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Why Your Business Needs A Blog

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 28, 2014
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I’ve always said that I created my first blog to help highlight my business. Before I go any further, if you’re interested in learning more about blogging in general I’m going to recommend you check out this post on Better Blogging, the second half of that post, then check out my blogging tips. If you’re not a better blogger after all of that then you’ll never learn the game. :-)

Oklahoma Blogger
Creative Commons License Wesley Fryer via Compfight

Plain and simple, for almost every business a blog will help enhance visibility and show people what you know. Sure, there are some services like snow plowing where having a blog might be a waste of time, but even landscape businesses could benefit greatly from having a blog.

Here are some facts about business blogging.

Statistics have shown that businesses with blogs get anywhere from 85% to 100% more leads than businesses without blogs. Those same statistics show that they’ll get nearly 50% more leads from other businesses than sites without blogs.

You have two stats. Now let’s look at the reasons.

One, the more new content the more opportunities you have to increase your website’s presence, hence the higher you’ll rank on search engines.

Two, when people can learn what you do from you, they’re more likely to work with you.

Three, when people like what you have to say and how you say it, they’re more comfortable with you and people like working with someone they’re comfortable with.

Four, you can branch out into many areas which gives you a lot to talk about. For instance, I know someone who wrote for a website that installed artificial grass. What she did was highlight famous places around the world that used artificial grass, and every once in awhile threw in something about the different types.

Five, as I mentioned above, you can hire someone else to write for you if you’re not a great writer. Of course this isn’t preferable for most of us but since I write for a couple other blogs it’s fair to point it out.

Six, it keeps you visible with your clientele.

I think that’s enough, though there are other reasons. At least consider it, but also consider this. Don’t start a blog that you don’t think you can maintain for at least a few years. Nothing looks worse than a blog that’s never updated, and that could hurt you as much as having the blog could have helped you.
 

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Anti-Backlink Plugin; A Game Changer

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 25, 2014
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As many new visitors to the site have noticed (at least those who are real), they’re not getting a message mentioning their lack of a gravatar, and some of them are going straight into the spam filter. What’s going on?

your choice! (cc)
Creative Commons License Martin Fisch via Compfight

The title of this post tells it all. It’s the new addition to my plugins called Anti-Backlink, and it’s a free download available to anyone who’s purchased the CommentLuv Premium plugin from Andy Bailey. It adds way more functionality to trying to reduce the amount of spam blogs get while trying to encourage more people to take the time to go get a gravatar, or avatar for the uninitiated. If you’re going to be online and participating on blogs it’s a must.

Of course the plugin does so much more. Something you can do, that I don’t do, is set how many comments one has to have approved before they start getting CommentLuv link automatically. You can also make the determination that certain people’s posts you want to screen first, thus putting them on a moderated list via their email address. I like this one because there are a few people whose comments seem to vacillate between being okay and being horrible. Sometimes you just don’t know, and as much as I’m against initial moderation, I do believe if someone stops by and they seem slightly dodgy this isn’t such a bad idea.

You can also decide to whitelist email addresses so that they’ll never pass through moderation… as long as they pass any other rules you’ve set up on your blog, since mine has a hold on any comments with a link on them. However, it seems that whitelisting doesn’t take care of those few folks who keep using a particular browser that sends them to spam for whatever reason. lol

One other thing I activated, which will put a stop to something that’s irked me to no end for years, that some bloggers have recommended people do that’s sneaky, is to shut down folks who put more than just the root URL of their blog into the main area when they’re commenting.

Some folks try to get two links to articles on their site by being sneaky. What they’ll do is start off with the regular link, wait until the CommentLuv link comes up, then add a second article link. This plugin catches that and automatically holds that comment in reserve so that we can decide whether to remove it or blacklist the comment in its entirety.

The only minor problem I encountered while testing is that sometimes what it perceives is a sneaky backlink is actually where the blog is. For instance, my business blog is on my main business site, so after the link I have to add /Mitchblog for the link to the blog.

