Saturday, November 24, 2012

Content: Biggest Product of the Digital Economy

Forget highly suspicious claims of digital drugs making kids "high" off audio tracks. The fact is content may prove to be one of the most important products of the new digital economy.

In Internet marketing circles you'll hear plenty about "content marketing" these days. These are just buzz words for blog articles, videos, podcasts, and similar online content that attracts visitors who may eventually be converted to customers.

The variety of platforms on which to publish and distribute content or offer it for free or paid download in the new digital economy are nearly endless. Blogs, social media networks, YouTube and other video upload sites, Blog Talk Radio, audio sites like SoundCloud, simple Website building communities like Squidoo, sites that offer free or paid download of e-books and other content files--these are all possibilities.

Setting aside for the moment amateur essayists, video makers, musicians, and the like, many people who upload content do so for business reasons.

Either they are attempting to boost their brand online, attract traffic which will convert to revenue in the form of orders of online products or services, create awareness of a brick and mortar business in order to drive offline customer activity, or drive traffic to affiliate links or pay per click advertising.

The importance of content as a tool for online business marketing has given birth to a new industry of content creators as outlined in this Small Business Trends post from Amie Marse.

But let's get back to the story of digital drugs, MP3 tracks that can be downloaded for $16.00 or less off the Internet and supposedly induce a mind altering experience. (Color me skeptical.)

These may be the most extreme examples of content clearly making the jump from mere marketing material to product. Of course, the digital economy has a long history of downloadable content for sale from music to reports and white papers to more questionable "business" products, e-books and more.

But with monetized content it seems we are talking about much more. What is premium content worth on the Web, whether a marketer pays superstar content creators (bloggers etc.) for it, or whether those superstar creators with high followings and a strong personal brand monetize that content themselves?

For businesses of the future, content will not be simply a means to an end, but an end in and of itself. Popular content will be worth its weight in gold.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Digital PR: How to Create Competition on Facebook

There are thousands of businesses on Facebook and they are all competing for the same thing: engagement from users. Therefore a digital PR campaign that gives users an incentive to ‘like’ a Facebook page will give a business an edge in a highly competitive market. Once a member of the public has ‘liked’ a page, it is then up to the business to keep the fan interested and invested in the business.

Below are the key steps you need to follow to ensure your digital PR competition creates a positive impact:

Goals: Create clear marketing goals. What is it that you want to achieve by hosting this competition? It sounds obvious, but by having clear goals you will be able to judge the success of your competition at every stage.

Understand your audience: Understanding your audience will help you not only to construct an effective competition tailored to their needs, but will also help you to keep them engaged on your page once the competition has ended.

Plan and create: Once you understand what your audience wants, you can plan what type of competition you are going to construct. Making the prize attention grabbing is always successful in ensuring ‘likes’. This doesn’t mean it has to be expensive – just something that stands out.

Spread the word: Push the word out about your competition. Notifying relevant bloggers and online influencers about the competition will boost the reach of the digital PR campaign.

Consistency: Be sure to follow through. Update the Facebook page frequently otherwise people will think you are inactive. Ensure that the way you communicate on your Facebook page is compliant with your brand personality.

Length: Try to avoid allowing your competition to run for too long. Page fans will lose interest if the competition lasts too long. If it needs to be a long competition, then why not look at breaking it up into stages? Perhaps you could have a finalist selected at every stage and then an overall winner at the end of the competition. Be sure to publicize the winner through your social media channels and any other appropriate outlets.

Engage: Send out fun and interesting content. Use imagery and links to entice your fans to visit frequently. Give them a page worth coming back to once the competition has ended.

Guest Post: PHA Media is a London PR agency setup in 2005 by former newspaper and magazine editor Phil Hall. They are an award winning firm offering a full range of PR and publicity services across traditional and digital PR.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creating Your Own Content for Your Blog

When writing a blog post, constructing a PowerPoint, or taking advantage of any found media, the web is often the first place to go for content. Although this can be helpful when working with few resources, often the materials you find are either out of date, or have been greatly overused. Also, even though there is a vast amount of media out there, you may never find what you’re looking for. One of the best ways to get various media without any of these difficulties is to create your own content. Why? I’ll elaborate…

