m bullish on blogging and one of my favorite platforms these days is Linkedin. I started posting my weekly blog on Linkedin about six months ago and am delighted to be reaching a whole new audience with this marketing channel.

Who knew?

top of mind marketing Linkedin Pulse

By repurposing your blog to Linkedin, you’re reaching a whole new audience

What’s surprising is how many people don’t know about this forum. This isnot to be confused with posting an update to Linkedin—the same kind of post that you’d be making to Facebook or Linkedin. Rather, this is your blog in its entirety. Go to your Linkedin homepage you’ll see a little icon with a square and a pencil—the universal symbol for editing. Click on this icon and it opens up a field for you to paste your blog, identify keywords, upload an image and publish it.

Post your blog and get picked up on Pulse

Once you’ve published your blog, you are eligible to be picked up in Linkedin’s Pulse—its weekly online bulletin that includes a randomized selection of blogposts that Linkedin believes are relevant for a wide range of its readers. I look forward to Linkedin’s Pulse every week—there is generally an interesting mix of blogs, often from people I know, sometimes from people I just want to know—a great entrée to reach out.

Who does Pulse reach: The exposure is impressive

This is where it becomes important to be building your Linkedin connections. The bigger your community—and everyone else’s—the larger the potential audience if your blog gets picked up on Pulse. Think about this: if there are ten blogs and each author has 2,000 connections (not unlikely—I pay attention to this, and the people who get picked up regularly on Pulse are big-time networkers), you are potentially reaching 10,000 people. This is a content marketing homerun—just by repurposing your blog to another marketing channel.

Other benefits of posting your blog to Linkedin

You are also able to get metrics on who has been reading your blog—people can Like and comment and you can begin a dialog. One more thought about Linkedin—smart professionals are using Linkedin these days. Facebook has become silly and it’s very difficult to get your post to the top of a newsfeed without paying to Boost it. Linkedin is where people are going to prospect—they’re looking to see whom they know who knows someone they want to know and asking for an introduction. It’s also a smart place to be doing PPC ads—the granularity lends itself to a very targeted campaign—you can drill down by industry, company and even job title.

One final thought—who gets picked up on Pulse?

They tend to be topics that are relevant for the masses. I’ve had a lot better getting my clients’ blogs picked up than my own, but I’m not giving up. I love this forum!

Are you having trouble jumpstarting your blogging program? Let Top of Mind Marketing help you. We’re writers and digital media experts. 

Better Blogging Tip: Don’t Forget to Add Images

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Better Blogging Tip: Don’t Forget to Add Images

Topofmindmarketingalt tags

Alt tags are an important part of optimizing your images.

I’m bullish on blogging—it’s great for SEO and it positions you as an industry expert. There are a few things you can do to optimize your posts and enhance the chances of someone’s reading them and better yet–sharing them with other readers and ultimately contacting you. Get some mileage out of your content. A steady series of thoughtful blogs is also a great way create content to repurpose in a newsletter or on social media. Think about also taking a series of blogs on a particular topic, formatting them, adding some snappy graphics and creating an ebook.

Another way to optimize your blog? Add images

For starters, we all love to be entertained, and 300-500 words of text (the recommended number of words for good SEO value) can be a little formidable. Even if you break up the page with subtitles and bullets—and you should—you need to add an image(s). It can help enhance your message, and it provides visual contrast. The reality: It takes more than text–you need an image to draw your reader in.

Making the most of images in your blogs

Search engines don’t make any sense of images, per se. But they are an important part of your search engine optimization strategy—if you’re not doing the following, you’re missing some opportunities to create SEO value with the images you routinely add to your blogs.

Images can be optimized by placing keywords in the following areas:

  1. Add captions on or below the images
  2. Image file nameuse your keywords when you name the file
  3. Image title and alt tags
  4. Add text links to the images

Remember that it’s these little things–cumulatively these will make a difference. Don’t stop there. Post that blog to your social media sites, especially to Linkedin. Be patient. It won’t happen overnight, but you will find that you will start showing up in search engines. As your name starts showing up with informative, compelling blogs, people will begin to realize that you are clearly an industry thought leader. This is what content marketing’s all about.

Struggling with content marketing? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and digital media experts.

How to Get—And Keep–People’s Attention without Pissing Them Off or Boring Them to Death?

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boring

How to keep from boring your audience to death? Try being a little edgy!

Like all self-respecting Giants fans, I hate the Dodgers. Our car radios are always tuned to KNBR, and I was listening to announcer, former Giant and Willie Mac Award Winner Bob Brenly the other day describing how bland today’s announcers have become. “Back in the day, we weren’t so politically correct; we loved to piss off the Dodgers.” I got to thinking about this in relation to content marketing: How to get—and keep–people’s attention without pissing them off or boring them to death?