The real test? I used to have comments closed after 180 days, basically six months. Using this plugin along with the GASP pugin, also by Andy, I decided to see what happened if I opened it up to 365 days. Using both plugins, the amount of spam increased very little; almost everything else is being bounced so I’m not seeing it at all. Matter of fact, I just opened it up to 500 days as a further test.

Soon, the faceless will be less prominent here. At least I’ll still accept some folks if their comments are pretty good; not everyone is as nice. :-)
 

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Myfitnesspal

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 21, 2014
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Back on July 25th I mentioned that I had downloaded the Myfitnesspal app to my phone in an attempt to start addressing some of my health issues. I figured it was time to talk about it since as of last Wednesday I’d been using it for 4 weeks.

myfitnesspal

For those who aren’t in the know, Myfitnesspal is an app that one can use to help keep track of what you’re eating. In a video I did many months ago I talked about a different app called, appropriately enough, Food Diary, and it was a nice little piece of software that, in the long run, was more complicated in some ways and offered less than this app does.

If you want more detail on why I decided to use this app, check out this video:
 


http://youtu.be/vVwRqVoCpjM
 

Suffice it to say for everyone else, I had a health scare over one weekend while out of town and that told me it was time to get a bit more serious about my health and diet. My doctor had recommended I download this sucker and, me being me, I wasn’t going to do it. But I did, and now I’m glad I did.

Basically, this sucker makes you aware of what you’re eating, as well as tracks calories you’re putting away and other nutritional items. The other app just tracked food but this bad boy tracks the nutritional values, offers a way to scan food that have barcodes and tells you what’s in stuff, does all the calculations on a daily basis and, if you put in a goal, gives you a guide as to how much you’re putting away with everything you eat so that you know when to cut back and are more cognizant about what you’re eating.

In my case it was a real eye opener from the beginning. I started to learn that foods I thought were healthy weren’t close to being healthy. I can’t believe how many times I’ve eaten twice the amount of sodium in a day that’s recommended. I was stunned to see how much fat there is in a regular piece of bacon. And desserts… sniff!

Here’s the thing though. Not counting the first couple of days of working with the app, I’ve only gone over my daily allotted number of calories 4 times. Even by messing up sodium, potassium a few times, fat and sugar once or twice, this bad boy tracks calories and I’ve been able to modify my eating habits so that I stay under the calories. Also, you can earn calories back by exercising which, for me, involves walking, something I’d do more often if my back wasn’t hurting but something I’ve been doing more of, in small chunks, when the weather cooperates; I even walked on the treadmill one night. :-)

net calories

Let’s get back to those calories for a minute. One of the things you should do with the app is set a goal, either a weight loss goal (this is for most of us) or a weight gain goal. You tell it where you are and where you want to go, and how fast you want to get there. I initially told the thing I wanted to lose a pound and a half a week, and realized there was no way I could eat that little amount of food and come close to sticking with it. Instead, I went with a pound a week, told it what I weighed now and the weight I wanted to get to and off I went.

Let’s talk progress, because I have some. At this point I’ve lost 2 1/2 pounds; that’s not bad. Some might not think it’s great but weight loss is always a good thing. However, the two biggest changes have been how I’ve decided to eat and my glucose levels. Let’s take these separately.

For the most part I really haven’t given up anything I’ve wanted, but I have given up some stuff I thought I wanted. For instance, maybe 2 times a week I’ll stop and get an Egg McMuffin at McD’s; instead, I’ll eat 2 pieces of toast or an English muffin, with the comparisons being the McMuffin comes in at 450 calories whereas, depending on type, the muffin or toast comes in around 200 calories. I’ve learned that for the most part I can eat less in the morning so that I can have a better dinner and still have dessert; that suits me just fine.