  • Overuse—Although there are thousands upon thousands of pictures, videos, and other forms of media on the internet, there are usually a few that have become overused. Although they are often popular, the reader may assume that your blog is the same as the last thousand blogs they saw that used that particular content. When the reader sees something that they haven’t seen before, however, their eyes will light up knowing that there is most likely new information there, too.
  • Customization—As stated before, the internet is a gargantuan compilation of various types of media. However, despite its size, you can’t always find exactly what you want. On the other hand, when properly equipped with simple Photoshop skills and a camera, you can create almost anything your imagination can devise.
  • Copyright safety—When you find media on the internet, you must make sure you cite it accordingly. You must make certain that the name of the Website or the creator of the media is somewhere in your post to avoid copyright infringement. While including an attribution or citation draws traffic to the media originators’ sites—which is helpful for them—it tends to create more work for you, the blogger, and it’s easy to make stupid mistakes such as forgetting to include the information entirely. When you create your own content, you can be relatively safe from copyright infringement.
  • So, as you can see, creating your own content can have its advantages. Original content can make your blog unique; you can easily customize it, and will keep the blood-sucking lawyers off your back. Let me restate, however, that these guidelines are not written in stone, and it can be beneficial in some situations to use found content from the internet.

    Guest Post: Thanks to the youngest blogger in the household Noah Hessinger for this insightful post (and cool photo just in time for Halloween) on why using unique content in your posts is always a good idea and why the most unique content is usually yours. Watch for Noah's new gaming Website coming soon.

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    Using Video To Engage Community

    Recently, a friend of mine, small business coach Stephanie Ward, posted this great pitch for getting all her readers and clients involved in making more video for their Websites and online communities. There are a couple of reasons to do this. Video is helpful for Search Engine Optimization, social engagement, and mobile engagement.

    Here's a video I created earlier this year to help build engagement for a business intelligence and analytics community sponsored by SAS, a leader in business analytics and business intelligence software.

    A couple of notes about making video here that you should keep in mind:

  • Be yourself. In the post linked to above, Stephanie suggests that practice will make you more comfortable in front of the camera. I'd add that making video doesn't require tightly scripted preparation. I generally use a short typed script as a guide but don't put much pressure on myself to stick to it. Be natural.
  • Silliness is OK. I know! I know! You've probably heard the advice about avoiding humor because some of your audience might not find your attempts funny or, worse yet, might be offended by your efforts. I'd refer you to point one. I tend to be a kind of silly guy at times, so trying to do video too seriously can feel a tad unnatural. Whatever makes you feel comfortable (and seems appropriate for your audience) can work just fine for your video, even if it ends up being a bit goofy.
  • Think visually. Though a simple video of you speaking directly to your audience can be quite effective, it doesn't hurt to think a bit further in terms of visual variety. Change backdrops. Think of ways to illustrate your points visually. Use different angles, long shots, closeups, and cutaways (perhaps of graphics and other related images) to add interest.
  • Add value. Simple improvements in your video can add dramatically to its value. If you know someone experienced in graphic animation, ask them to design a title sequence and see if you can find royalty free music online. You'll be surprised at the improvements these elements will make to your video.
  • Are you using video on your blog or in your social media content? Why or why not? Leave your comment below.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Bing Tagging Can Make Your Website It!

    You've probably read that Bing is gaining ever so slowly on Google in the overall share of the search market.

    A new feature on Bing can help you improve search results on this increasingly popular search engine by harnessing the social features of Facebook. Here's how!

    Sign Up For Bing

    This will take literally only minutes, and once done, you'll have an account from Microsoft, the company behind the Bing search engine, allowing you to "tag" links in the search results coming up under your name.

    Tag Your Friends

    But, in addition, you can also tag links for your Facebook friends, making it easier for them to locate their own content, and your good deed will be recorded in the "recent activity" section of your life stream for your friends to see.

    For example, recently I tagged Joel Libava, the Franchise King, in an interview entitled "Many Entrepreneurs Not Cut Out for Franchising" from Small Business Trends. (See here.)

    Share Your Activity

    So, in addition to pointing out your links to friends on Facebook and improving your ranking on Bing, you become the helpful soul who's making sure everyone else finds their content too. (Your welcome, Joel!)

    And, just in case you get sick and tired of all this do-gooding and want to do some good old fashioned bragging again, well, the new Bing social feature has a way to do that too.

    Just click on the "Web" tab in the upper left hand corner of your Bing page and you'll see a gray "Activity" column on the right side of your screen. (See a screen grab to the right.)

    Simply, click on the Facebook status window and click on the paperclip icon to the left of the link you'd like to share. You can then choose up to five Facebook friends with whom to share your link. (Again, these friends must also have a Bing account.)

    You can also see which other friends shared links or other content recently. (So far, my friend, Web analytics expert Pierre DeBois and I are the only two listed in my network who seem to have used this feature.)


    My two cents? The Bing tagging feature is a neat tool to use for sharing links on the newer search engine with your Facebook friends, and since Facebook has more users than Google+ at present, we can reasonably say there is more opportunity to share links with a potentially larger audience than on any comparable feature Google might offer.

