Tagged blogging

The Best Money You’ll Ever Spend on SEO, Social, and Content

 

You may have all the technology and expertise in the world at your disposal, but do you have this crucial element to SEO, content and social media success?

the best money you'll ever spend on seo, social and contentDo you have a fantastic SEO platform? A beautiful piece of software, with all the data dots connected, and all the keyword bells and social media whistles that you could ever ask for? If your brand has a culture that is forward-thinking enough to recognize how crucial a tool like this is to the success of your digital marketing, then I hope the answer is yes.

But that’s not the only thing that demands your precious marketing dollars. Are you promoting your posts to precision-targeted audiences on Facebook? Gaining a following on Twitter by advertising your best stuff to key influencers? Utilizing all the many paid search tools to drive traffic to your brilliant content?

All these magnificent things are not cheap, but they are certainly worth it . . . IF you’ve also made another important little investment. An investment in great people.

Don’t underestimate what it takes to win in SEO, Social, & Content Marketing

It’s no secret that the biggest bottleneck in content marketing (and by extension, SEO and social) is TIME. It takes a huge amount of time to develop truly great content that delivers value, ranks in search, and resonates throughout social media. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that brands hit when developing their content marketing strategies and social plans. Most brands just don’t have enough people to actually execute what is needed to outpace competition and gain more ground in their markets.

I mean, on their own each thing you do for digital content doesn’t seem very daunting, and this is part of the perception that makes content ‘seem’ easier than it actually is. Seriously, how long does it take to write a 500 word blog post? But what about 4 or 5 of them? Maybe add a whitepaper in there, too? Throw together a handful of tweets every day? A few Facebook posts? Couple of things for LinkedIn? Pic for Instagram? And let’s not forget the time needed to crush it on YouTube. It adds up fast.

But that’s just reality, isn’t it? I mean, you can’t just ‘buy’ time, can you?

clock-1274699_640Yeah, actually, you can buy time.

What if I told you for the low, low price of a single person’s salary, you could flat-out BUY dozens more hours every week? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you hire people. Every person you bring on is paying your brand back with their time. All of it. Every day.

Hiring great people gives you their time, their expertise, and their knowledge to execute your strategies and tactics. Without great people to action those ideas and plans, they’re nothing more than decorations on Powerpoint slides.

1+1 = 2, mostly. Sometimes it’s 3. Possibly 4?

This is really basic math. When you go from one content writer to two, that’s instantly doubling the amount of content you can churn out. That’s two times the amount of original, fresh, relevant and valuable content for your brand to rank in search and share in social.

Yeah, it’s that simple, and it scales in huge ways. Once those two writers begin to develop synergies, sharing valuable research, conducting brainstorming sessions, etc, you’ll find that your content team becomes more than just the sum of its parts. They now have the support they need to do more than they could on their own.

Investing in people pays the biggest dividends of any dollar you spend in SEO, social, and content. People give you the ability to action what you’ve been told by all the data that you have in your analytics tools and platforms, and put in motion all the advice coming from your agencies and consultants. Great people and their time are the best things you can buy for your brand.

Marketing Doubleshot Podcast – Ep.9 – Content Calendar Strategy & Being Adaptable in the Gig Economy

In this episode, Jonathan Barrick and Josh Muirhead discuss ways to be more strategic when planning your content calendar, and how important it is to be adaptable in the current digital marketing career economy.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Content Marketing Institute

CMI Content Calendar Template -> How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing

Gary Vaynerchuk – Gary on Twitter @garyvee

Marketing Doubleshot Podcast – Ep. 2 – Creating Smarter Content & The New Approach to Blogging

In this episode, Josh Muirhead and Jonathan Barrick look back at 2014 and talk about what digitally savvy brands in 2015 will need to do in their content marketing strategies to truly achieve success, as well as how the world of blogging has evolved to a rich-media platform.


Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Gary Vaynerchuk on the importance of Context – www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT7hAh5hxkk

gShift’s blog post series on Creating Smarter Content –www.gshiftlabs.com/create-smarter-…-conversations/

Kevin Spacey at CMWorld on Storytelling – www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJnP2wsgnoA

Mark Schaefer on Content Shock –www.businessesgrow.com/2014/01/06/content-shock/

Chris McBrien – Mr. Fantasy Baseball Podcast –www.dmfantasybaseballpodcast.com/
Chris on Twitter – twitter.com/cmcbrien

Storehouse iPad app – www.storehouse.co/

5 Tips to Manage the Demands of Content Marketing

No time for content marketing? It might not be quite as demanding as you think.

5 tips to manage the demands of content marketing

Businesses of all sizes are jumping on content marketing with gusto, but unfortunately many are lacking a logical and sensible plan to manage the demands that it places on an organization. It’s extraordinarily common for brands to sprint right off the start and get as much content out there as fast as possible, and then burn out within months when they create a pace that they can’t possibly maintain.

Fortunately, there are many simple ways that brands can ease the pressure off their content marketing demands. Here are 5 things you can start to incorporate today to your content plan to make it more manageable, and more effective.

1) Break it down in to manageable pieces – One of the most daunting aspects of content marketing is the time it takes. Often, brands look to others who are doing well with content marketing and think “How do they do it?”. Well, the simple answer is that the savvy ones do it with a structured content schedule. They plan out how much content they are going to put out there according to a manageable timeline, factoring in what’s happening inside the company, out in the industry, and how they can spread out their content on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to get the most out of what they have, and not overreach their resources.

Simply Put: Plan out how much activity you can manage on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and then actually throw it in to your calendar so you know what’s needed for each channel, and when.

2) Focus on the core platforms – Ah yes, the problem of trying to be everywhere. While it’s an admirable pursuit, it rarely works. Limited time and limited resources translate in to the need to pick the platforms and social networks that work best for your brand and your audience. Evaluate your social networks and content platforms based on the size of your audience (both existing and potential), where you’re achieving (or stand to achieve) the most engagement, and which ones are poised for the most significant growth.

Simply Put: Be where your audience is, and where you can deliver the most impact.

3) Curate from complementary sources – Competitors abound in the digital space, but so do allies. The fact that there IS so much content being produced by brands is often disheartening for those brands struggling to break through and gain traction, but it can also be a huge advantage if you approach it right. Look for complementary brands that are delivering great content. These are brands that aren’t competitors to your business, but are still relevant to your audience. These complementary brands are great sources of content that you can share, relieving some pressure off your resources to create original stuff, but still delivering solid value to your audiences.

Simply Put: Find smart companies that deliver solid content, and share it with your communities.

4) Revisit & Refresh – Struggling for blog post ideas? Go back to your archives. Look for those posts that talk about currently relevant topics, but are maybe a bit out of date. These can be the catalyst for new posts that highlight just how things have changed for your audience. Explaining why things are the way they are can be of great interest to engaged communities, and often can give insights in to where things are headed. Use past posts to talk about how much better things are now due to new tech, product features or services. How have concepts and ideas evolved over time? While these may not be of interest to your ENTIRE audience, don’t underestimate the power of delivering thoughtful retrospective posts to those that are interested.

Simply Put: Look back through your archives for content that can be updated and refreshed with a new perspective.

5) Get Help: You’re not alone. Every organization has hidden resources that can be unlocked to assist with the content marketing effort. Maybe they are part of the sales team, engineering, customer service, or the C-suite, but they are there, and they know stuff that matters to your audience. Engaging those resources to deliver the raw materials you can use to deliver new and valuable content to your audience can bolster your efforts in ways you didn’t see before. Also, don’t forget that guest bloggers are often used to great success. Put out a call to bloggers in your community, and start a discussion with them on what they might bring to the table. Set out some guidelines, and give it a try. User-generated content carries a lot of weight.

Simply Put: Content marketing doesn’t have to be isolated inside the marketing department. Recruit resources that deliver value.

