Can a Blog Boost My Business?

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Can a blog help my business, even if I’m not a writer?

Absolutely, though they’re not for everyone. Blogging makes the most sense for people who have material to post at least somewhat regularly. It doesn’t have to be everyday or even close to that, but the more frequent you can post something of interest to someone out there, the better your blog will be received.

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When I meet new people, I often think about how a blog could complement their business. They’re not always the kind of businesses you’d assume would be a good fit for a blog, like a photographer or author. But almost any business can benefit from one. Let me explain with some examples.

One winter, my nephew and I rented snowmobiles. For two thrilling hours we explored forest trails and bounded through meadows of soft powder. It was an absolute blast! Afterwards we talked with the business owner about how much fun we had. “Everyone says that,” he replied, “but it’s hard to get people to find us and give it a try.”

Missed Opportunity

Driving home, all I could think about was how easy it would have been for the owner to have taken a picture or brief video of us returning on the snowmobiles with our rosy cheeks, ear-to-ear grins and details of our adventure. Pop that info along with a brief paragraph into a blog post, and it would have been awesome marketing for the company. And after the post was online, my nephew and I would have enjoyed sharing it with our family and friends. We would have enthusiastically marketed the post (and the business) for the snowmobile rental owner!

The same thing is true for a restaurant or any business that involves regular clientele coming in for products or services. If the customers are willing to have a photo or brief video taken of them documenting their enjoyment, that makes for a great blog post.

Imagine a physical therapy outfit documenting the progress of a special patient. Or think of a general contractor showcasing some of his latest projects and customers. In time, these blogs posts and people featured in them will be shared with friends, family and online acquaintances. As posts accumulate, a business can have great SEO power for any search subject, like best Italian food in Los Angeles.

Or perhaps you’re having a big sale or event. Blogging about it to a base of subscribers is a fantastic way to get the word out without spending much time or money.

Anyone Can Do This

It’s true that blogs sound intimidating to newbies, but you might be surprised by how easy it is to start and maintain a blog. Plus, it’s fun, and can be done for free or at minimal cost. What could be better than effective marketing that’s totally affordable and just takes a bit of time?

You may already have a website with a blog capability. That’s great if you do. Otherwise, there are venues for creating blogs that make it simple to start, even if you have zero experience with managing a website.

If you don’t already have one or a website with a blog tab, my recommendation is to use WordPress (.com or .org) or Blogger, since they’re popular, professional and easy to learn. You can choose between a totally free design, or spend a little money on a custom template or domain name. Even if you opt for bells and whistles, blogs are super affordable.

How Often Should You Post?

Here comes the real divide. Some advice says blog as much as you can, several times a week if possible. Others tout quality over quantity, with more developed posts winning out in the long run. My advice is to blog however it fits into your schedule.

As a reader, sometimes I prefer short messages with immediate gratification, while other times I’m willing to delve into a topic. It’s smart to write both ways. If you have employees who enjoy participating, you can share the load with them. In some cases, you can even accept “guest posts” from others who want to contribute.

Getting Started for Newbies

The free platforms at WordPress.com and Blogger are fine choices for authors on a budget. There’s no monthly hosting cost, but it’s wise to purchase a custom domain name at around $12 per year. WordPress.org is great for those willing to pay for more template options and monthly hosting.

Essentials that Benefit Any Blog

  • Include subscription or follow links in two locations, one at the top of the page and another at the end of each post
  • Add call-to-action buttons encouraging visitors to get on your mailing list or add comments
  • Add social media buttons for retweeting on Twitter, sharing on Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, etc.
  • Provide navigation to other pages (e.g., About Us – Contact – Services – Products)
  • Include mobile friendly features for cell phone and tablet visitors

Remember that it’s never too late to start blogging or to resume one you began years ago but let fade away. A blog may become the best bang for your buck and time when it comes to marketing!

Save huge on my training course with this coupon, Blogging for Authors. Though it’s tailored for authors, it’s also great for any type of business owner wanting to get started with a blog or wanting to blog better.

Share any questions or comments.