We’re all competing for eyeballs: make it relational

We want people to read the snappy social media posts, blogs and newsletters over which we labor. But building a following is a challenge, and we can’t do it by being bland. To differentiate ourselves from the masses, we need to insert ourselves into our writing so that we’re building a relationship with our audience.

Tell a story

A case study is always effective. As business owners, we all like to think of ourselves as problem solvers, so describe about how you’ve helped a client solve a problem. If possible, quantify this—how has this client been able to get more business, make more money or streamline processes. If this was particularly difficult, talk about it—believe me, people will really be able to relate to this.

Create good visuals

Content marketing isn’t just about content; people need to be entertained, and that means graphics. People are infinitely more likely to read your blogpost or article if they’re drawn to it by an arresting visual. Create a flowchart or infographic to illustrate a process. Don’t be afraid to use images that are funny—making people laugh is a great way to build relationships. Something else to think about: describing something in vivid detail so people get a really clear picture in their minds is another way to build a bond with your audience.

Integration: synch your online personality

Your goal is to have your audience read your blogs, articles and posts and immediately recognize that they’re written by the same person—you! You want to develop your own style. How to do this?

Take a chance and share an opinion

You don’t have to try to piss anyone off, like Bob Brenly and the Dodgers, but having an opinion can work for you. Being just a little edgy and opinionated—especially if you’re savvy, smart and clearly know your subject matter—can work for you. What are some controversies in your industry? Take a stand. You will find that those who agree with you will love you for your opinions. This is a great way to draw loyal followers–sometimes it’s worth taking a risk!

Struggling with your writing? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

Bullish on Blogging

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Bullish on blogging

I’m bullish on blogging. It increases your SEO value, establishes you as an industry expert, creates a voice and tone and provides you with your very own soapbox.

I recently gave a presentation on the benefits of blogging

  • I asked the audience how many were currently blogging. Two people raised their hands.
  • How many were thinking about blogging? A big show of hands.
  • What keeps you from blogging? It’s unanimous: lack of time, consoapboxtent and ideas.

If you don’t have ideas, you’re not paying attention. Many people think too hard
and stall. A blog is not the place to be solving the crisis in the Middle East. This is the place to have some fun. It is not a forum for self-promotion, but a place for information sharing.

Think about your blog as a place to share your expertise

How to do this? Tell a story—it can be about how you helped a client or solved a problem—everyone wants to be recognized as a solution provider. Clients are endless blog fodder—no need to mention names, and you can camouflage the details, but think of the ridiculous clients, the funny clients, the infuriating ones and the fabulous clients whom you wish you could clone. Do a shoutout–don’t be afraid to highlight a client or colleague from time to time for doing something truly extraordinary.

Create an editorial calendar to keep you on track

  • What’s coming up in your industry?
  • Blog about the highlights of a seminar or workshop.
  • Don’t be afraid to steal ideas.
  • Subscribe to industry newsletters and scan articles and headlines for ideas. If there’s an idea that gets your attention, take a stand and either agree or disagree with it. Reference the article and link to it.
  • Log in to Slideshare—the presentations are a great source of ideas for blogposts.

Your blogpost doesn’t need to be a tome—300+ words is recommended for best SEO value, but shorter posts often stand the best chance of getting read. Use your keywords and do include an image—we all need to be entertained. Most important: a blog is a commitment. If you can’t commit, don’t get started. If your last post was in June 2009, it looks like you can’t keep up. Remember that you can repurpose those blogs as newsletter articles and excerpts make great social media posts. Set aside an hour a week and start blogging–have some fun with this!

Like Everything Else in Your Life, Language is Constantly Evolving

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wine cellar

Like fine wine, language is constantly evolving

As language evolves, hyphenated shed their hyphens and become full-fledged members of our vocabulary. These are words like standalone, solopreneurs, ongoing, all of the multi and re words—reengineer, reenter, multipurpose, etc.

Part of being a savvy writer is recognizing that these words have achieved a new status—they no longer require training wheels—hyphens or quotation marks surrounding them. A good writer stays on top of these transitions and omits the extraneous punctuation.

Start reading . . . 
So how do you stay on top of our rapidly evolving language? Don’t rely on Microsoft’s spellcheck–it just gets the basics. The best solution? Be aware as you’re reading–especially when it’s the work of authors and sources you respect. When your favorite authors and industry experts lose their hyphens, follow their lead. You’ll be rewarded by being a better writer.

Need help with content marketing for your business? Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.