    That said, the fact is, Google has a much larger share of overall search, so the tool is much more useful as a way to promote your links and those of your friends and business partners to your Facebook connections than it is as a way of appreciably increasing your search traffic through social engagement. Like other tools, this can become a bit of a time sink with limited returns (until Bing gets bigger.) Use it sparingly.

    Have you used the Bing tagging function, yet? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

    Monday, September 24, 2012

    Bloggers Need Personal Branding for Online Business

    Bloggers need personal branding for their online businesses. For an example of how personal branding can work to boost visibility in a variety of careers, take blues singer Alexis P. Suter, whose show I happened to catch last weekend at Blast Furnace Blues here in the beautiful Lehigh Valley.
    At the Arts Quest Center at Steel Stacks Sept. 14, Suter and her band took the stage in the second floor Musikfest Cafe to deliver some sweat drenched blues including renditions of "Knocking on Heaven's Door", which she dedicated to late music legend Levon Helm, and the old Howling Wolf classic, "Built for Comfort."

    It was a great live performance and shows why Suter and her band have attained such a huge reputation in the industry. But more importantly, it demonstrates how a unique approach can result in the kind of personal branding that will make fans and followers flock to live events, hungrily devour everything associated with that brand, and still keep coming back for more.

    Imagine your blog was a blues band and you were its lead singer. Would your followers clamor for your autograph, travel distances, and pay money to see your live performances, or buy albums and T-shirts emblazoned with the name of your brand?

    Check out the video of Suter performing at an outdoor event some years ago to give you a taste of what you've missed and to encourage you to see her live if you get the chance.

    Here are some personal branding lessons bloggers can take from performers like Suter: 
    • Wear it on your sleeve. On stage, as well as off I suspect, Suter is an open book, belting out her blues with great passion in a deep resonant voice and sounding as if she is feeling every note and reliving every emotion in her songs. Similarly, good bloggers must be honest with their audience, sharing their passionate interests and the things they love...and even hate.
    • Build trust and empathy. Suter builds a rapport with her audience that makes you believe in her authenticity instantly. You don't need to know her whole story. It's there in her songs. Bloggers should take a similar tack in the posts they write. Speak with authority about what you know and let your audience see you understand where they are coming from too. 
    • Be the linchpin. In his book by the same title, Seth Godin describes this as the indispensable person. Suter's band features an incredible lineup including drummer Ray Grappone, guitarist Jimmy Bennett, keyboardist Benny Harrison, bassist Peter Bennett, and backing vocalist Vicki Bell. But it is impossible to imagine the group without Suter, just as it should be impossible for readers to imagine your blog without your opinions, thought leadership, and commentary.
     So how about you? Have you stepped up to the mic? Be the powerhouse behind your blog and bring personal brand into the equation for your audience and for the success of your online business!

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    What To Do When Your Blog Hosting Goes Down

    Earlier this week, plenty of people (yours truly included) experienced when a problem at GoDaddy, the Web's biggest registrar of domain names and host to, like, 5 million Websites, caused many of said sites, or Websites with domains purchased through GoDaddy, to be unreachable.
    Photo by Noah Hessinger of

    Though there was plenty of speculation at the time that hactivists angered over some of GoDaddy's corporate actions might have been involved, the company claims the problem was internal and nobody's personal or business data was in danger.

    That said, for those of us who put a certain amount of professional and personal importance on maintaining our Websites, building our readership, and growing our readership community, what are we to do when, through no fault of our own, a Website we are depending on goes down for several hours leaving us with no recourse but to sit and wait for things to be resolved?
    Well, here at cool heads prevailed, of course (Ch-yeah, right! The above photo is an approximation of my reaction as I sat at my Toshiba Satellite that day.) but for those of you lacking our placid stoicism, here are some other suggestions from around the Web.

    Get mad. This was understandably the first reaction by some when a couple of tweets by anonymous sources seemed to indicate some malicious deliberate action was behind the trouble. I mean, after all, this is our livelihood, in some cases, or a springboard hopefully to career advancement. Mike Daly, editor of Adotas, shot from the hip and asked questions later with an angry post directed at hackers and sharing some angry comments from other online businesses. His anger might have been directed at GoDaddy had he known it was their screw up.

    Get creative. One company, Coupon Puppet, went to the trouble of creating a puppet show which it then shared on Twitter to get the message out about the plight of online businesses who were being affected by the outage. There was even a musical parody for Coupon Puppet's audience to enjoy while waiting for the main site to again be accessible.