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An Author and a Blog

This Jason Matthews article first appear at TheBookDesigner.

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At a recent writers conference I listened to a lecture from Laurie McLean of Foreword Literary, an agent I admire. She discussed the challenges of getting published and how writers can increase their chances by building a stronger author platform using social media and other tools. During the talk Laurie said something along the lines of, “At the very least, new authors should be blogging,” which was followed by a moment of silence from hundreds of aspiring authors seated in the auditorium.

That’s a bold statement, I thought, wondering how many throats just swallowed hard, the great majority belonging to writers who probably weren’t blogging. It’s ironic how Laurie’s comment affected me, since I’ve been recommending the same thing since 2010 while maintaining two blogs during that time. One is dedicated to things related to self-publishing, the other is for anything else in the universe that I feel like writing about.

And yet I’m still not sure how to quantify the importance of it; surely there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether an author should blog, how frequently to post or at what word count. These days when writers ask me for blogging advice, I revert to an “it depends” answer, although Ms. McLean may disagree and probably has ample evidence.

Of course I believe a blog boosts an author’s online presence. One that functions well can be an author’s HQ, leading to everything else the world might want to know about her/him. The social media and book links are there, the updates and events, the musings, sample chapters, maybe some photos and video.

But is a blog essential? Can one manage with just Facebook and Twitter, or perhaps by simply writing great books? If you don’t have a blog already, it’s important to know they can drain your time and energies. For newbies, there’s a significant learning curve to make the most of the tech involved. But even after the posts start piling up, building an audience takes time, and you may be blogging to crickets for months on end while only spammers leave comments. In worst cases, blogs can feel like a burden with no measurable reward. You may even question if the blog is helping you or hurting you as an author.

After the lecture and standing ovation, I asked Laurie if she would expand on her comment. Since she’s landed lucrative publishing contracts and has been in the writing business far longer than WordPress or Blogger, I took her reply to heart as an agent who understands many aspects of publishing that an indie author like me may never know.

She said, “I strongly believe that blogs should be a standard component of any writer’s toolkit. Not only does it get you writing on a regular schedule, it lubricates your writer’s brain, eases that fear of putting yourself out there in the world, facilitates networking with your peers and readers, and makes you focus on your author brand and how you want your work to be known.”

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It’s About Writing

I have to agree because this is the crux: blogging gets you writing. Authors need that as athletes need exercise and musicians need to make music. And it doesn’t have to be the same kind of writing we do for our books. Blogging can an athlete’s cross-training or a musician’s jam session with friends, where we work on different muscles and skill sets knowing it benefits the whole and makes us better at what we do. That’s why I love my “anything in the universe” blog, where the most popular posts often have nothing to do with the subjects of my books. These cross-training posts are just stuff I find interesting and want to write about, like the life expectancy of NFL players.

It’s Visibility

Author platform boils down to online presence. Each element adds to the big picture (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, website, Amazon Author Central, Google Plus, YouTube), but having a blog is the crème de la crème if used well. Nothing else has the same potential as a blog used consistently over time, plus all those other elements can be implemented into it. People from all over the world routinely visit my blogs from posts written years ago, and these visitors arrive from thousands of different Google subject searches. For example, this morning someone visited my blog from a post I made in May of 2011 while plenty of others visited posts written at least two years back. Nothing else I do online has that kind of lasting power. Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus mentions come and go like paper flyers taped to street signs compared to the perpetual billboards of blog posts. If you like the concept of more bang for your buck, then blogging will reward your cyber investment better over time.

Cat on Computer Laptop

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It’s Embracing Tech

In 2009 I recoiled at the thought of having a blog, not knowing exactly what one was and dreading another thing in my life that required maintenance. It sounded like work, and I didn’t know if I had time for it. You may feel the same way. Understandable. A Facebook friend summed it up by saying, “When I started out, I was scared of the site as I’m in my senior years and learning it nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. But now that’s a distant memory.” Like her, I also came to embrace the learning curve and even excel at it. The good news is how user-friendly these things have become.

