Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Oct 6, 2014
In the past I briefly talked about the controversy surrounding Chik-Fil-A. I’ve talked about controversy and having to deal with it often. I figured this was as good a time as any to talk about freedom of speech and controversy as it pertains to business blogs as opposed to general blogging.
When businesses are thinking about being controversial, they shouldn’t be thinking about being controversial on social issues such as politics or religion. Those types of things can take away from the reason you created the blog and your business as well.
Unless those issues are what your blog is about, it’s best to stay away from them; at least on your business blog. If you feel the need to express your opinion about other things, it’s best to create a personal blog, whether you use your real name or not, and go that route.
However, negating the benefits of going against the grain, which is what controversy is all about, as it pertains to your business, means you’ve giving up an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. For instance, on this blog, I’ve taken some contrary views to the norm as it pertains to backlinks. All that does is set me apart from others who do some of the same type of work I do and starts a discussion point. In a way, it also establishes me as a free thinker, someone who sees things from a different perspective, and potentially helps me get clients who have some thoughts that lean my way.
Using another example, let’s say that I do kitchen remodeling. Most people in that industry recommend granite counter tops because they’re sturdy and pretty, and they come in multiple colors. If I wanted to be like the majority, I’d also advocate granite counter tops.
However, I’ve seen a few people that advocate slate counter tops, saying they’re also sturdy, easier to clean, won’t stain and that you can even cut on them without worrying that you’re going to cut them up. So, maybe someone else starts writing about the benefits of using slate instead. It goes against the norm, but you can bet that someone out there doesn’t like granite and likes reading something where an expert in the field has a much different opinion. And let’s face it, even those that advocate using granite can’t say slate is horrible, even if it wouldn’t be their first option.
Now, I don’t know whether slate is popular or not; I’m just using this as an example of how it might be controversial within the remodeling industry because everyone else goes in a different direction. As long as it’s related to business, controversy could end up being a good thing. Now, if you were advocating paper counter tops, that wouldn’t be controversial; it would be crazy, and you’ll never work. So you have to pick your options based on your own business.
Final point. Freedom of speech means that everyone can say anything they want to, no matter what or where it is. It also means that others can disagree with you however and wherever they feel as well. Hopefully it only stays at a verbal level but that’s the thing about some controversial topics. You’re probably never going to have two social media consultants coming to blows over whether Twitter is better than Facebook, but social issues are a much different animal. That’s why it’s best to avoid those topics where your business is concerned.
So, have you started blogging yet? Come on, be controversial, say something!
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 22, 2014
You’re in for a treat today and it’s all owed to the fact that I’m now 55 years old. I should be sad about that but it seems that I now qualify for senior discounts at some restaurants; I’ll take what I can get. By the way, before you wish me a happy birthday this happened 3 weeks ago so save it and enjoy the post.
I decided to put together a post sharing the same number of tips as the number of years I’ve been on this earth. Many of you know that I write articles pretty fast so you’ll be shocked to learn that this post actually took me a week to put together. With so many tips it’s all over the board, yet still may not be comprehensive enough for some people. But this is another pillar post on this blog as it tops 3,500 words, and hopefully shows many newer bloggers that with a little bit of effort one can always find stuff to write about.
Without further ado, here we go:
1 Before you start blogging write 10 articles. If you can’t do this, don’t start blogging.
2 If you need to test your courage start with a free blog. WordPress.com or Blogger are the big two that might whet your appetite.
3 Once you’re ready for big time blogging go self hosting. Either add the blog to your existing website or purchase a domain name and try to buy the same name as your blog is going to be. If the name is too long, buy a shortened version, something that will be easy for people to remember.
4 No matter which blogging software you go for, during the setup process do NOT make your username Admin in any form whatsoever. Although you can change it later through some gesticulations, as taught by my buddy Adrienne Smith, it’s easier if you start out on the proper road. Don’t make it or your password too easy, and have capital letters and numbers as a part of it.
5 Don’t leave that very first post that blogging software puts on there introducing it to the world. Delete it or add your first post to it and change the title and initial link.
