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6 Answers To Questions From New Bloggers

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 25, 2015
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Strangely enough, for all the years I’ve been writing about blogging and for all the articles on this blog that are about blogging (more than 25%, 443, are specifically about blogging), I almost never get any email from anyone asking questions that I’ve either covered or not covered. I figure that means everyone who’s online must already know these things… right?

Chris Pirillo
Phillip Jeffrey via Compfight

Maybe not. This past week I got an email from someone who’s just started blogging and, at an event the other night, someone who’s thinking about blogging, and they asked some general questions that inspired some answers from me.

I decided to not only write about it, but not necessarily include the questions. Therefore, I’m only posting answers, 6 in fact, that I gave to these folks, in the order I gave the answers. See, this is called being creative because I’m sure I’ve written some of these things before in a different way. It never hurts to reinforce stuff as long as you can find a way to change it up I say.

So, let’s get on with it.

First, the best way to grow a blog is to promote it in a few different ways. The fastest is blog commenting, though that one can be a bit more time consuming. If people love your comments they’ll often follow you back to your space. This is my favorite way of getting the job done, but not the only way.

Many people who suggest blog commenting say it’s best to try to find blogs that are in your niche to do it. That’s not a bad idea but don’t be so finite that it’s hard to find blogs that fit.

For instance, if you’re writing material that might apply mainly to younger people it wouldn’t hurt you to find some sites geared towards younger people, or young people making it good. Someone whose radar wouldn’t hurt to get on is Chelsea Krost, a millennial who’s got a TV show and is an up and comer.

Another place is on Twitter, as there are lots of clients that allow you to schedule posts to show there when they go live, and then you can schedule previous posts also, as well as add hashtags. That strategy works great.

The Dave Olson Show on Podcasting
Megan Cole via Compfight

LinkedIn is one last place to advertise yourself. You can write articles specifically for LinkedIn in your niche and put your links in the content that match up with what you’re talking about. They also give you the opportunity to add tags at the end of each post; the problem with that is they define the tags, so you either have to try to fit into one of their options or take a chance and don’t use one at all; let the people find you. lol

Second, guest posting is a way to help get noticed… kind of. I have to admit I’m not all that big on guest posting as a strategy, though it’s touted often enough. The problems with guest posting are:

* the audience might not follow you back
* The owner of the blog might not like your style
* you could end up being one of those people who Google contacts and says your link strategy is dodgy and then you’ll have to contact people to remove your links and get some of them (like me) to be irked with you. lol

Having said that, if you want to pursue a guest posting strategy find either high ranking blogs or try to get onto something like Huffington Post. Those are considered authority sites and there’s no way you can get in trouble there… unless what you say isn’t true. lol Anyway, if you know how to write but might not be ready for HuffPo, there are sites like my buddy Ileane’s Basic Blog Tips, who likes helping new bloggers get noticed… as long as you’re writing about topics she talks about on her blog. You can always use search engines to find blogs that accept guest posts on your topic (if you see any sites recommending Top Finance Blog as one of those sites and you write on finance, it’s incorrect; trust me on this one).

Third, think about hosting your own site instead of using WordPress.com, Blogger, etc. The reason is that free blog sites are somewhat restrictive if you have bigger plans for your blog. It’s hard to market products through them, as well as setting up PPC (pay per click)campaigns. If you’re either hoping to get consulting gigs and clients or entice advertisers you definitely need to be self hosted. Owning a blog that you’re paying for eliminates any potential hassles and totally protects your content.

BlogFest 2012
Gianluca Neri via Compfight

You do need to know that it’s not always easy to do things on your own initially. There are lots of things to learn, whether you use WordPress software (like I do), Drupal, Joomla or any other types of things. Once you figure the basics out you’ll be fine. If you want to learn more you can always go to the search engines for more help; if you need WordPress help, you can find a lot of stuff on this blog.

Fourth… and I hesitate to bring this one up since I stopped on one of my blogs, but you could allow guest posting. I used to allow it on my finance blog and truthfully, at one point my blog was ranked really high because of guest posts.