How Frequent, How Many Words?

Here comes the real divide. Some advice says blog as much as you can, several times a week if possible. Others tout quality over quantity with more developed posts winning out in the long run. My belief is to blog however it fits into your schedule. As a reader, sometimes I prefer short messages with immediate gratification while other times I’m willing to delve into a topic. It’s smart to write both ways too. For those who fear the burden of regular, well developed posts, you can allow select others to add articles in the form of guest-blogging.

“It has been said over and over that you should write every day,” Laurie added. “A twice weekly, or even once weekly blog post, can add to achieving this goal of daily writing. I advise my clients to blog 1/3 of the time about their ‘product’ (works in progress, books for sale, etc.), 1/3 about some personal aspect of their lives (make sure it is something you want to share such as a hobby or interest rather than photos of your children and your home address), and 1/3 about the craft of writing (solving plot problems, tips on pacing, character development or dialogue, etc.). Follow this formula, write a 250-500 word blog post twice a week, and by the time you have a book to sell, you’ll already have an audience to market to.”

That’s good advice though I haven’t always followed it. On one of my blogs, I post about once a week. On the other, closer to once a month. This method doesn’t cause me to stress over them, which helps stay sane.

The most blog-induced stress I’ve experienced was when I posted every day for a month as an experiment, attempting to make the posts as interesting as possible. That was a writing challenge comparable to NaNoWriMo. By the end of the month, I was spent but the results were remarkable. Visitor traffic had more than doubled as did the number of subscribers.nanowrimo

Do they Sell Books?

My experience has been a mixed bag: the non-fiction blog sells non-fiction books better than my anything blog sells novels. This estimate is based on the number of Amazon links that get clicked by visitors, a helpful stat to monitor. A smarter approach is to think of them for building an audience and networking, and not to value them based solely on book sales.

What I’ve Found to Work

  • blogging about topics that really interest me
  • posting frequently when possible, or as seldom as once a month with quality articles
  • doing it consistently for years
  • making it engaging, asking questions to readers
  • discussing topics that get a range of opinions, even controversial ones
  • discussing new topics that people haven’t heard much about

What Doesn’t Work

  • blogging primarily about my books or sample chapters
  • writing about my daily happenings, life or family
  • posting without much substance just to get something out there

Getting Started for Newbies

The free platforms at WordPress.com and Blogger are fine choices for authors on a budget. There’s no monthly hosting cost, but it’s wise to purchase a custom domain name at around $10 per year. WordPress.org is an upgrade for those willing to pay for more template options and monthly hosting. Also many websites have a blog tab or function enabling you to create a blog and website in one location.

Essentials that Benefit any Blog

  • links to your social media sites, preferably easy to recognize icons
  • links to your books on Amazon and other retailers, preferably icons
  • subscription or follow links in two locations, one at the top of the page and another at the end of each post
  • social media buttons for retweeting on Twitter, sharing on Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, etc.
  • sharing enabled with your social media sites and Goodreads, etc. to display your latest post as they happen
  • navigation to other pages (e.g., About – Contact – Sample My Books)
  • mobile friendly features for cell phone and tablet visitors

Conclusion

Every author has different needs, time frames and skill sets. Like Laurie, I believe every author can benefit by having a blog, but I don’t think every author needs one. If you have extra time, want to improve your writing, want to bolster your online platform and are in this for the long haul, then yes, you should be blogging. If you’re writing to satisfy another goal and not sure how important it is to you, blogging may feel like a burden you don’t need. Or you may have limited time and the ability to write amazing books, which people read and share with others (the ultimate goal). In that case, you probably don’t need one either.

By the way, thank you to Laurie for letting me share these insights. She’s at Fuse Literary and knows her stuff.

What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments.


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Why Blog? Answers and How To Blog Like a Pro

Indie authors often ask me, Why Blog? Is it really that important?” In a word, YES!

Blogging enables you to write frequently about specific subjects and reach a global audience via search engines. From the blog, visitors can find other articles, your books on Amazon, sites, social media links, etc. My blogs act as a home base or headquarters for everything else about me. Though many people have a blog, few use them optimally.