    Get strategic. Brian Saemann of Go Beyond SEO makes the suggestion that big outages like this are a good time to decide (if we haven't done so already) whether it might be time to make some changes in our hosting. Are we getting the service, quality, security, and customer support we are paying for. However, Peter M. Abraham, of Dynamic Net Inc. points out in this valuable exchange that price should not be your only consideration when locating a hosting company.

    No matter what your reaction to this week's little emergency, be sure that researching good hosting for your online business is a major priority. Technical problems will always arise, but try to anticipate as many problems as possible when making your choice.

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    Great Social Media is Like a Pez Dispenser

    Yes, a Pez dispenser! You know, those colorful little plastic pocket devices created in the likeness of an endless stream of cartoon, video game, movie, and other characters that serve up pieces of delicious candy simply by pushing down on the tops.

    You know, of course, the importance of social media and for establishing a presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

    The point on each site is to collect followers and connections for your brand and then use your new network to share content and information, and gather data and feedback from your audience or customers.

    But in order to convince people to follow and network with you, it is important to create a social media presence that makes people want to connect with you and to come back again and again for the information you provide.

    Like a pez dispenser, your social media presence must be a delight to the eye and a constant source of sweet and delicious content, so that your audience keeps coming back for more.

    • Appearance. The first thing that catches your eye about a Pez dispenser is it's design, in the form of a character or pop culture icon ranging from Spiderman to Captain America and from Yoshi of the Nintendo gaming universe to Bugs Bunny. You can add visual appeal to your Facebook account by posting additional photos, maybe a video, and more information about you or your business, or add custom backgrounds to your Twitter account plus a branding avatar. Try adding more details or use a few apps, like Behance's Creative Portfolio Display, to show a portfolio of your work and create a more captivating LinkedIn account. There are many ways to build this kind of immediate visual impact in social media.
    • Consistency. Pez dispensers are much more than cool collectible toys designed like favorite pop culture characters. These nifty little devices also pump out delicious tablet-sized candy for endless enjoyment (so long as you have an endless supply of candy for reload.) Your Facebook or Twitter account are kind of the same. Share interesting posts in your niche (including content from other people, not just from your blog or Websites!) in a tasty stream, encouraging people to like or follow you and eventually learn more about you and your online business.
    • Connection. Hey, this is a matter of individual preference. While my kid may want to collect every Marvel superhero Pez dispenser ever created, I may be hunting for a classic Star Trek or limited edition Elvis collection. In the same way, some people will connect with your social media presence while others may not. Don't sweat it! The most important thing to remember is that social media is not a numbers game. It's about connecting with the kinds of people interested in the things you want to talk about.

    So, get out there, dive in, and start sharing your own delicious content! Pretty soon you'll be someone's favorite source of information in your niche and they will come back to you again and again.

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    Best Buy Machinations Aid Online Business

    If you follow business and tech news at all, you've probably noticed in recent weeks the drama unfolding over at Best Buy. As the plot continues to thicken like some medieval palace intrigue, it seems clear the electronics retail giant will certainly be changing strategies in the very near future in an effort to compete with online sellers like Amazon. I've mentioned before how Amazon and other retailers already offer unprecedented opportunities to bloggers seeking to create an affiliate marketing business. Best Buy too could provide great opportunities to bloggers interested in affiliate marketing. According to the Best Buy affiliate marketing sign up page, the program offers:

    • Brand recognition by associating your Website with a well-known high volume seller of electronics, personal computers, and entertainment software and accessories,
    • Website tools that allow even beginners to easily add affiliate links and access online reports that give site operators up to date information on sales generated from those links, and
    • Monetization through commission on all applicable purchases made by your site visitors, meaning the more sales you drive with your blog or blogs, the more money your Websites will generate.

    Learn more about Best Buy's affiliate marketing program here and also visit our previous post on Amazon affiliate marketing to learn more about how your blog can begin generating cash flow. Also consider sharing this post with your friends and followers to help them better build their online businesses.

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Mobile Blogging With Jim Connolly

    My Nexus 7, image for an upcoming @GadgeTell post

    Recently business blogger Jim Connolly gave his review in a two-part post of the new Nexus 7 with a very specific question in mind. Would the device be effective for mobile blogging?

    You can read Connolly's two-part review (written on the new tablet from Google and Asus) but the answer is a resounding yes!

    Why is this so important?

    • Productivity. The dream of being able to work from anywhere on your timetable has always been there long before tablets or blogging existed. But for bloggers, especially those whose posting is part or the majority of a business, this means being able to work from the local Starbucks or while waiting for a connecting flight, wherever an Internet connection is available.
    • Access. Another challenge in blogging is the need to be active on the site, responding to comments in a timely fashion and removing inappropriate content immediately when it appears. Obviously the ability to work on your site from anywhere allows you to be active online even when you're on the go.
    • Versatility. Having a blogging tool that will fit into a pocket has incredible advantages. It allows you to rearrange not only how you work on your Website but your entire lifestyle. Even with a largely online business, you're no longer limited to being stuck at your computer or having to lug around a laptop.