However, I’m an independent consultant, and once I started traveling more I found that the time to correct so many horribly written posts didn’t feel like a great use of my time. I might have been making around $500 a month via advertising but that wasn’t enough to get the bills paid. And when those letters started arriving asking me to remove links… oy!

If that doesn’t bother you then go for it. A better strategy is to every once in a while ask someone you trust to write a guest post for you if you’re comfortable with it. That way they look like more of an authority and your readers will like that. I’ve done that for many people, written something for them based on a request, but only people whom I’ve talked to at least a year online, or when someone’s in trouble.

Fifth, let’s talk about quality vs quantity. It’s not too early to talk about this, even if you might not have much quantity early on.

The question some ask often is which is better. The truth is… it depends.

There’s this discussion lately about whether it’s better to write 3 or 4 posts a week with length between 400 and 500 words or one really long post a week that’s between 3,000 and 10,000 words (yeah, scary isn’t it?). It’s not a simple thing to answer.

For each of these, one has to determine whether the content is high quality content or not. This is something you’ll see many people mention as the basis for all blogs but not define; at the link I shared I tell you what it is.

Northern Voice tiki dinner 2008
Derek K. Miller
via Compfight

So, say you’re writing a blog that’s like a tutorial, and you cover only one aspect of what you’re teaching per post. Probably each post will be relatively short, but it’s probably high quality because you’re teaching something, and writing 3 or 4 articles a week like that would be great.

As long as you’re not leaving stuff out that makes your advice worthless, that’s good content. However, if you’re writing something and you say “write good content” and that’s it, that’s bad content because not only didn’t explain what it is, but you said the same thing thousands of people before you said.

One more thing before I go to long posts. A reality is the more you write, the higher your blog will rank. The problem is that high rankings don’t always equate to lots of traffic nor targeted traffic, which you care about if you’re hoping to do any type of business with others. Thus, you need to keep an eye on your visits and other things that involve traffic; I’ll come back to that.

Long posts… let’s begin here. I used to be considered as someone who writes lots of long posts. Yesterday, on my business blog, I wrote a post that came to 1,994 words because I celebrated my 14th year as an independent consultant and wrote some thoughts about it all. I didn’t start out planning on it being that long (pretty much like this post); it just turned out that way.

These days, people are advocating really long posts; I already gave numbers above. I’ve seen some brilliant long posts… just not all that many. What’s the problem?

The problems are twofold.

One, many of the long posts will repeat things over and over. They don’t seem to be all that focused. I made a comparison in a video talking about blog post length (and Kool Aid; check it out lol) with kids who used to have to write 10 page papers in school and how they’d write 4 pages and, because they didn’t know what to do next, would start repeating things they’d already said to stretch papers out. No one wants to read that.

Two, they put so many things into a single post that it might as well be a booklet that someone can print. It started out well, then got so deep that it starts to confuse the reader. Tutorials in this fashion work great; not many other types of posts do.

So, before you go that route, think seriously about it. The people who write one really long post a week (sometimes one every 2 weeks) put a lot of time and research into it. Some folks burn out having to write what’s essentially a term paper every 2 weeks. If I had to do that I probably wouldn’t still be blogging after 10 years, which I’m up to right now.

Before I go to #6, let me say that I started out with the intention of writing 10 answers. However, I noticed how long this post is so I’m shortening it and getting to one last really good question to answer. Thank me later. lol

blogging

Sixth, if you have a business it’s not imperative that you have a blog, but it can certainly help. I actually wrote about businesses and blogging last year. If you check out that post you’ll see links to tons of other blogging tips that will be helpful; I promise.

In that post I talked about having a better presence on search engines than your competitors if you have a blog, but didn’t say why. The reason is that most businesses set up a blog, hopefully have someone who optimized it well enough so that search engines know what they do, and never touch it again until they want to update the site later on.

Search engines love new content. They send out what’s called spiders or bots (depends on who you’re talking to) throughout the internet looking to see what’s old and new. Sites with new content get visited more regularly, which is good if you’re adding great content (refer to link above) that keeps highlighting what you talk about or what your business does. Sites that don’t do anything will fall, and unless it’s a niche with very few people in it, they’ll get no search engine benefit from being online.