For lunch, shocking as it may be, turns out a Whopper has less calories than a grilled chicken Caesar salad at Wendy’s; that was a shocker. However, for the same amount of calories I can get a McD’s fish sandwich and a small fries. One offers more food if I start feeling the hunger because I didn’t eat enough breakfast; see how this works?

carbs

Dinner has been interesting. I eat some meals in the hotel room but most of the time I go out. If I go to a chain restaurant or a restaurant that’s popular in a certain area it’s easy to track (oh yeah, they have a massive database of foods and information; all you have to do is search for them during a particular meal).

If you go elsewhere you have to go into the search function and find something close to it. For instance, I go to this particular Japanese restaurant and I had to search separately for grilled chicken and grilled shrimp to add to the rice I get, and it turns out that steamed rice is very low in calories; I don’t do it all the time but most of the time I’m good with it.

If I’m measuring things well, I always have room for dessert. However, I’ve had shocks both good and bad. The good is that the calorie count in something like a Reese’s peanut butter cup or a Snickers isn’t all that bad at night. The bad is that serving sizes can be underwhelming. There’s this particular cake I like in the town I’m working in that turns out to have 530 calories per serving, and when I did the calculations it came out that the piece of cake I got was considered to be 3 servings; ouch! So, I had to cut it into 3 pieces to stay under. However, I learned that I could handle that dessert in small doses pretty well; always good to find out good things about yourself.

Now, the glucose levels. I’ve mentioned it here often that I’m diabetic. Well, my glucose levels were really out of hand I have to admit. My last eye appointment the doctor said it was starting to show up in my eyes; that’s never a good thing. My last doctor appointment, my overall numbers were down but not my much, and there was no other medications to take, and I was almost at the highest level of insulin one could take before moving into the next stage. In four weeks my glucose level has dropped from a monthly average of 230 (that’s extremely bad) to a level calculated on Wednesday of 129; that’s normal! I haven’t averaged normal since the first year I was diagnosed with diabetes; wow!

Picture 55

Am I happy with what this bad boy had done for me? Absolutely! If I hadn’t lost any weight I’d still be pretty happy. But there’s more.

First, you can add the app to all of your electronics, including your desktop or laptop computers, and all the information syncs whenever you update anything. As I mentioned earlier, if you have a problem with something like sodium you can track that, but you can also alter the numbers to suit you. I have a problem with potassium and unfortunately that one doesn’t always work because the government doesn’t make anyone tell you that, so many times they don’t tell you.

Second, if you’re of the mindset to do it there’s an entire community you can join to talk to people about the app, weight loss, health stuff and more. You can also hook up with someone to let them see what you’re eating and, if you create your own meals with the nutritional information they, and others can tap into it. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to do that yet; I want to drop way more weight first. lol

I’m not sure I can do a lot more justice to talking about this thing except to say that if you’re having any problems whatsoever that are related to eating habits, I’d recommend trying this bad boy in a heartbeat. I’ve even got my wife saying she’s going to start using it once she’s home from her conference; never good to start an eating plan when you’re leaving town for such a thing. ;-)

That’s all I have. Any questions or comments… I’m ready to entertain them all.
 

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First Seven Steps To Small Business Blogging

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 18, 2014
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I once read a post by Marcus Sheridan on his 11-Step Plan to Launching a Successful Business Blog. I thought it was well written but didn’t think it applied to most small business owners who, like me, are either a one person shop or fewer than 5 employees. Therefore, I decided to put my own little plan together because, well, I’ve got 5 blogs (for now…), and most of them are doing pretty well.

Jeremy Wariner
Creative Commons License Phil McElhinney via Compfight

1. Write 5 to 10 posts ahead of time – This first helps you to see if you can write blog posts, but it also gives you some early content that you can do something with and not have to worry about writing that second or third post too soon.

2. Set up your blog on your own domain – This is the most crucial thing for having your blog help your website because search engines love new content and, if you post often enough, they’ll love your site and keep coming back for more, which helps your website rank higher.