    So, what do you think? How will mobile blogging change the way you work? Have you started blogging on the go? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    Penelope Trunk Says You Only Need One Blog

    penelope trunk

    In her well known "Penelope's Guide to Blogging", Penelope Trunk insists you only need one blog.

    She writes:

    Starting a blog is such a hard thing to do, so why do people keep starting new ones? I don’t get it. It’s so clear to me that the way to get the most out of blogging is to stick with what you’ve started…..changing blogs undermines your ability to get the benefits of blogging. Try sticking with the topic you picked. Try exploring the outer rings of the topic and the smack center of what’s on your mind right now. That’s where the passion and engagement of blogging will sprout.

    You'll need to join the Brazen Careerist to read the rest of Trunk's post on the subject.

    I respect her opinion and realize the list of bloggers who stick to a single authoritative blog is long, including some who I most admire, like Trunk herself, Seth Godin, John Jantch, and Chris Brogan to name a few.

    All the same, here are some reasons I think founding more than one blog or Website is probably something you should consider.

    • The guest blogging ecosystem is strong. Fellow blogger Adam Gottlieb posted recently about all the sites out there thriving through the efforts of guest bloggers and helping them in turn create a brand and following. Obviously there is room for many such sites on different topics and a viable business model in creating them.
    • It's more like a newspaper than a personal journal. For all the examples of blogs with a single authoritative voice, there are those like Copyblogger and ProBlogger that are much more like niche publications. The goal for blog editors in this approach is not necessarily creating a single personal blog but numerous blogs on a variety of topics to which other bloggers can contribute.
    • You may want to reach different segments. From a marketing perspective, a single blog has a brand and a following. But say you have things to say or audiences to reach who are not followers of the blog you've already created. Publishing several blogs segmented to reach different potential audiences would be the logical approach.
    • It's an important part of the online publishing business. Everything I've explained above shows why creating multiple blogs and finding contributors to supply them with a steady flow of content is a viable and important emerging industry. Let's call it the online publishing business. And it will no more belong to individual bloggers, each publishing a single blog than did the traditional publishing business belong to  individual authors all with their own magazine or book publishing company.
    • Blogs are social. This is obvious simply because of the fact that most are equipped with the ability to leave comments and, of course, most blog publishing software is designed to allow collaborative blogging. Creating multiple communities for bloggers to post on a variety of topics is more natural than the idea of individual blogs, each created for one single voice (though obviously, the single voice of the blogger is prized nowadays and a very different matter.)

    So, what do you think? Is the future of this medium about each blogger publishing one and only one blog or will it be one in which blogs are collaborative communities where publishers may create and administrate numerous blogs for a variety of interests and viewpoints?

    By the way, I'm looking for guest bloggers here on Please let me know if you're interested.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    What Bloggers Can Learn From Star Trek

    Star Trek 013Star Trek 013_1

    There are many places bloggers can find inspiration for their next post, but none so intriguing as in the adventures of the crew of the starship Enterprise.

    I'm an unabashed Star Trek fan, as are many people out there I'm sure, and so thought I'd impart some wisdom fans can take from their favorite show to improve online content. Here are just a few suggestions:
    • Boldly go where none have gone before. Don't be afraid to tackle new ideas, ones that, in some cases, aren't being touched, even by other bloggers. There's a huge benefit in being first to a topic that will build your brand and your audience.
    • Seek out new life and new civilizations. Blogging isn't just about finding a niche, it's about building community. If you do it right, you will discover new communities and create a way for them to interact that was never possible before.
    • Obey the Prime Directive.The highest law followed by the crew of the starship Enterprise is that they not interfere with civilizations they discover in a way that would be harmful or wrong. Take the same attitude toward your community. Let it develop on it's own and never impose your own agenda.
    • Promote cooperation and understanding. When the crew of the Enterprise did interact with other lifeforms in the United Federation of Planets, it was always in a spirit of cooperation. And, of course, seeking greater understanding was the basic motivation for all of the crew's missions. Bloggers should do the same with each other and their audiences, always promoting mutual benefits.
    • Use technology correctly. The crew members of the Enterprise have learned to use technology for everyone's benefit and using it for selfish ends is discouraged. Bloggers have the same opportunity to use technology to build up and empower community and to connect with others. Be sure to use the incredible power you wield responsibly.
    • Don't forget to go to warp. Like the warp engines of the starship Enterprise, blogging and social media allow you to travel far, spreading your message and engaging with others well outside your immediate circle. Use these tools to broaden your world, to learn, and to network with others you don't yet know.
    • Watch out for Klingons and Romulans. No matter how hard you try, there are some who won't understand you or appreciate what you have to say. Don't worry about these people. Hopefully, they'll just move along to the next blog or community and leave you and your audience in peace.
    • Always bring your Tricorder. There are many tools you can use to learn more about the community you are creating, from Web analytics to Facebook Insights and beyond. Like the Tricoder used on Star Trek, they can tell you more about this frontier you're exploring and how to better make sense of it.
    • Keep your transporter in good repair. Some magnetic dust once caused this device to malfunction, splitting Captain Kirk into two people. Needless to say, care must be taken to maintain the tools you use, from blogging platforms to social communities, Web hosting to personal technology. If something can go wrong, it will, so take the time to learn how to keep all your tools safe and working.
    When you voyage to the final frontier of blogging on the Internet (at least the final frontier until the next one comes along), don't forget the tips you've learned about what it takes to create an effective blog and online community. With these basic guidelines, you can live long and prosper in the new worlds you help to discover.