As a for instance, I write the blog for my accountant’s firm (we trade my articles for free accounting; yeah!). Out of all the accountants in town, per Alexa, her site is the highest ranked in the area for accounting services. There are better known companies because she’s been in business for herself about 3 years now, but she really only has one true competitor when it comes to online rankings (they’re close, but my client’s site is doing better; I’ll take a moment for myself…). And that’s with only 2 new articles a month; if I was writing once a week it wouldn’t be a contest. :-)

I think that’s enough for a Thursday morning. I actually said a lot more to the other guys but this post is already over 2,000 words. What do you think of my advice? Anything you want to add? Anything you want to ask about?

I have a contact page over there to the left where my email address is if you wish to have me write about something you’d like to know more about. Enjoy!
 

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Writing Styles For Others – Subtitles, H Tags, Etc…

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 15, 2015
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A couple of weeks ago I thought about trying to write for one of those sites that accumulates posts on a lot of different topics; nope, I’m not even going to tell you the name of the site because I don’t want to even give them the hint of new writers they can take advantage of. Anyway, that’s not quite how they had advertised themselves. What I saw was them looking for someone who could write on specific topics that I know pretty well. Once I went to look I saw that’s not what it was at all. Still, I thought I might be interested in giving it a shot to make a little extra chunk of change.

Smoking as Fiction
Creative Commons License Frederic Guillory via Compfight

That is, until I looked at the requirements for the site. In essence, it was formulaic, not unlike years ago when I was trying to write for Demand Studios. In essence, they wanted all this stuff instead of just an article, and they wanted at least 1,500 words for the honor; ouch!

What kinds of things did they want? Well, in general, for some folks it might not seem like all that much of a big deal. However, for me it was, and I decided that they didn’t just want articles, they wanted a lot of extra stuff that, for what they were going to pay, it just wasn’t worth the effort.

Is it worth the effort on your blog posts? For me, rarely. For you… let’s look at some of these things to see.

1. Subtitles.

They wanted multiple subtitles in the article, at least 3. Here’s the thing, at least from my perspective. Unless one is writing a list post of some type, like this one, or a monster post, you’re not always going to come up with at least 3 subtitles. Goodness, some of my articles don’t have a subtitle at all. Sure, I know newspapers do it all the time but how many of us want to write like we’re reporters?

2. H tags. For those who aren’t familiar with this, H tags are code you use before specific sentences that tell search engines what you’re supposed to be writing about. In essence, they look at what’s in the H tags and then match it up with your content; that’s the easy version of it all.

You can have H1, H2, H3 and, if you’re feeling really happy about things, H4 tags. You can even have multiples of each of these tags in your article. Frankly, that gets a bit goofy and, in my opinion, it can look like you’re trying to game Google.

Here’s the thing. Most articles use H1 tags for the title. That’s because that particular tag changes the size of your font. You can use other code to reduce it but if you’re using it for your title then you’re good. On WordPress blogs, the software automatically adds H1 tags so you don’t have to bother with it, although some people like doing it twice; ugh.

In any case it’s not really natural to writing, and if you don’t know coding all that well you could royally mess things up. You’d probably use H2 – H4 tags for your subtitles. Still, it’s another element that’s not really part of writing, which makes the process bothersome.

Immagine 120
en- ri gioca sott’acqua via Compfight

3. Images.

This one is interesting. We all know (lots of folks, including me, have written about this) that images can help enhance a page. For these people, because they wanted the articles long enough, they wanted you to find at least 3 images for each post, and you had to make sure they were allowed to be used. No problem in doing that except that it’s always hard finding the proper images to use when you’re doing something for someone else.

For instance, on my blogs, if I use my own images people just have to deal with figuring out how, or if, the image fits what I’m writing about. For these folks, they want it spelled out in a way that shows the image is related; that’s time consuming and, once again, not really part of anyone’s writing style. If you know how to create images and such maybe you’re ahead of the game; I’m not close to being that creative.

4. Authority links.

These folks requested at least 3 links that could support what you’ve written about. There’s two problems with doing something like this.