Blog via Compfight
6 Everyone will tell you to write a niche blog. Do this if you’re hoping your blog will help make you money in some fashion. Otherwise, if you just want to write then write whatever you want to and don’t worry about it.
7 Some people will tell you that paid themes are better than free themes. Paid themes can be as tricky as free themes because of #11 on this list because sometimes you don’t know where images have come from. There should only be two rules for themes overall: one, don’t make it so busy looking that it takes eyes away from your content; two, don’t have colors that drive people’s eyes nuts like the combination of pink and lime green (ugh!).
8 Learn how to post date articles so you can write them ahead of time and set them up to go live whenever you want them to. Sometimes when I’m inspired I can write 5 or more articles in a day and I bet you can also.
9 Tags and categories are two different things. Tags pertain to a specific article, whereas categories are used for, well, categories of articles you might want to write. It’s best to try to stay under 10 tags if your blog is going to mainly be about the same subject all the time but you can always add as many tags to your blog as you want. However, don’t go tag crazy per blog post; search engines might have a tough time trying to figure out what your article is really supposed to be about.
10 Learn about different plugins and determine which ones you need versus what you want. Of paramount importance in my mind are those for security and protection, such as a good backup plugin, one that protects against too many logins and a firewall program.
11 While you’re at it, figure out which plugins you’re going to use to protect your blog from spam as much as possible. If you’re up to spending a few dollars I’d recommend purchasing CommentLuv Premium (I’m not an affiliate by the way) which will give you two great plugins for some protection, GASP Anti Spambot and Anti-Backlink. You can only get the second by purchasing the Premium product but it works wonders. Akismet comes with WordPress software and some people don’t like it, but I use them all and I’m fairly content.
12 Putting images in a post actually turns out to be a big help, and with longer posts, having more images can help also. However, learn the lesson that not all images that are on the internet can be used without attribution or payment. It’s best if you use your own images or go to a site that offers some images that mention Creative Commons. I use a plugin called Compfight when I’m not uploading my own images; works wonders.
13 A blog’s purpose should do one of these three things: inform, educate or entertain. The first two are fairly easy to understand but entertaining is an interesting one. Being intentionally abrasive or intolerant might be seen as entertaining to some people and if that’s your bailiwick then have at it. But being entertaining in other ways will keep more people coming and make the experience a positive one. And who doesn’t believe that more positivity in the world is a good thing?
14 With that said, sometimes truth will turn out to be controversial, whether you intended it to be or not. If you’re a blogger you have to realize that sometimes people aren’t going to like what you’ve written, and you might not like their comments. As long as people are courteous there’s nothing wrong with people who disagree with you.
15 It never pays to get into a long, protracted fight with one or two people on your blog because it’ll drive other people away. Stand up for yourself but also know when it’s time to leave. And never fear having to delete comments where people use language you don’t approve of, or don’t want your audience to see. Remember, you’re paying for it, thus that allows you to be a dictator in your space. Just be fair.
16 Even if planned well, sometimes people decide to change the focus of their blogs. Don’t worry about having to go buy another domain to start another one; just change and move on. However, if you can handle more than one subject at a time go for more domains. Right now I have 4 1/2 blogs… more on that another time.
17 If English is your first language you still don’t get a pass for horrible grammar. You will get a pass for typos but more often than not you’ll get that squiggly red line if you misspell something; try to pay attention to that. Most of the time, unless it’s egregious, people will be more interested in seeing if they can understand what you’re saying instead of whether you’ve spelled the words correctly or not… most of the time that is.
18 I don’t believe anyone can write too much most of the time but many people write too little. If you can’t write more than 100 word posts don’t create a blog. Instead, go to Tumblr and use that as your platform. However, I believe that with some structure anyone can write at least 300 words for each post.
19 Though I don’t believe articles can be too long, I do believe that horribly written articles can be too long. If you keep repeating the same thing over and over, you’re going to drive people crazy. That’s why I always recommend starting with an outline if you’re going to write something long or write a list post, like this one.