The video below will teach you how to blog, step by step from experts. Ruth Carter, a licensed attorney and author of The Legal Side of Blogging, manages The Undeniable Ruth and Carter Law AZ along with others. Watch this tutorial and gain loads of valuable tips.


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My 7 Links Tripbase Challenged Ebooksuccess4free

Tripbase blogIt’s an honor to be challenged for the Tripbase 7 links, a blogging community that seeks to unite bloggers in a joint endeavor of shared lessons by identifying 7 great posts from a myriad of blogs all over the world. A now this blog, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free has been officially challenged. Feels like a throwdown with Bobby Flay. Bring it on.

Rule, rules, rules. Ah yes, here they are in a nutshell:

1)     Blogger is nominated to take part. Thanks to this blog in France, mine got nominated.

2)     Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category. This shouldn’t take you long to do – don’t over-think it!

Over-thinking is something that will likely happen. Okay, checking back on the nostalgia of 14 pages representing 133 posts, here are my answers:

– Your most beautiful post. Aren’t they all beautiful? Admittedly, beauty isn’t the main aspiration of this blog; education is. However, this post on Translation Widgets for blogs with international readers and all the pretty flags must qualify as quite beautiful http://wp.me/pP9sI-7n. It was well-received, probably for aesthetics.

– Your most popular post. This little post on 2epub.com, really more of a blurb for a conversion tool to format documents like Word doc to epub and mobi generated more traffic than I ever would have thought, especially for a post of less than 100 words http://wp.me/pP9sI-2m. Just shows you never know what to expect after making a post.

– Your most controversial post.  Mine are not typically controversial at all, but this post on making covers for free was a subject many authors have strong opinions over http://wp.me/pP9sI-kB. My opinion is that it’s great to be able to make book covers for free. Many authors feel only a professional should make a cover. Controversy in the air? Eh, maybe a little.

– Your most helpful post. Wow, this is hard because they’re all so wonderfully helpful. Just kidding. It may have been this post on how to price an ebook since so many authors ask about that http://wp.me/pP9sI-ho. My philosophy is to target the major price points and when in doubt, keep it cheap.

– A post whose success surprised you. This post on adding a TOC, Table of Contents to Kindle books was far more successful than I would have thought http://wp.me/pP9sI-dW. Just because it was new info to me and felt like being shared, it still surprised me to see how many others found it useful.

– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved. This post of the new age being the free lunch actually meant a lot to me, but not that many viewers saw it http://wp.me/pP9sI-7O. I really believe the transition to heaven on Earth can take place, but one thing that will have to go ultimately by the wayside is money.

– The post that you are most proud of. I’m fairly proud of most of them. This post for helping Indie authors understand on-page SEO practices for their Amazon books stands out in that regard http://wp.me/pP9sI-lm. It incorporates two of my better lessons into one post: how to sell ebooks and how to use SEO wisely.

3)     Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part. Instead of outright nominating bloggers, my habit of rule-breaking comes in here and now, so if any bloggers would like to participate… please do so on your blog.

4)     These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate another 5 more bloggers (unless they’re rule-breakers like me, and then they can continue however they see fit.)

5)    And so it goes on!

6)    We’ll be sharing the best posts from participating bloggers on our blog and everyday on Facebook and Twitter at #My7Links

Any queries – contact katie@tripbase.com and keep a lookout for the My 7 Links posts circulating through the blogosphere.

Have you been nominated? Check out the list of Nominated Bloggers to avoid nominating someone twice. This was fun, thanks.

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Got Blog SEO? Make Google, Yahoo and Bing Love You

blog seoBlog SEO, do you have it? Do you think about SEO for blogs whenever you make a post? If not, you’re likely missing out on a ton of potential internet traffic over time. This is EASY to do, plus valuable info for Indie authors and anyone marketing themselves online.