3. Set up your theme – This is important for three reasons. One, you’ll want to determine how many columns you want for your theme (2 – 5), colors, fonts, etc. Two, you can always change your theme later on, but if you’ve added anything special to the theme you’ll have to remember to add it to your new theme, which many people forget about. And three, you’ll need to be careful if it comes with its own images; trust me on this one. By the way, something I try to do is have the blog theme look as much like my websites as possible for consistency; it’s something to think about.

4. Set up some protections – You’re going to want to look at a few things here before you get started. One, you want to make sure you have a back-up plugin so you can save your content in case something goes wrong with your blog. You’re going to want to set up your spam filter and possibly have a spybot plugin as well. You’re going to want to add a firewall to hide your ISP from invaders, and you’re going to want to add a plugin to keep people from having unlimited access in trying to crack your passwords. Finally, you might want to add a copyright plugin so that you have proof that something is yours first in case someone tries to scrap, aka steal it and claim it as their own.

5. Set up your feed & distribution system – As Twitter has started phasing things out plugins might not be the best way to work on getting the word out about your blog. You might also need to worry about the feeds you create so people can subscribe to your blog as my favorite feed program, Feedburner, might be gone within the year (Google bought it & is now not supporting it all that much). I don’t have a recommendation for feeds at this moment but a website called Twitterfeed seems to be working well in sending my blog posts to Twitter when they go live.

6. Create your posts, post-dating most of them – This covers #1 because most blogging software allows you to post-date articles. So, if you have 10 articles and space them apart every 3 or 4 days, you have ready made content that will go the first month to a month and a half on a regular basis, and this gets your blog established as one that will have continual content, and eases your mind for a while because you don’t have to worry about sitting down and having to write something new. And if you do, just post date that one as well.

7. Send the link to the first post to almost everyone you know – This is a one time thing unless your friends and business associates are a tolerant bunch. When I created my second blog, I sent the first post to everyone I knew so they could decide if it was for them or not. Promotion can get dicey at a certain point, but initially you want to let everyone know you’ve got a blog. By having some consistent posts early on, those people who do check it out will know that you’re not a one trick pony and that you’re serious about continuing to blog.

Can you do these things? Of course you can!
 

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Is Automation Your Friend?

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 15, 2014
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When it comes to blogging, many people I know use some type of process to have their blog posts automatically go to different places when an article goes live. I used to use a plugin called Twitter Tools to get the job done, but when that bad boy was discontinued I was lucky enough to have someone recommend Twitterfeed to me, and that’s what I use to have my posts go directly to Twitter when they go live.

New Belgium Production Line
scumdogsteev via Compfight

It turns out there’s lots of different tools that can handle that, but it’s also true that there are sites where those tools aren’t needed, and they can handle more than just blog posts For instance, if you set your account up properly on LinkedIn, it will not only share your most recent blog posts but any updates you make to your website will automatically show as well, if you have the proper RSS settings taken care of(I know some people are saying RSS is going away; well, it hasn’t yet). Facebook supposedly has a way of finding new things on your website or blog as well, but I haven’t fully explored it after they took away the original process I was using there.

There’s always this question about whether automation online is a good thing or not. In one way it’s good because it can allow you to put things out when you’re not around that you want people to see. In another it’s horrid, at least to someone like me, because some people set up their automation to post multiple times a day, and I mean like once an hour for a 24-hour period. Who wants to be connected with anyone doing that?

There should always be a balance in how and when to use automation for anything. For me, I have my initial blog posts automated because I like them all to go out between 9 and 10:30 AM EST, and I’m not always around when they go live. However, subsequent postings of anything, if I do them, are done live and in the evenings so that if someone wants to comment or say anything to me they know that I’m online at that time. I think it helps with engagement and branding and lets people know when you’re available to donate time to them.

Overdoing anything isn’t good, and that’s important if you’re going to automate processes. Learning how to engage your potential customers and audience while balancing your time is important. As someone who has a tendency to stay up real late, I tend to “call” some posts I see from people I know are asleep. They’ll have to deal with me the next morning; just the cost of doing business. :-)

Do you think automation is important in your marketing efforts? Are you presently using it in some fashion or thinking about it?
 

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