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Anthony Morrison Uses Affiliate Marketing and So Can You

    Not too long ago, I attended a seminar hosted by representatives of online marketing guru Anthony Morrison. The seminar outlined Morrison's method of affiliate marketing, basically driving traffic to links on your site provided by large retailers and other companies, and then receiving a percentage of the sales generated as a result.

    According to presenters at the seminar, for a payment of $2,000 or more, depending on the offer, participants receive training from Morrison's team and access to software that helps them run their affiliate marketing business.

    As a so-called "super affiliate," Morrison also is entitled to higher percentages on sales generated by the affiliate programs he is involved with and passes these higher percentages on to participants.

    I'm not an expert on Morrison's program and have never taken part in it, but, as we've said in previous posts, you don't need to participate in a high-priced program with an online guru to take advantage of affiliate marketing.

    Getting involved is simple:

    • Sign up. Pick one affiliate marketing program to get started. Brands ranging from Amazon to Sears offer a variety of programs and you can do some Web searches or check out the Websites of some of your favorite brands for other opportunities.
    • Read the guidelines. Carefully read the participation guidelines to be sure you are complying with all the rules connected with the program. You wouldn't want to be making money through an affiliate program and then lose out due to a minor infraction.
    • Create compelling content. Look! The hardest part of affiliate marketing is driving traffic to your affiliate links. Creating content is the best way to do this, but not just any content will do. Here are some thoughts from ProBlogger Darren Rowse with "11 Lessons I Learned Earning $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program."

    So, have you started using affiliate marketing on your blogs? Please tell us about it. Thanks!

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    Communicating Effectively with Your Blog Audience

    I like this recent post from freelance writer, Internet marketer, and life coach Sylviane Nuccio about "Why Valuable Content is Not Enough to Attract Huge Traffic to Your Blog."

    Blogging gurus often insist that good content is good enough to create a popular blog, but don't go deeply into what really constitutes good content.

    In her post, Sylviane sets out some specifics that anyone creating a blog at either the corporate level or for a small business or other purpose can use to communicate more effectively with an audience and thus attract increased traffic:

  • Be a leader. People tend to follow leaders in their niche, those who have been successful or can share insights from their own experience that go beyond the information everyone else is providing.
  • Offer food for thought. Challenge your readers, go into topics others may be afraid to tackle, offer your opinion and be different. All of these are simple ways to offer thought provoking posts.
  • Create great headlines. Sylviane suggests a headline that will attract your potential reader. This, of course, means someone interested in your niche. To take things a step further, however, I'd suggest blog titles are the best place to employ Search Engine Optimization while at the same time piquing reader interest.
  • Pick the right platform. Sylviane focuses on the comment platform here, but obviously there are other things to consider, like using the right blogging platform (WordPress is super popular but Blogger and TypePad are also effective.)
  • Promote others' content. Hey, that's what I'm doing right here! Become a person known for sharing content and you'll have others sharing your content too. Don't forget that, just like other kinds of social media, blogging is a conversation. Sharing is one way to get the conversation started.
  • Create some connections The other part of sharing others' content, of course, is that you will also be creating connections with other bloggers. As Sylviane rightly explains, this is not the same as making connections with customers, but these other bloggers are the sources of natural backlinks that can help build your audience.
  • Leave intelligent comments.What's an intelligent comment? The opposite of a dumb one, of course, explains Sylviane. We're talking about those comments that say nothing like "Great post!" and "I think you are making some good points here." Let me add that, in a nutshell, an intelligent comment should add something to the conversation, perhaps a new thought or a question that can be answered by others.
  • Finally, let me end this post in the same way that Sylviane ended hers. What do you think? What are some ways you'd suggest for communicating effectively with a blog audience? Please leave an "intelligent" comment below!

