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Blog Writing 101

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 18, 2014
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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?

Catbert and the company blogger
Niall Kennedy
via Compfight

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.
 

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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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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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Why Do You Blog?

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 7, 2014
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Why do you blog? You know, I’ve kind of broached this subject in the past but I came at it from different directions. First, in 2008 I asked the question Why Do You Write Your Blog, which was based on a couple of articles I’d read on the subject of using one’s blog to make money. The second, in 2010, was part of my Sunday Question blog series asking specifically Why Do You Blog, and in this case I was asking people what they were hoping to get out of their blogs, whether it was business or pleasure.

06-08-10 And With Heart Shaped Bruises And Late Night Kisses
Βethan via Compfight

Goodness, it’s been 4 years since I talked about this subject? Time to broach it again, but I’ll tell you why I’m doing it this time. If you’ve noticed, over the past couple of weeks I’ve put up some posts here that relate to business blogging. Although I talk about blogging often, specifically talking about blogging for business isn’t something I’ve spent lots of time on. Sure, I’ve talked on the subject of trying to make money blogging and why it’s more difficult than people think but that’s not quite the same topic.

In this vein, it’s talking about having some kind of business and using blogging to either help promote the business in some fashion, show expertise or actually using the blog as the business, not specifically a make money blog but making connections so you can sell product or services.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I use my main business blog as a way to show my expertise on certain subjects and, hopefully, to get clients of some kind from it. I haven’t talked as much about this blog and how I work on using it for business but truthfully, one speaking engagement I got locally came mainly because of this blog. Nah, I didn’t get paid, and I didn’t even get a nibble for business, but it was still fun being seen in a professional light by some folks in my area, since more often than not I work out of town or my clients are out of town.

Over the next few months, I expect to have more articles on this blog about business blogging in the vein I was talking about above. However, I know that there are a lot of people who don’t see that type of thing as the reason for why they write their blogs. So, I’m throwing the question out there, asking what I asked in 2010 and seeing if some of the responses are different.

See, I think it’s an important question more for you than for me. The one thing I get asked over and over is how do I come up with so many ideas to write about, especially after I passed 1,500 posts back in March. One reason is because I have a passion for the topics I write about. The other reason is because I do market some of my writing services, I charge a pretty nice dollar, and I like to be able to show someone just how proficient I’ve been in my own space, and then possibly point them to other spaces. In the end, even though this is my “fun” blog, it’s also my portfolio of diverse topics; wouldn’t you agree?

This should be fun; let’s see what you have for me. :-)
 

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Personality – Gauging Between Too Much And Too Little

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 4, 2014
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If you’re going to be a blogger you need to know what you’re up against.

There are over 225 million blogs in the world and it’s growing exponentially every year. The best thing about it is that there are a lot of people who decide they’re tired of blogging and bail out of the game. The worst thing about it is that you still end up with a lot of people you have to compete with for attention.

Steampunk author Anna-Marie York at Conbust
Creative Commons License Steampunk Family
the von Hedwigs

via Compfight

I’ve always said that blogs must do one of 3 things: entertain, educate or inform. This is what leads people to determine what kind of blog they want to write.

It doesn’t lead people towards figuring out how to write though. I’m of the opinion that how you write is probably more important long term than what you write unless you happen to be part of a blogging conglomerate. In those cases someone else is always available to pick up what you can’t deliver.

To be a compelling blogger, you must add some personality to what you write. At least 50% of the time you’d better be throwing in some personality, and I mean something good. Hopefully you’ll be personable more often than that but if it’s not your normal style then you need to figure out how to develop it.

At the same time, you can’t go overboard. By that, I mean you can’t be so transparent that people know everything about your personal life, especially if you’re looking to show yourself as an authority. Truth be told, there are some people who use blogging as a diary, which is actually how it started out a couple of decades ago, and that’s fine if all you want is someone psychoanalyzing you every day. But if every post you write is you complaining about your boyfriend/girlfriend, your job, drinking too much, etc, people will get bored and leave; then you’ll have more to complain about.

How do you strike a personality balance? I was hoping you’d ask. I’m going to give you 9 ways you can be personable in your writing; I thought about doing 10 but 3 is my favorite number and that’s too few, and 9 is three 3’s, which I like a lot, thus you’re getting 9. You don’t have to do all of these every time by the way; I thought I’d mention that so you don’t look schizophrenic later on when you’re writing and want to blame me for it. With that said, here we go:

1. Humor.

Gene at Javier's 161
Creative Commons License Llima Orosa via Compfight

People love to laugh and if you can even make them smile they’ll like you. No one except my friend Charles Gulotta is supposed to make you laugh with every single article written, but when you can throw in a line or allude to something funny while telling your tale it helps to break the ice and helps people identify with you.

2. Honesty.

Just because I said you shouldn’t tell everyone everything doesn’t mean you should lie to people either. We all know that probably 98% of the people who write “make money” blogs are lying about or misrepresenting their success. It’s not easy making sustainable money just by blogging; I think I know 2 people personally who make money only by blogging. Everyone else does something else to help supplement their income.

This doesn’t mean you can’t write about it, or can’t recommend products that have helped you make some money online or off. It does mean that if you’ve purchased an online travel business and you’re now trying to recruit me by showing me a $27,000 earnings check and yet you won’t pick up the check for lunch that I’m calling you a fraud and probably never talking to you again. That happened by the way; how many of you have had someone do something similar? Did you like it? That’s why honesty is better than faking it.

3. Language.

The fact is there are times when what you write about can be pretty dull. I knew someone who tried to only write about Twitter some years ago. After a month every article looked the same; ugh. The problem was this person only had one style of writing and only so many things to talk about; at least that’s how it seemed. On this blog I’ve written about or mentioned Twitter in nearly 300 articles; how many times do you think I’ve said the same exact thing about it?