So as you can see, these aren’t lofty or unrealistic options for most brands. It simply comes from a different way of looking at what you’re doing, where and when it is happening, and how you can get more impact and better results with whatever resources you’ve got. Content marketing is powerful, no doubt. But if you approach it with a plan, focus your efforts, and incorporate every advantage you can, it doesn’t have to be quite so demanding. Hope you find these tips useful!

What tips do you have for making content marketing more manageable and less demanding?

SEO Poison: What you get when you hire a link farmer

by Jonathan Barrick

Ever get a phone call from someone claiming to be from XYZ Digital Web Services who’s been researching your company’s website on Google and noticed that it isn’t on page 1 for important keywords? Then they’ll kindly tell you that they can help get you ranked on the first page of all major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? After all, it’s a lot of work to get on page 1 of Google. You’re competing with all the really big sites for those top spots, and it’s a real tough fight!

There’s just one problem: They get you there by flooding the internet with garbage. It’s called ‘Black Hat SEO’, and it is the scourge of internet marketers worldwide. It relies entirely on exploiting search engine algorithms for their loopholes and selling these tricks as legitimate services to unsuspecting companies.

For example, let’s look at one of the most common exploits employed by these scammers: Backlinks. Most seasoned SEO pros will tell you of the importance of backlinks. These are links found on other sites that point back to yours. In a nutshell, the more backlinks you have, the better. The quality of those backlinks is the second half of the equation. Backlinks to your site that are found on popular, relevant websites are worth far more in the eyes of search engines than those found on sites that have nothing to do with your company or industry.

However, these SEO magicians that claim to boost you to page 1 on Google simply ignore the ‘quality’ side of the equation and just go after ‘quantity’. They employ their armies to scour the internet for any blog or website that allows comments to be posted, and randomly post gibberish text containing links to your site. These poor victim sites and blogs end up with junk comments piling up on their posts, with little else they can do but manually delete each one. Often times they slip by unnoticed, perpetuating the problem for everyone.

There are a few telltale signs that comments are being posted by a link farmer. Often riddled with horrifying grammar and spelling mistakes, within each comment there will inevitably be a backlink embedded in to the text of the comment so that it doesn’t immediately get caught at a glance. You actually need to read it to be sure of what it is. Once you do, you’ll notice how completely irrelevant they are to the content of the original post.

Fortunately, Google and other search engines aren’t just sitting on their hands. They don’t want their systems gamed any more than we do, so they’re constantly tweaking their algorithms to close loopholes and make results increasingly more ‘real’ based on what you’re looking for.

Often times what happens with companies who fall victim to link farmers and Black Hat SEO will notice a massive drop in their rankings whenever Google releases a new major update to their algorithms. This is because whenever those exploits and loopholes get closed, Google slams the door really hard on sites that have been gaming the system.

Here’s the thing about SEO: No matter what detailed changes occur in their algorithms, search engines will always reward websites that:

  1. Have quality content
  2. Are updated regularly
  3. Are linked and backlinked with relevant partners

If you cover those three bases, then you shouldn’t see any drastic swings when an SEO update occurs. There’s no magic bullet for SEO. It’s a long term investment, and rewards those who focus on quality, above all else. So the next time you get a call from someone promising magical SEO results guaranteed to push you to #1 – Politely say “Thanks, but no thanks”.

But we can each do our part to help minimize the problem:

  • Delete any comments like these that find their way on to your site or blog.
  • Don’t hire any company making lofty promises about page 1 rankings.
  • Spread the word to colleagues to they don’t fall victim either.
  • Focus your site content on quality, and release new material as regularly as you can.

Black Hat SEO and link farming sucks for everyone. Customers hate it because there’s no guarantee that the companies on page 1 of Google actually deserve to be there. Companies hate it because even if they are the most relevant company for the keywords, they can be bumped down on the list of results because of sites who game the system. Unsuspecting companies who do hire link farmers take a major reputation hit when they get found out, and when algorithm changes cause their rankings to plummet. It’s just bad news all around. I hope this post sheds a bit of light on how link farmers operate, and why you should avoid it like the plague. If this post saves at least one good company from getting involved with the ‘bad crowd’, it’ll all be worth it.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Retrospect – 6 Undeniable Marketing Truths Learned in 2012

by Jonathan Barrick

Another year, another look back.
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2012 was a year of contention in marketing. Debates raged on many fronts, but none were more heated than the battles on two particular topics: Social Media ROI & Influence Scoring. Other issues came and went throughout the year as well, such as what kind of metrics marketers should be using, and if EVERY business really needs to be using social tools.