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Amazon Same-Day Delivery Boosts Online Business

    The best reason to get involved with affiliate marketing programs run by companies like online retail giant Amazon has always been simplicity.

    Your online business can focus strictly on driving traffic and encouraging sales without worrying about order fulfillment, inventory, returns, or any of the other inherent headaches coming from running a typical e-commerce business.

    But Amazon's recent decision to push same-day delivery on many items ordered through its online store, gives online businesses partnered with Amazon an even greater advantage. Here's why:

    Your small business has global reach. This has always been the case with the Amazon affiliate program, of course, but now it is arguably more so. Working from a laptop in your home office, you essentially have the resources of a global retail and distribution network helping you sell and ship products to your distinct audience, and with Amazon's same-day delivery roll-out, your business just got an upgrade.

    You can compete with local retailers. If your online business specializes in local content, you now have the opportunity to compete directly with local retailers in a whole new way. Your local audience now has a means to shop through you, saving time and money, with an almost limitless number of products comparable or beyond those offered by brick-and-mortar retailers in your region. Shoppers on your site no longer need to take the time to go to the local WalMart and will still get their order the same day.

    You can monetize almost any topic. One of the shortcomings of Google AdSense is that it can be more difficult to monetize some topics; but no more. From action figures to arts and crafts supplies, tube socks to Teletubbies, Amazon can help you monetize just about any Website topic and take advantage of a rising trend in online shopping which will only increase with same-day delivery.

    How can Amazon's new enhanced service improve your online business? We'd love to hear.

    Saturday, July 28, 2012

    Jenny Lawson,The Promotes Bestseller

    Columnist Jenny Lawson at The shows us how to leverage blogs and online communities to promote a bestseller. On her profile page, Lawson proclaims no one is as surprised as she to see her book Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) succeed so overwhelmingly, but neither she nor anyone else should be surprised in the least.

    Let's take a look at some of the tips we can take from Lawson's success:

    • Cats, cats, and more cats. Lawson never misses a chance to insert photos and stories about her feline friends (with adorable names like Ferris Mewler) as well as other information about her life into her blog. If you're not a cat person, that's OK. The important thing to remember is that writers from Michel de Montaigne to Hunter S. Thompson have provided glimpses into their personalities and passions in their work, a great way of establishing personal branding.
    • Be sure to keep things spicy. Lawson uses plenty language in her blog and proclaims the reason she launched it was the limits placed upon her in her column in the Houston Chronicle. Now, I'm not saying your posts need to be laced with profanity. What I am saying is that every blog needs a distinctive voice. Be sure to make your posts distinctive.
    • Use chat to grow your community. Jenny holds court regularly with her community via Livestream for the Bloggess Book Club, where she shares the drink of the day, her version of a Hawaiian Slush—chambord poured over a snow cone, dishes on her life, and reads passages from her book. Needless to say, the comment section of her blog is always overcrowded with feedback from her audience.

    Remember, just like any blog, a bestseller needs an audience. Using one to promote the other is a great strategy to consider always.

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Darren Rowse's Thoughts on Video

    When it comes to creating content for your blog or other Website, few people can claim more authority than Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, whose online community reputedly numbers in the tens of thousands. Rowse has written a book on his experiences and shares his expertise, including the below video, on the front of his Website.

    If you need to know more about why it's so important to get started with video on your Website just check out this post.

    Meanwhile, to review, here are some of the suggestions Rowse shares:

  • It's very, very simple. Rowse admits its he's not a technical guy and tries to keep his setup simple.
  • Use a tripod. Any tripod will do, as long as it's sturdy. He likes to use a tripod that at least reaches eye level, since he feels shooting that way gives videos a more personal feel.
  • Keep things on the level. He also uses a tripod with a gauge to make sure the camera is level.
  • Lights, camera, action. Rowse uses a Panasonic Lumix GF1 to shoot his video, which he says is good in low light levels and has a fast lens that blurs the background a bit, creating a less distracting image.
  • And more lights. Even more important than the camera you use is the lighting in which you choose to shoot your video. He uses the office located in the front of his house where there are large windows with shutters, allowing him to adjust the lighting to make it bright but diffuse.
  • Some added notes. Other video production tips Rowse offers include using a reflector to spread light across your subject more evenly and using a plain bright background when shooting.
  • Cut! Rowse says he uses iMovie, a Mac product, to make final edits on his video but that a number of inexpensive and easy to use options are out there with which online video producers can experiment.
  • Final touches. As a last step, Rowse uses an animated graphic custom made for him at the beginning and end of each video to give the final product a distinct look.
  • So, do you use video for your blog or other Website? If so, what tools and techniques would you recommend? Please share them in the comment section below.

