Never Underestimate Simplicity

Have you ever started reading an article and given up because the author is so busy being clever that you can’t understand what they’re saying?

You’d be surprised how many writers and publishers worry about whether their content is intellectual enough. Somehow, “high quality” has got mixed up with the length of an article, the size of your vocabulary and a bunch of other stuff that is rarely as important as you think.

Take that first paragraph. It’s only one sentence and the longest word has about ten letters in it, but you can read it without opening a dictionary. You don’t need a PhD to figure out what it means.

For some people, showing how smart they are is more important than saying something useful. But here’s the problem: if your readers spend all their time trying to figure out what you’re saying, how will they hear your message?

Of course, some demographics demand a certain level of lexical masturbation. The highbrow crowd loves to read 1,500 words stuffed with allegory, metaphor and grammar of which James Joyce would be proud – and that’s fine. But if your target demographic is outside the 1% of the intellectual elite, you’re better off with 500 words that transmit a clear, concise, well-written message.

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity!

Seven Secrets of Successful Blogging

Although blogging may appear straightforward, many bloggers quickly discover that it’s quite the opposite! Running out of ideas, lack of engagement, or simple boredom can all quickly destroy motivation. So how can you improve your chance of success? Here are seven key factors that determine your blog’s future.

1. Set your objectives

The number of people who decide to start a blog, post half a dozen times, then give up is phenomenal. If you’re serious about blogging success, you must set your objectives before you start. This will help you stay focused, and track your progress. The better you define your goals, the easier it will be to spot problems and fix them.

Think of yourself as an entrepreneur: every business has goals and a vision, so you must do the same with your blog. Divide your goals into targets for the short, medium and long term, and make them achievable (especially in the short term). Keep them simple and measurable. For example, you could set yourself a short-term goal of blogging twice a week, on Monday and Friday. If you keep to your plan, this can become a long-term goal as well.

2. Do not compare yourself with others

It sounds easy, but it’s one of the hardest things for any blogger. When setting your objectives, you should not compare yourself to other bloggers – especially the famous ones! This will just turn into a stumbling block when you do not have the same success as them in the short term.

Every blogger is different. Some are a huge hit in days; others take months building up a solid following. Your blog will be different to every other blog online, so be prepared to build success at your own pace. Make sure you focus on your own work, and not what others are achieving or have achieved. Ignore the pressure (which you create yourself) to emulate Seth Godin or some other celebrity blogger.

3. Join a community

It is a good idea to join a blogging community. This allows you to learn from other bloggers, and make sure you improve your blog. Other bloggers are also an excellent source of support, especially at times when your site is not performing or you feel like giving up.

There are a lot of blogging forums and communities online, so make sure you choose wisely. Don’t just sign up with half a dozen general blogging forums if there is one which addresses your specific niche. But don’t ignore the general communities, either. Mix and match to find what works best for you, and use these communities to find out what works (and what doesn’t) in the blogging world.

4. Keep learning

Never stop learning. The Internet changes constantly, and many of those changes affect blogs directly, especially if they’re search engine updates! This is where blogging communities are so helpful, as they are excellent sources of news and opinion about both existing and upcoming changes.

A great way to learn is by subscribing to blogs about blogging. Find a few knowledgeable individuals who are well-respected in the blogging world, and follow their posts. You can pick up some excellent tips in this way. However, make sure you practice what you learn, or all that knowledge will just rot away in your brain instead of improving your blog!

5. Have fun

Blogging should never be a stressful experience: that stress shows in your writing and is transmitted to your readers. Make sure that you keep it fun and enjoy what you are doing. That doesn’t mean you have to tell jokes: it just means keeping a positive, optimistic tone in your writing.

A lot of people choose blogging to make money, because they do not want the pressure that is commonly associated with a “normal” job. But replacing work stress with blogging stress is pointless: if you find that blogging is starting to overwhelm you, take a break and unwind before coming back. You can even consider putting out a call for guest posts, which can give you a longer break, while maintaining your posting schedule.