Throughout all the fiery Tweets and divisive blog posts created through the last 12 months, however, I came to learn (at the very least) six key points that influenced me in 2012, and will continue to do so going in to 2013.

Behold! These six undeniable marketing truths are:

1: Influence Scores aren’t evil, but people are using them for evil things. – Klout, Kred, PeerIndex made some people stand up and cheer, and others reach for their pitchforks. There are few topics as divisive in marketing right now as influence marketing. Opponents raise valid points about the poor use of such scores in things like job interviews and as a credential to provide proof of expertise, and they’re right. Using a Klout score as the definitive measure of influence or expertise is just plain stupid, much in the same way that using an SAT score on its own without context is just as foolish. If you’re ever asked in an interview what your Klout score is, or if the job posts a ‘minimum required’ score, run away. That company is clueless.

Where social scoring sites do some good, however, is as a starting point in identifying the most active, well-known personalities in social media related to a particular topic. ATTENTION: It’s absolutely essential to note that activity and visibility are NOT the same as influence, but what these numbers do is give you a place to start. Now that you’ve found these people, DIG DEEPER. Look at their content, connections, accomplishments, personality, and activity that surrounds them. Then, and ONLY then, will you have a somewhat valid picture of their true level of influence. Realizing what the tools actually do (measure activity & visibility) and using them accordingly where we need to go from here.

2: Blogs still matter, but only if they’re awesome. – Find me a better way for a company to showcase their personality, expertise, dedication, and professionalism alongside their appreciation of their customers, desire to improve, and commitment to their industry. I dare you. Bet you can’t find one, can you? They allow you to truly prove that your business is a leader by writing about things that matter to your customers, to your business, and to your industry. The catch? You have to publish good stuff, because junk content won’t do it.

A well-written blog that has a purpose, that is maintained regularly, and that stays relevant is one of the greatest brand-building tools a company can have. Quitting a blog after three months because ‘it’s not working’ is an all-too-common scenario for many businesses. To use the stereotypical analogy of social media ‘experts’ around the globe, a blog is a marathon, not a sprint. Building an audience and reputation takes time, as does refining your writing style and personality. Stick with it, and the benefits will be huge. Search engines love blogs and readers love blogs, so have one and make it awesome.

3: Social media does have ROI, but it’s not the same for every business. – Now this one ruffled a lot of feathers this year. Anti-ROI people claimed that social ROI is inherently unmeasurable. “How can you tie brand affinity to a dollar amount?” “What’s the ROI of your mother?”, etc. Pro-ROI people claimed that EVERYTHING can be tied back to a measurable return on the investment. You just need to look at the right clues.

The unavoidable conclusion: They’re both right. Not everything a business does ties directly back in to a sale, but everything a business does CAN be measured. What’s the time savings you’re achieving through social communications with customers? What’s the market research value of 30,000 Facebook fans? What’s the long-term loyalty aspect of social activities? Sometimes YES, you can measure in simple $, but sometimes you can’t. This doesn’t mean the return isn’t there. It just means you need to look deeper. How your business measures the ROI of social is up to your business. Start with what your goals are, and figure out how social is helping you meet them.


4: You can measure anything, but without context those numbers are useless. –
“We got 5,000 referrals from Google this month! YAY!” So what? What do you do now? How does knowing that you got 5,000 referrals from Google give you any idea whether your marketing is working or not? Marketing people have been tossing around generic, meaningless metrics for way too long and nobody’s said anything. Well, I get the distinct feeling that those kind of metrics just aren’t going to fly in 2013. Likes? Followers? Hits? Forget them, they aren’t helping. It’s time to dig deeper.