One can easily alter language by coming at articles in different fashions. Sometimes you can tell a story, whether about yourself or someone else. You can give some technical details if you’re adept at that type of thing. You can write commentary posts, giving your opinion about something. You can try to find new words instead of “cool” or “fascinating”, and trust me you can only use the word “very” so many times before you start looking like a 5th grader. Change things up every once in awhile; look like a rock star.

4. Allusions.

An allusion means you’ve come up with a fancy phrase to try to compare or talk about something in a more amusing way. You can write “reading that post was horrid” or you can write “reading that post was like eating garbage out of the trash can of a fly.” I almost wrote “gag a maggot” but that’s an old phrase that someone else came up with; what I wrote first was original (it had better be).

Picture 20

Sometimes it pays to be less straightforward with your language and give it a bit of flair, and allusions are the easiest way to go. Truthfully, they’re the one thing you can steal from someone else without retribution; that is unless I wrote it.

5. Mention something about you.

You know how I said don’t tell everything about yourself? That part is true, but there are things you can tell about yourself sometimes while trying to make a point about something.

For instance, I happen to be diabetic. I’ve talked here and there about the issue, my ups and downs and different things I’ve tried or gone through. I don’t wear it as a badge of honor but it’s something I can talk about because it’s real, and by talking about it I feel I help others come out of the shame of being diagnosed at some point (everyone feels shame initially, as if they did something wrong, which isn’t always the case) and offer hope, as well as a bit of humor and honesty, on the topic.

This part leads into my next point.

6. Creativity.

I’m thinking someone is going to say something like “but I write about artificial grass; how do I fit something about myself into a topic like that?” Hey, if I could fit in something personal while talking about the topic of forensic loan analysis, you can do it about almost anything.

Why are you writing about whatever it is you write about? Do you hope to write for a long time? The easiest way to be creative is to add some things you’ve done or things that have happened to you or someone you know into your writing, no matter what it is.

I write about many things, yet I’ve added in my own tales about chess, poker, learning how to play the piano, Cling Wrap, living in Japan, on and on, into all of my topics. When you write and add in some of your own experiences, your writing takes on a personal feel, your words are different, and people can feel the emotions, funny or sad. When people identify with you… well, you know.

7. Name drop.

By that, I don’t only mean mentioning the names of famous people like Vanessa Williams, Derrick Coleman, Wilt Chamberlain or Rick Fox (okay, yes, I’ve met or talked to all of those people). I don’t mean Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki or Ken Evoy (I’ve had online conversations of some type with all of them).

If you’re a true blogger it means you’ve visited other blogs and read other posts. If you’re a true blogger you’ve had people stop by your blog and leave comments, and you’ve responded to them & checked their stuff out as well. Sometimes when you’re writing, you might recall something from one of the many blogs you’ve read or something someone you’ve read has said.

Shakara Ledard at http://ontheinside.info
Thomas Collardeau
via Compfight

Mention them, link back to their blogs, and tell your tale. I name drop often; it helps them get some attention and it helps me as well because it gives me more to write about whenever I need something new. People love seeing their names in print in other places; we all like a bit of acknowledgment. When you give selflessly, you get back way more; trust me on this one.

8. The “Mom” Factor.

Although things seem much different than back in the day when I was younger, one of the best filters in the world is whether or not you’d be comfortable in sharing what you’re writing with your mother. I don’t only mean bad language; I mean other things about your life.

I know a lot of people who have had to defend something they wrote on a blog post because someone they know read it and mentioned it to their mother in passing. Mom’s hate being shamed, and even if it was about you, they always take on your shame, whether you have any or not.

I have multiple blogs, and there’s not a single thing on any of them that I wouldn’t mind my mother seeing, and I’ve tackled some interesting topics. I’d say the same about my dad but he’s no longer with us. For some people, maybe you’re more worried about what your dad might say. The same advice people give you when it comes to sharing too much, too many salacious pictures and too much detail that someone could find out about you later on applies to your blog; some things are better kept to yourself.

Right now I’m betting you’re either saying “wow, I didn’t think he could get 9 of these” or you’re saying “finally, he’s at #9″. This is the most important one; you ready?

9. Love.

That looks strange doesn’t it? In the book The Power by Rhonda Byrnes of The Secret fame, she talks a lot about the topic of “love”. In her opinion, everything you do that’s positive is based on love; not romantic love necessarily but love in general.

If you think about it she’s absolutely right. Why do you do the things you enjoy? Why do you crave certain foods, like certain types of movies, hang out in certain places more than others, talk to specific people more than other people? All those things make you feel good right? Why do you feel good? Because you love doing them.

If you love what you do, your personality will always show. If you’re doing something only because it might help you get something that you haven’t fully defined as success, you probably don’t love it or even like it a little bit.

Nothing says you have to by the way. Mike Rowe tells the story of a guy who does this nasty little job with hogs that no one else likes to do, which has made him a rich man. It wasn’t ever his wish, he hates it a lot, but he likes the money, which allows him to do other things.

You’re thinking “where’s the love there”? The love is in being rich, being able to travel, being able to buy things he likes. He’s willing to sacrifice some things for his business to help fund the other parts of his life.

That works for him because what he’s doing is pretty much a solitary thing though; blogging isn’t a solitary thing. If you don’t love blogging it will show, and people will stay away. Then what will you do, other than probably quit? If you write about what you know and love, who you know and love, where you know and love, your personality will flow and people will love it. Either that or think you’re weird, and trust me, many people love weird also.

Don’t be a robot; be yourself, be relaxed, and love what you write about. If you follow the things I mentioned above, you’ll be great; heck, if I’d only follow them I might be great as well. :-)
 

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