20 One other idea for writing long posts is to learn the art of storytelling. By starting with a story you can write about almost anything. On this blog and some of my other blogs I’ve used stories to talk about all sorts of things, trying to make sure my points integrate well together so people can enjoy the story and learn a lesson at the same time. Don’t you love a good story?
21 When you’ve published your first blog post, send the link to everyone you know, or at least everyone you’re comfortable with. Send it via email, social media, text… however you can get it out, do it. This might be the only time you can get away with it but the early criticism might help and you might get some supporters to help you on your way.
22 Online writing is different than offline writing. Online it’s easier to read content, even long content, if paragraphs are 4 lines or less. Some people have each line as a paragraph; depending on how long the sentences are that might be appropriate sometimes, but if your article has lots of sentences that are only 4 or 5 words please don’t do this. However, sometimes a paragraph needs to be longer to continue a singular thought, like we learned in school; just don’t make your entire article like this is you can help it.
23 Most of the time your first few lines need to be strong enough to capture people’s attention. Don’t overstate what the article is going to be about if it’s not about that because you’ll irk people. If you’re telling a story you can be evasive, but mysterious. Notice I didn’t do that for this post, but I had something to lead into what it was going to be about and why I wrote it.
24 Many times people, including me, will talk about the SEO principles of having a blog. They’re pretty valid and for people looking to make money off their blogs it’s the way to go. With that said it’s more important to write cogent posts that make sense so that visitors will keep coming back to read them, which helps your SEO work better.
25 Internal linking means linking to something that’s already on your blog or your website. When it’s valid, doing so helps not only with SEO but might entice readers to check those links out also. If you have a lot of posts it helps to bring attention to some of the older ones.
26 External linking doesn’t have any immediate benefits but can have some long term. For instance, if you link to someone else’s blog post and let them know, and it’s in a positive light, they may stop by & invite friends to see it. Search engines also love it, but for the people you’ve linked to, not you.
27 As it regards external linking, always give proper attribution, whether it’s a blog or website. Don’t represent it as if it’s your own work.
28 A great way to find something to write about is to search news stories or blogs talking about something you’re interested in and then writing about it. This is when external linking works best.
29 When trying to find inspiration for things to write about and you’ve done the previous idea, look back on previous things you’ve written to see if they need an update. Also, look at things you’ve written that might be on your computer already to see if any of those things might work for you.
30 The most popular blog posts are list posts, usually shorter than this one. Many people like having something that not only breaks things out for them but are relatively short and doesn’t take long for them to read. You can always go back and write longer, more in depth articles on those points.
31 Rehashing a blog topic after a year or longer isn’t such a bad idea. Most of the time you’ll find that maybe there’s a way to write a totally original thought that what you wrote previously. If you do this you should link back to your original post and if need be make changes.
32 Speaking of making changes, if you’ve written a post that no longer has any validity, it’s okay to make that post private. I wrote a post years ago on how to set up Oauth between blogs and Twitter but that no longer exists so I removed it.
33 You need to monitor blog comments to determine if they’re real or not, and if they’re real you need to get into the habit of responding to comments. Leaving a response like “thanks for your comment” and not adding anything to it doesn’t encourage people to interact with your blog. Unless you’re famous people won’t come back if you don’t show them value. They also won’t come back if there are too many spammy (not a real word by the way but we bloggers use it so… lol) comments.
34 You might decide you want to accept guest posts to help your blog grow. There are lots of people ready to load your blog up with articles. You need to know that editing will be a big part of your life, and that many writers won’t respond to any comments. Set your rules and if people don’t abide by them, remove their links and possibly the articles also.
35 If you guest post on someone else’s blog, try to write the best article possible, something you’d put more work into than on your own blog, especially if it’s a high traffic blog. You might only get one chance to be seen by a large group of blog readers and it could prove invaluable to you later on.
36 Every topic lends itself to creativity if you open your mind. On this blog I’ve related the topic to chess, airports, poker and a host of other things. On my business blog I’ve linked leadership to Charlie Brown, Harry Potter, piano lessons and such. One of my latest popular posts linked marketing and PR to Yosemite Sam.