Need some examples? Try ‘Share of Search’. Google can tell you who many monthly searches occur for a specific set of keywords. How many of those searches does your web presence capture? This is your share of search. If it goes up, you’re doing something right. If it goes down, your competitors are. What search terms are you dominating with vs. what search terms are you failing with?

Need another one? How about ‘Social Sentiment’. Are your customers ranting about you or raving about you? What about your competitors? How does your sentiment rank against theirs, and what’s the share of conversation you’re capturing? CONTEXT is what makes metrics work. If the numbers don’t tell a story that helps you improve, they aren’t worth measuring.


5: Listening in social is not the same thing as paying attention in social. –
It’s really easy to set up alerts & social monitoring. Every time a keyword gets mentioned you get notified, but what happens then? Are you simply listening for your own name, or are you really paying attention to the conversation? One example I had the pleasure of observing recently illustrated just how easy it is to look stupid in social if you’re not paying close enough attention. A Twitter user sent out a sarcastic Tweet mocking a lame commercial, and the business responded (two days later, mind you) with a cheery ‘Thanks for the compliment!’. Suffice to say, the original tweeter thought it was pretty funny, and so did I, therefore it was immortalized with a blog post.

It was a tiny little tweet in amongst billions of others, but it shouted loud and clear “Yeah, we’re listening. Kind of. Mostly.” Set up the notifiers, but when you get notified THEN PAY ATTENTION. Social media monitoring tools can’t catch sarcasm, so be sure the person tweeting out the responses for your company can and will. It’s easy to set up the alerts, but it’s even easier to look silly. Be vigilant.

6: Yes, every business should be social, but in their own way. – The question isn’t whether businesses ‘NEED’ to be social. The question is ‘Why wouldn’t you want to be?’. Customers aren’t’ there? Please, just stop, because you know that they are. No time? BS. Nobody has time, you need to make time. Find where you’re wasting time and resources and shift them. Don’t have anything to say? Then you shouldn’t be in business. It’s not an all-consuming process to be social. Tweeting all day isn’t the answer. Plan it out and schedule it just like you plan out everything else you do for your business.

This isn’t about being all things to all people. You don’t have to be on EVERY social network, but you damn well better be wherever your customers are and where they want to see you. To paraphrase some guy named Scott Stratten, ‘Stop marketing to people the way you hate to be marketed to.’ Do you like sorting through piles of junk mail? Do you love clicking on banner ads? Do you live for the newest billboards? No. You love to check out cool pictures, interesting videos, and helpful articles. Give customers who like your business the same regard that you want from business YOU like; VALUE. Connect with them on their terms. Answer their questions, don’t push your agenda. Show them what they want, not what you feel like broadcasting. Educate, don’t preach. Be awesome, not annoying.

There you have it. Six points that shaped my view of marketing this year, and will no doubt be a factor going in to 2013. It will be quite interesting to see what the hot-button topics will be over the next twelve months. Will influence continue to divide marketers? Will ROI continue to be elusive and confusing? Or will marketers take the lessons learned in 2012 to heart and shake off the fear of abandoning comfortable, old-school, dollar-wasting marketing in favour of truly connecting with customers and giving them real value on their own terms? I know what I’m going to shoot for. How about you?

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Blogs of Greatness – Marketing Brilliance

How many blogs do you read? I mean, REALLY read? Regularly. How many can’t-miss, always-awesome, have-to-share blogs do you read?

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For me, there are just a handful. I peruse lots of them, and scan over even more, but the ones that I can say that I ‘read’ are limited to a select few that consistently deliver the goods that I can’t seem to get anywhere else.

I will state right now that yes, Seth’s Blog is great. We all know that, so let’s talk about something different.