One, they want links from sites ranked pretty well. How many people know how to find links that are ranked well? Actually, it’s not overly difficult to determine link strength because when you do a search on Google they put things in order based on your search terms, thus they’ve determined the high links for you. The problem is that just because a link ranked high doesn’t mean what’s behind the link contains what you need. Thus, you might have to look through a bunch of links to find what you need to confirm what you wrote.

Two, what happens if you happen to be an authority on the topic you’re writing about? In that case you probably never considered looking for links because you knew what you were talking about. Now you’re in unfamiliar territory, looking for something that validates your knowledge.

What if it doesn’t exist? That’s what I ran into years ago with Demand Studios; I was writing on health care finance stuff, one of my specialties, and none of the confirming information was online because insurance companies like Medicare didn’t put that stuff online. The only way you’d know it is if you were in the industry. Ugh!

Now… you decide to try to do all that and you’re successful and submit the article. Now you have to go through a waiting process while someone goes through to see if you’ve done everything right, and of course checks your article out for typos and language and all that other stuff. If they turn you down you have to fix whatever they don’t like… with the caveat that since that happened you can still submit your articles but you have to wait at least six months before you can apply to get paid for it.

If they approve you… you’ve just earned $20. Yup, that’s right, $20.

Before twitter and facebook...
Creative Commons License Beatriz Gil via Compfight

Let’s look at this more thoroughly. Luckily, I tend to write pretty quickly if I know what I want to write about. So, let’s say that it takes me even 10 minutes to write an article, which this one is probably taking me. To find 3 images their way might take me 15 minutes. To find links might take me 30 minutes. I know the coding part of subtitles but I’d have to figure out where to put subtitles, which means I’d have to be prepared to rewrite some of my copy to match up with them.

This would mean that, if I got paid, I was earning, if I’m lucky, about $12 or $13 an hour. Since this type of writing isn’t the kind where you could possibly pound out 5 articles a day, and since those articles would take time to put together, you end up basically having to work at least 12 or 13 hours a day.

How do you get there? Because writing isn’t just “writing”. You have to come up with an idea, maybe do some research (after all, even if we know our topics we don’t know it all…), rest, eat… rinse and repeat. All that and you could be turned down; ouch!

So, that’s writing for others. What if you’re writing for yourself? I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately by people saying we all should be trying to write these mega posts. Many of those articles are recommending some of the same stuff I mentioned above, only they’re looking for articles of at least 3,000 words; ooooo, I’m dyin’! lol

How many of you feel like you have that kind of time all the time? I mean, writing can be hard enough for some of you; are you willing to go through all that other stuff? Well, maybe if you’re writing only one article a week and don’t have anything else to do, and you’re actually making a living off your blogging it’s possible.

But in general… oy!

Maybe I’m crazy so I’ll ask you your thoughts on all of this. Meanwhile, I’d like to share this little video I did where, believe it or not, I compare Kool Aid to long posts. I know you’re gonna want to see this. :-)
 


https://youtu.be/Z7OlnUz_T5A

 

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5 Things You Should Do Before Commenting On A Blog

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 8, 2015
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In March of 2014 I wrote a post titled 5 Commenting Courtesies. That post talked about some things that are fairly common that people who aren’t used to commenting seem to miss. Well, those people and spammers, but we’re not going to change them any time soon.

Mr & Mrs WordPress
Nikita Kashner via Compfight

This time around I’m looking at the process before you comment, not necessarily being courteous, although it’s in the same vein. In essence, I’m going to teach people how to leave a blog comment. This comes from when I wrote a post about blogging 10 years on my business blog at the same time I was part of a blog carnival. A lot of the comments I got were… well, they just weren’t all that good (our buddy Troy was a part of it and he’d agree).

So, my intention is to hopefully give 5 nice tips on how to address the process of writing better comments on blogs. You don’t have to write War and Peace, but if you want people to take you seriously and decide to visit your blog you’re going to have to put forth a little bit more effort. Here we go!

1. Try reading the article.

You wouldn’t think I’d have to say that but I know I do. I get lots of comments to posts where I’m doubtful that the person read the post at all. I mean, one or two lines addressing a post that ran close to 1,000 words, even 500 words, is kind of disappointing, especially on those posts where someone has taken the time to explain something. So many comments could pertain to almost anything someone writes; I delete a lot of those here.