6. Analyse your analytics

You should always pay attention to your analytics. Google provides some excellent training content to help you understand what their data means, and there are dozens of articles online specifically targeted to bloggers who need help with the figures.

The advantage of understanding your analytics is that you can determine what is working for your blog. The better you understand your analytics, the more you can tailor your blog posts to suit your visitors. For instance, you can check the number of visits for the most popular post, the bounce rate, and visitors’ countries. Combining this data gives you insight into who visits your blog, from where, and whether they stay for more than one article or leave quickly.

7. Be consistent

Perhaps the most critical factor in a successful blog is consistency: you must be consisted with your blogging effort. Don’t publish five posts a day for a week, then wait five weeks to publish another. It is important that you post regularly to keep your readers.

That doesn’t mean you have to post every day: it means you need to always post on a regular schedule, whether it’s once a day, once a week, or something else. Most blogging platforms allow you to schedule your blog posts ahead of time, which means you can write whenever you like, and still keep to your schedule.

For non-bloggers, blogging looks cool and easy, but this is not always the case, especially for successful blogging. By following the seven secrets to successful blogging outlined above, you dramatically improve your chances of running a popular, high-traffic blog for years to come.

6 Tips for Better Brand Building

As online marketing evolves, brand building also changes. Ten years ago, most companies built brand recognition primarily through banner ads and direct emailing. While these approaches are still valid, business owners now have many more avenues available. Let’s look at six up-to-date ways you can build brand awareness online.

1. Pool your traffic

You may not be aware that your website has two addresses, because they both point to the same site. The two addresses – mysite.com and www.mysite.com, for example – are actually different and could host completely separate content. In reality, that’s not what you want, and thanks to the folks who run the Internet (or at least those who host your site), visitors who type either address end up on the same page.

However, the search engines may not see the two addresses as the same site. In practical terms, this means that your traffic may be assigned – in search terms – to two separate sites, thus negatively affecting your SERPs.

How can you fix it? Easy! Just stick a 301 redirect in your htaccess file.

2. Add testimonials

Despite the prevalence of fake testimonials on many sites, customer reviews are still a major influencer. After all, word of mouth advertising is one of the most powerful forms of marketing!

Encourage trust and spread brand awareness by getting referenced testimonials. That means asking your customers for some personal, verifiable information – a name, a job, a company, a photo. Testimonials that your visitors can verify for themselves are awesome brand builders.

3. Offer discounts

Everyone loves a bargain! Make sure you get the most out of your coupon codes and promotional discounts by targeting them to groups, clubs and organisations who will actively share them. Social media is essential to your brand building strategy and the more shares you can get, the better.

While you’re sharing, why not drop in on the big voucher aggregation sites and make sure they list your coupon as well? Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

4. Volunteer your services

Donating to charity is an excellent way to extend your reach, especially if the charity has a large social following. But instead of giving money, offer your services, resources and expertise at reduced cost or for free. Getting brand recognition once on social media is great, but if you can get a banner on their site as a loyal supporter, you’ll see regular traffic from them.

And hey, it’s for charity, so you can’t lose: even if it doesn’t do your brand any good it makes the world a better place!

5. Find unlinked external references

When you search for your company online, look for web pages that mention you without linking to your site. Google will not count these citations as an up-vote for your SERPs.

Speaking of Google, you can use their Alerts to create an automated notification of any site that mentions your company. Get your alert to send you an email, then use the details to get in touch with the owner of the site that mentions your company. Maybe they’ll add a link back to your website and improve your SEO for free!

6. Keyword targeting

It’s the oldest SEO tactic in the book, but it’s still essential. You must make sure that your site’s content targets the right keywords. Take time to analyse the keywords and key phrases that produce conversions, then use them to improve profits and spread brand awareness. Google Analytics is free to use and provides excellent stats for this analysis.

Got any other brand-building tips? What’s your favourite tactic? Leave your thoughts in the comments!