Blog #1 – Mitch Joel‘s ‘Six Pixels of Separation’ – http://www.twistimage.com/blog/
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Mitch is one of those fantastic bloggers that not only gives you advice that you can deploy today, but also makes you really THINK about where we’re going with all this ‘marketing’ stuff. No two posts on Mitch’s nearly decade-old blog roll are the same. He does brilliant podcasts and interviews with the top thinkers & doers in business. I’ve seen Mitch speak live on more than one occasion, and I can say with certainty his blog delivers just as much personality in writing as he does in person. A truly great business blog that is my default go-to place when I’m looking for marketing inspiration.

Blog #2 – Sam Fiorella‘s ‘The Social Roadmap’ – http://www.senseiwisdom.com/Home/bID/3/
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Sam is all about results. Actual, measurable, results. If you can’t translate your actions in to a real benefit for your business, then WHY are you doing it? This is the question that Sam’s blog posts answer. One of the first things you’ll notice about the writing on the Social Roadmap is that it’s infused with passion. It’s a no-holds-barred assault on pretentious marketers who spew buzzwords and measure success based on what CAN happen instead of what DOES happen. Read this blog if you want to break through the BS and develop a plan that gives tangible results.

Blog #3 – Mark Schaefer‘s ‘{grow}’ – http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog/
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Mark is truly a great author, speaker, and thinker. His focus is, quite obviously, helping you and your business grow and thrive. Mark’s articles span a wide range of topics, but always seem to come back to a central, overriding theme of ‘Do It Right’. It’s not a matter of doing things because they’re new, shiny, or fancy. It’s a matter of doing them because it’s the right move for your business and for your customers. Mark is a true advocate of relationship building as the core of success. Those businesses that can forge the strongest relationships with their partners are the ones that will grow and thrive. Mark often brings in guest writers to shed a different perspective on certain topics, and only chooses those writers who hit the same high standard his readers have become accustomed to.

These three blogs are indicative of what I look for when searching for the latest and greatest in marketing thinking: Passion, diversity, experience. Too many blogs tell you what you already know, and not enough of them tell you what you need to hear. Bookmark these three, add them to your RSS reader, follow them on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or wherever you turn to for good stuff. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

So those are my top three, but what are yours? Where do YOU turn to for the ‘awesome’?

Knowledge Hoarders – Does your business have a problem finding the ‘awesome’?

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Businesses reluctant to pursue activities in social media inevitably blame their lack of action on factors like ‘We don’t have time’, ‘Our customers aren’t there’ or the always popular ‘We don’t have anything interesting to say’.

I take issue with all of these, as they’ve all been proven wrong by the countless social media successes of businesses of all types. However, the one that makes me shake my head in frustration most is why so many businesses in all kinds of different industries firmly believe that they’ve got NOTHING to say in social media.

Really? In your entire organization there’s nothing going on that’s worth talking about with your customers? If this is true, then I fear for the future of your company because you’re stagnating.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the good stuff coming through in your business because you’re so accustomed to the day-in day-out operations that you become numb to what makes your company exceptional. But rest assured, there’s always SOMETHING there that’s timely and relevant to your community. There’s always SOMETHING that’s awesome.

Too many businesses treat knowledge the way those troubled people on “Hoarders” treat the objects that occupy every square inch of their homes. It accumulates gradually, a little bit at a time, nothing is ever actually done with it, and very seldom is it ever realized just how much there actually is. Well, the time has come to unleash the power of your knowledge hoard and share the piles of ‘awesome’ that your company has spent so much time accumulating over the years.

Here’s a few examples of how you might find treasure troves of knowledge you could unleash as great content:

  • Local/Regional Reps – These reps know the ins and outs of their territories. They’ve spent the time learning the intricacies of local markets, and what you need to get things done in specific regions, and as such are a perfect source for targeted blog posts, tweets, or even YouTube videos. For example, does climate affect your product or service? Do you sell in northern Canada as well as the southern US? Well these are the guys you can get insight from on how climate plays a role in their area.
  • Engineers – This group is overflowing with knowledge. Is your product engineered to comply with a certain set of standards or regulations? These tend to be overly complex and hard to understand, so why not use blog posts or short YouTube videos to explain them in terms that matter to your customers? Explaining why things are designed the way that they are goes a long way to building value in your products and trust in your company.
  • Customer Service – FAQ’s are incredibly valuable, and no group is better at compiling a list of this type than your customer service team. These can make great tweets, Facebook posts, and can become an ongoing series of blog posts. One additional thing I’d suggest is adding a bit of personal touch to the list by quoting and attributing the answers to individual reps. They’ll appreciate being presented as an expert, and the readers place more faith in the answer if it comes from an identifiable human. Creating great content should boost your brand not just outside your company, but inside it as well.