2. Find something in the post that you liked and mention it in your comment.

This is a great way of making sure your comments have at least a modicum of respect for the writer. For instance, if the article points out 5 things, 9 things, 20 things, finding something you believe has touched you in some way and mentioning it works wonders in boosting a writer’s mood. Try not to always make it either the 1st or last point; that’s so passé.

3. Don’t tell people what the article means in your comment.

If I write an article about good SEO principles, your comment shouldn’t say something like “following good SEO principles is crucial to a blog’s success.” Really? Didn’t I just say that? Maybe you didn’t read the post; see #1. Maybe you’re trying to help reinforce what the article meant; trust me, it’s not needed.

4. Offer an opinion on the article when you can and not the author so much… unless the article is about the author.

On the article I linked to about the 10th anniversary of my business blog, many of the comments said something like “there are some valuable lessons here that will help me blog better.” Really? Like what? One in particular? All of them? I know I gave you #2 above, which is pretty good advice, but how about some feedback on it, whether you agree with it or not?

5. Read the comment policy.

Not just my blog, but a lot of bloggers who’ve had blogs for a long time add some kind of comment policy to their blog. Mine is just above the box where people can leave their comments, and I even made the text a pretty dark blue and bolded it.

Although there are a few people who end up going to spam because of some kind of conflict between Chrome and my blog (odd thing, but it’s not only happening to me), a lot more end up there because they violated one of the principles contained within the comment policy. Of course, these days the majority of first time commenters end up in the spam filter because they haven’t added a gravatar to their email address, but that’s also in the comment policy.

Here’s the overall thing about commenting. People do it for 3 reasons. One, because they have something to say. Two, because it’s part of their strategy of either getting links or trying to get people to come back to their blogs. And three, because they like the person blogging and want to offer some encouragement.

If your reasons are #1 or #2, then you should be taking more time and devotion in leaving your comments. If it’s #3… well, we all forgive our friends and are just happy they stopped by, because most of our friends and family don’t read what we have to say… come on, we all know that’s true! :-)
 


My Top 10 WordPress Plugin Recommendations

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on May 25, 2015
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I actually received an email asking me to write on this topic, which is a first. The request was more for what I use to stay productive or what I use for financial purposes though. I don’t use any of that stuff for the blog, so those won’t be things what I talk about. Instead, I’m going to mention 10 plugins I don’t think I could do without, some of which I believe you should be using also.

Fire Hazard
Lady_K via Compfight

1. Ajax Edit Comments. Let’s face it, no one’s perfect. Sometimes you make a mistake of some kind while writing your comment. This plugin allows people to edit and correct their comments within 5 minutes. If it took you longer than that to figure out you made an error, unless you left a truly epic comment, you’re out of luck.

2. All In One SEO Pack. Everyone has their favorite SEO plugin but I’ve stuck with this one. I used to hate it but I figured out how to configure it to give me what I want. The best feature is being able to write a description in if you don’t want the search engines posting the first so many words of your blog post instead.

3. Anti-Backlink. I wrote about this one so if you want to know a lot more you can follow the link. What it does is give you tools to approve or disapprove people for a variety of reasons (if your comment doesn’t immediately show up and you don’t have a gravatar, it’s because of this one).

4. CommentLuv. I have the premium version, which is the only way you can get Anti-Backlink. Whether you decide to pay for it or not, its best feature is showing current or previous blog posts of your commenters. It’s what helps folks, including myself, decide whether we want to visit those blogs to read what the writer has to say.

5. Compfight. This is what I use to find images for my blogs if I’m not using my own. You just put a word into the search area and it’ll find images you can legally use via Flickr. You also get to change the default settings for image sizes, and if you know a little bit of code, you can add your own (which of course I did lol).

6. Limit Login Attempts. You know hackers are always trying to get into your blog right? It’s one reason why it’s always recommended that you change your admin name and have long passwords. This plugin allows you to set how many times a person gets to try to get in before it shuts it down for however many hours you set it for. Also, after so many sessions you can shut it down for… well, 999 hours if you wish. Sure, they might have it automated, but even with that it’ll take them forever to get in, even if your username and passwords are weak.