37 Don’t ever be afraid to leave your main topic here and there to address something that’s special to you in some way. On September 11th I wrote a post about that, which I’ve done many years over the course of my blogs. I also often partake in something called Blog Action Day, where writers around the world all write on the same topic.
38 In addressing blog comments earlier, I talked about on your own blog. The top way to get people to come back to your blog is by commenting on other blogs, and leaving good comments. If you don’t have the time to go crazy pick at least 5 blogs you like and comment on just those when they have new comment. It’ll get things picking up pretty quickly for your blog.
39 Think about posting interviews on your blog. There are many interesting people in the world and most of them like talking about themselves. Try to find questions to ask that no one else will ask when possible. Also, if you’re asked to do an interview do it, then make sure you mention it somewhere on your blog at some point.
40 Adding videos to your blog here and there is a good lesson to learn. I’ve added some of my own videos but sometimes I find a video that I want to share with others, so I write a post and pop it in there. Every once in a while the video might not even be on topic, in which case I’ll add it to the end of a post with a caveat; people like that type of thing.
41 Many bloggers are offering podcasts, which is the audio equivalent of videos. As long as you don’t have audio starting as soon as someone shows up at your blog all will be fine.
42 Offering alternative ways for people to consume your content makes sense. On my blog I run an app called Readspeaker where people can listen if they’re not in the mood to read, since some of my posts are long. The technology isn’t perfect but it gets the job done.
43 If you’re up to it, at least once on your blog you should try to write a post that’s called a pillar post on your main topic. A pillar post is a very long article that helps to establish yourself as an authority on what you talk about. These work great on search engines, even if they might not get a lot of attention from readers who won’t read something long. By long, I mean close to 3,000 words or more. I’ve written 3 on this blog (actually 4 if I count this one); some bloggers only write posts that long.
44 Having some type of blogging schedule helps your consistent readers figure out when they should expect something new from you. The frequency is up to you, whether you want to try to write 5 articles a day (yeow!) or one article every 2 weeks or so. Writing often drives more traffic but it’s usually lots of new visitors. Not writing often enough does the same thing. Only you can figure it out based on your history.
45 Unless I’m writing a funny story that everyone knows isn’t true (which I’ve done once in all my years here), I follow my own moral code, the top 3 of which are these: loyalty, trustworthiness and honesty. As long as you always follow your codes of decency, if you have any, you can pretty much talk about anything. If your code of decency means putting others down for things that are out of their control, it’s probably better to keep it quiet.
46 Expounding on the previous thought, writing about things like religion, politics, race, sexuality, body types… probably not a good idea unless you’re using yourself as an example. With topics like these, there’s always going to be someone who disagrees. I will write about race though; that’s the main issue that drives me.
47 The previous points and #13 regards the topic of being controversial. Understand that sometimes you just have to go that route in being honest, but there are always ways to say things to minimize it. At the same time, sometimes you’ll write something that will become controversial and catch you off guard. You have to be ready for that and be ready to respond to defend your position if needed, or see someone else’s point of view as being valid.
48 Never plagiarize someone else’s work; never! What you can do, as long as you offer attribution and a link, is comment on something someone else wrote by listing their points and offering your commentary on it.
49 There are lots of commenting systems, some whose purpose is to try to limit spam. My only advice here is that anything you set up that irks a lot of commenters will reduce the number of comments you’ll get. If you’re popular you might get away with it unscathed, but if you average fewer than 10 comments per post and you do it you’ll kill traffic to your blog. There are so many ways to control spam, some of which I mentioned in #11 above.
50 Don’t be afraid to make money off your blog, no matter who likes it or not. Sell your own products, do affiliate sales, do joint ventures… whatever works for you. You can even start selling the day you start writing your blog, no matter what someone says. Just don’t push it all the time; without other content here and there, unless your site also markets coupons and special deals, recurring traffic might not work as well.