Finding the sources of knowledge in your business isn’t a chore. It’s FUN, and inevitably what you’ll find is that your company has a lot more to offer a social audience than you think it does. Great content isn’t your product specs, it’s not your latest pricing special, or your corporate tagline; it’s the awesome that is contained in the brains of your team. Find the awesome, and you’ll find great content that your customers will care about.

Happy hunting!

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

The Big, Bold Benefits of Blogging for Business

by Jonathan Barrick

A recent eMarketer article told an interesting tale on what marketers are planning for social activity in 2012. Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents marked Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as the top 3 places where they are currently active. After all, these are easily the most talked-about social networks right now, and are poised to continue to be tremendously effective in connecting with customers for the foreseeable future.
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Blogs came in at #4 on the list. This shouldn’t be too much of a shock, since blogs are one of the oldest forms of ‘social’ on the list, according to how we define it today. We should take note that every item on this list (with the exception of ‘blogs’ and ‘forums’) are specific ‘sites’, like Twitter and Flickr for example. ‘Blogs’ however is a pretty broad term, and includes innumerable variations across such platforms as Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous, and more.

What might surprise you, however, is that of all the social options available to marketers, blogs are indicated as the one area that will see the greatest increase in activity in 2012. Why would this be? Shouldn’t blogs be the one area that would see the LEAST amount of growth, since there are other newer shinier social sites popping up all the time? You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.

Businesses must recognize the extensive list of benefits that come as a result of maintaining a relevant and up-to-date blog. Blogs are one of the most effective ways to convey what your brand is REALLY all about. What you talk about, and how you talk about it, gives your readers a very personal insight in to what the culture of your business is. It sheds light on what the core values and beliefs are in your organization by addressing what you stand for, how you view issues facing your customers, and how open your business is to talking about what’s going on behind the logo.

In addition to the obvious ‘branding’ benefits that come with maintaining a blog, there are many other benefits that might not be apparent at first glance. Not the least of which is the boost you can achieve in organic search traffic. You see, it’s most likely that your main website is optimized for a certain collection of keywords. These are typically your brand name, specific product names, and product or service types. However, when writing blog posts you create an entirely new batch of content that answers completely different types of search queries.

While your public website might be optimized for terms or things like ‘computer repair’, or ‘flower arrangements’, your blog posts will start to appear in search results because of specific questions that they answer. For example, if we use the ‘flower arrangements’ product/business type, you might write a blog post about ‘Most Popular Spring Flowers for Weddings’. Now, this blog post would appear in the search results for much more specific questions about that particular topic, like “what kind of flowers should i choose for a spring wedding?”. You’re not just showing up to sell ‘flowers’, you’re showing up to answer a particular call for help.

My experience  has shown that searchers who find helpful content as a result of a more specific question, rather than just a product page appearing from a short keyword, are more likely to spend more time on the site READING the material that answers their questions. Through blog posts, you’re not just trying to sell them something; you’re trying to help them learn more about the topics that interest them. The goodwill that occurs through being genuinely helpful goes a long way to building relationships with your readers, so that when they do need to buy, you’re much more likely to be their first choice.

The big bold benefits of blogging for business will come in varying degrees, based on the approach you take. The more you do, the benefits grow exponentially. If you’re simply using it as a press release newsfeed, don’t expect much in terms of results. If you’re using it to reach out, to answer questions, to offer help, and to provide added value for your readers then your hard work will pay off. Let’s just hope that for the sake of readers everywhere that the increase in efforts of businesses in 2012 will be of the more ‘helpful’ variety.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com