7. Simple Share Buttons Adder. You need to have share buttons on your blog to make it easy for people to share your stuff. After AddThis decided to go wonky and make you create an account on their site (so they can charge you for stuff later on) I found this one and it’s perfect. You can even customize how it looks.

8. WebReader for Word Press. You see that little “listen” button at the top left of this post? That allows you to listen to the post instead of reading it. It’s not perfect and yet I know some people like to listen instead of read, especially if it’s a long post.

9. WordPress Firewall 2. Using a firewall for your blog is the same as having one for your computer. It helps hide your blog’s IP address from those folks so that they might never find you to try to hack into your computer in the first place. There are a couple of versions of this that read close to the same, but I’m using the version created by Matthew Pavkov.

10. WPtouch Mobile Plugin. You’ve heard that Google is now looking for websites to be mobile friendly correct? This plugin does the trick. If you don’t change a thing just adding it makes your blog pass muster. There are a few font choices you can make, but it turns out a couple of them takes you out of their good graces.
 

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Capturing Email Addresses – I’m Almost On Board

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on May 18, 2015
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In January 2014 I wrote a post titled To Capture Or Not Capture Email Addresses; That Is The Question. As the title suggests, I was looking for a compelling reason to start capturing email addresses, beyond the old saw “the money is in the list”. As the comments on that post indicated, only one person was making any real money from having a list.

where its at
Creative Commons License Chris Preen via Compfight

My major lament about it all was I had nothing tangible to sell, thus what would the purpose be? After all, without a product there’s no money to make right?

Well, it’s 16 months later, and now I’m closer to going the route of capturing email addresses. Why?

Two reasons.

The first is that one of the thoughts from last year, the only one that broke through my mind, was the possibility that RSS feeds might go away. Even though there’s been no more talk (at least as far as I know) that Feedburner will be shut down by Google, since they’ve been shutting down lots of other stuff one never knows what they might do.

I love RSS for my own use and I’m sure lots of other people do also. However, I know some people, out of fear, have gone to something called Feedly, while others have started using Flipboard. I’m using Flipboard myself, but I’ve only connected 3 blogs to it, one a local sports blog that shows up in my general feed, while the others I have to specifically go to.

What am I also worried about? At one point I had nearly 400 people subscribed to this blog. Now it’s down to 151, and I have no idea whether they’re subscribed to the RSS feed or the email feed, mainly because I can’t find that one on Feedburner anymore. I do know that most of those who used to subscribe did so through the RSS link.

Thus, having the ability to capture email addresses might be the smart thing to do to make sure people will continue receiving my stuff… if they want it.

The second is that I’m about to not only have a couple of new products, but I’m going to be doing a massive push for sales of the two products, and starting to capture email addresses wouldn’t hurt the process long term, especially since, if it turns out to be successful, I might be doing more of this type of thing.

Still, I want to differentiate the email from what most people send out. My thoughts are that I would send out an email once a week highlighting every post I’ve put on on all my blogs, any videos I’ve created, any interviews I’ve given, and have a brief thought of my own on there that’s not anywhere else. I don’t know many other people who could claim to offer that much information weekly.

Of course, the issue might be deciding what type of original thought to share. Having multiple blogs gives me multiple topics to discuss, but will the people who subscribed through this blog care about leadership? Will the people who subscribe through my business blog care about finances? Details, details…

I haven’t solidified all the details yet but now that I’m close I’m ready to ask some of you what you think about it all. Remember though… just because you offer advice doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily take it. lol I say that because I’m expecting some of the opinions are going to counter each other, and I’m smart enough to know it’s pure folly to try to appease everyone.

By the way, if I do this thing I found a WordPress plugin that looks like it’d be up to the job. It’s called WP Email Capture, and it sets up a double opt-in process to make sure no one’s subscribing someone else just to be sneaky. After that… I’ll figure out how to send out my newsletters, which will initially probably be manual since I don’t expect a major run early on.

That’s all I have for now; your thoughts on it all?
 

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