Seems like everyone has a blog these days, and rightfully so since it’s the best way for perfect strangers from all over the world to find you and your products/ebooks/etc. What percentage of owners really know how to utilize SEO (search engine optimization) to their benefit? Probably not many as there are so many companies charging arms and legs to help small website owners do a better job attracting Google, Yahoo and Bing, and thus all those perfect strangers. They’ve contacted you, right? The companies charging arms and legs to do this for you? Seems like a daily thing for me, we can help your website get more exposure with our proven SEO tips… Oh brother, just another form of spam.

Way, way back in the old days of the internet (a few years ago), that would have been tempting. During my first posts at another blogging site, the phrase stumbling around in the dark was a good way to describe my methods. Blogging was still a new entity and I really had no idea what I was doing. My concept was to get something about my books, anything really, out on the internet. Yes, the posts were always on my subjects of interest, but really it was just about saying something so my voice was happily among the zillions of others speaking to nobody in particular over cyberspace.

Fortunately those days are over. Why? Because the blog SEO secret has revealed itself to me. Now I understand gads more about SEO for blogs and how to say something that will get heard by readers and by, ta-da, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. It’s a little secret, EASY to do, known by some and not known by many, that will make a huge difference in traffic over time. Here’s what to do before you blog on any subject.

Step 1 – Make a list of potential keywords and phrases that describe your post and what some perfect stranger might potentially type into a search engine. This is where the magic happens. This is the step that separates the wise blogger from the not-so-wise. If you don’t have great keywords targeted to relevant customers, you may as well be blogging offline.

seo for blogsFor example, let’s say your specialty is writing novels based on spiritual subjects, and your blog post is about those novels. What are the terms that come to mind, the terms which will get used in the blog heading, the text body and perhaps some images that accompany the post? Spiritual books, spiritual novels, new age books, and new age novels, are a very short list of examples for some terms that describe your subject matter. These all seem like good choices. Could whichever one you choose really make a big difference? The answer will surprise you.

Step 2 – Research those keywords on your list. Google has a great and free program called Keyword Tool External. This is a must, in my opinion, no matter what you’re doing online, whether it’s making a blog post, creating a new website or even coming up with a title for your book. This program will allow you to type in these individual keywords or phrases and get results on which ones are being searched the most and how much competition they have from other advertisers. Ideally, you can zero in on keywords with the maximum number of searches that don’t have high competition from advertisers. Ideally, the right keywords will help thousands of people from all over the world to find you.

Back to our example. Keyword tool external shows these results in Global Monthly Searches and Level of Competition for our search terms:

Spiritual books – 27,100 Global Monthly Searches, average Competition.

Spiritual novels – 3,600 Global Monthly Searches, low Competition.

New age books – 8,100 Global Monthly Searches, low-average Competition.

New age novels – 320 Global Monthly Searches, low Competition.

Metaphysical books – 5,400 Global Monthly Searches, low-average Competition.

This list could be much longer with ideas, but these few are enough to point out how slight variations in wording can result in huge differences in amount of people searching. Even though “novels” is a bit more descriptive than “books,” it seems like a no-brainer to choose “books” in the description than “novels” and to choose “spiritual” followed by “new age” and lastly, “metaphysical” or something like it.

You can play around with the parameters of the Keyword Tool External program and even peruse suggestions that Google will list for you in the results.

Step 3 – Insert the chosen keywords tastefully into everything you write. Put them in your blog’s headline, in the text body, in the categories/labels/tags, even in alternative text for any images you may use to accompany the post. The word tastefully comes to mind as opposed to keyword stuffing, which is overusing them and can get you into trouble with some search engines. Use your keywords without overusing them, keep the reading pleasant. Once in the heading, once in varied ways in categories/labels/tags, once in alternative text and a few times in the text body.

Step 4 – In the future, you should often check which terms people have used to find your blog, assuming the blog host keeps stats for that. Test out those terms by typing the keywords into a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing. Scroll through the list until your blog entry comes up, then click on that entry and click on some other links within it. That tells the search engines your listing has quality content which made the searchers happy. If you can do this from locations other than your own home, like when traveling, all the better.

This little tip will work wonders over time.

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