51 Although there’s a lot of great blogging advice in the world, there’s also a lot of bad advice. I’d recommend taking things that you might find workable and using them in what you do and ignoring things that aren’t for you. For instance, some people will say to define a niche to the nth degree but there are some topics where that’s just not going to work.
52 Make sure you add something to your blog that allows people to contact or connect with you, whether it’s a contact page or widgets for Twitter, Google Plus or others. While you’re at it, find a plugin that helps people share your content on these sites if they like it.
53 Always add an About page, whether you’re looking to do business or not. People love knowing something about the people whose blog they’re reading and this is the best way to control the message about who you are and what you do.
54 Get used to this fact: most of your friends and most of your family will NOT read your blog. Sometimes it’s better that way. It also might be hard getting people in your community reading your blog. Think about this while you’re writing your content; make it such that people around the world will also be interested because that’s going to be your biggest audience.
55 Even if you’re blogging for business this is supposed to be a fun thing to do. If you’re stressed about it in any way, including having to deal with other people, don’t do it or just stop doing it. Life is too short to continue doing something that’s upsetting you.
That’s it for now. Do you need more? Are you a masochist? Stay tuned as there’s plenty more articles coming around here. Please comment and share this bad boy if you think it’s worth it, and enjoy your week!
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 18, 2014
I’ve written a lot of posts about blogging on my other blog, including some tutorial stuff, so if you want more than what I’m going to talk about in this post you can check those things out here. I find it incredible how many people I run into that, when I start talking about blogging, they start having palpitations. Did almost everyone really have that much trouble writing papers in school?
Writing is as easy or as hard as one decides it should be. Earlier this evening I was reading someone else’s blog post where the guy said he spends 6 to 8 hours writing each blog post. Most of mine takes between 10 & 15 minutes, depending on how much I write and how much internal linking or image adding I do. Most people I talk to say it takes them between 30 minutes to 2 hours to write blog posts.
Remember story writing when you were in school? The teacher told you that every story has to have a beginning, middle and end. Any time you start thinking about writing a blog post, the beginning and the end should write themselves for you most of the time. If you start with a certain point, that’s going to be one paragraph. Unless you write a list post your closing paragraph will be kind of a reiteration of what your opening premise for your post was, with a few things thrown in from the middle.
That should take care of anywhere from 50 to 100 words for you, maybe more. Since the recommendation is to try to write at least 250 words (300 or more is better) you’re already 20 – 40% of the way there.
What should your middle be? It can obviously be almost anything but what are you prepared to do? If you don’t consider yourself all that prolific then let me help you.
Let’s use baseball for this exercise. Let’s say you wanted to write something about the Boston Red Sox and their chances for winning their division in 2014. You don’t know everything about the team but you know enough to be dangerous.
In your opening paragraph you indicated you were going to talk about the Red Sox in 2014, so in your second paragraph you could start by mentioning how the team did in 2013, which included winning the World Series (yes, I’m a Red Sox fan). You could mention the immediate offseason hopes and dreams and how it all collapsed quickly (oh yeah, that’s how this season is ending; sigh…).
Then you could talk about players the team still has, how David Ortiz might fare in his final season, and so on. You could mention any new players coming into the fold and how good or bad they played the previous season.
Finally you could talk about whether you believe they improved, went backwards, or stayed the same. You could mention how you they didn’t so enough to catch the Yankees, or how management seemed to have given up on the team early by sending off its two best pitchers.
With your first paragraph pretty much done and your middle complete, your last paragraph could be a quick summary, something like “The 2014 Red Sox lost their momentum from last year’s World Series victories but looks like a contender heading into the next season. With unbridled enthusiasm and some great young players coming up it should be an exciting season next year.” That was 41 quick words, and I could have said more.
Blogging doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s not necessary to hit a home run, if you will, with every single post. Blogging isn’t meant to be a series of white papers; it’s meant to be a series of thoughts that not only help you show whatever expertise you have, but to help your main website, if your blog is attached to it, with its SEO properties. You can do this; trust me.
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 28, 2014
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.
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.
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 18, 2014
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.
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!