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    Using Blogs to Market Your Band or Music

    A few months ago an old school friend of mine David Seyfried shared a link with me and some others to a new band he's involved in. The group goes by the intriguing name Puppet Hawk.

    A synth and electronic music duo inspired by such artists as The Smiths, Joy Division, and the Talking Heads, they produce an eccentric sound you can enjoy by having a look at one of their equally eccentric music videos below.

    Dave shared the group's Facebook fan page and Website with me because we played in a band together many years ago, and he shared these links with many other former musical collaborators too, I assume, in hope of drawing attention to his new project and probably with the expectation that we might share them with others.

    Dave isn't the first guy to have this bright idea, of course, in this age of social media, and he isn't likely be the last. Online music sensation Brad Turcotte, performing as the one man band Brad Sucks, has used such means to successfully promote two albums now and is still going strong. One of the most important starting points for musicians trying to promote themselves online should, of course, be to launch a blog. Blogs will help:

  • Increase online visibility. Because each post is a distinct page in the eyes of most search engines, it is practically like creating a new Website for your band every time you publish.
  • Help share regular news. There's no better place to announce news about your band's latest gig, latest album release, or latest video on YouTube, and updating regularly will give your fans one more reason to stop by your site to find out what's new.
  • Boost interaction with fans. Blogs give you another place to interact with fans in between live appearances and album releases and to get their feedback in the comments section. It's also a great opportunity for you to respond to questions and encourage your network to share your content with others through social media and links from fans' sites.
  • So tell me, does your band or other musical group have a blog of its own? Why or why not?

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    The Kim Dotcom Case and How to Create A Website

    For those of you living on another planet for the past few months, now infamous New Zealand-based Internet entrepreneur Kim Schmitz, alias Kim Dotcom, has been very much in the news of late.

    Kim Schmitz

    While some, including the great Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple computers, raise some legitimate questions about the charges against Mr. Dotcom, there is a very different lesson online entrepreneurs can learn from the case about how to create a Website successfully for your next business venture.

    On the Internet, content is still king! So when building your site, consider content first. Here are some things to think about:

  • Make it free. (at least to some extent) One of the real sources of trouble in the Kim Dotcom case is that huge legacy media content creators like Hollywood and the record industry still have no real means of monetizing the mammoth libraries of  material they possess beyond selling copies outright. Certainly, if your Website is a business, you will need to sell something, either someone else's products or services or your own, to make any money. But offering some free content must at least be part of your site development plan.
  • Make it good. Seriously! Again, if there's one thing the Kim Dotcom case has shown us, it's that people enjoy sharing the content they love, favorite songs, and favorite movies, not sales pitches and advertorial drivel. Now, I'm not telling you your content has to be a work of art...and I'm certainly not telling you to violate the rights of others by uploading stolen popular content just so that people will like your site. What I am telling you is to create content that matters to your audience, something they will want to share...without you asking. That's the key to creating a Website visitors will return to again and again.
  • Make it easy to share. Defenders of Dotcom insist he never encouraged others to share pirated content, but merely created a Website that made this sharing possible. What Dotcom did for all content through his controversial site, Megaupload, you must do for your own by making sure it is easy to share. Fortunately there is no need to create your own Website to accomplish this and there are many tools to help. Start a blog making your content easier to find on search engines and then to share with others through links and social media. Post your content on popular sites like Facebook and Twitter, giving others the opportunity to share it with their network of friends. You will most likely be surprised and inspired with the results.
  • Monday, July 9, 2012

    Make Your Online Business Message Irresistible

    Make the message for your online business irresistible! As in a cute kitty climbing "unexpectedly" up a newscaster's back during a live segment. This kind of blooper, whether real or staged, is guaranteed to gain at least some viral traction, spreading your message or brand faster than any straight forward announcement could.

    Here are some tips you might consider:
    • Concentrate on content. Focus not just on search engines but on the people who will be checking out your stuff. Creating content that people will share requires that the message grab them after they land on your site.
    • Cast your net wide. While you generally want to stick with your niche, irresistible content meant to spread your message to a new audience should be broad enough to appeal to people who aren't yet your fans.
    • Get tongues wagging. You've heard that the best marketing is word of mouth. It's the same with irresistible content. Your post should be the kind that makes people on Twitter and Facebook ask their friends and followers, have you seen this?
    • Tap your networks. My friend Hesham Zebida shared this post recently with his network, giving me a big bump in traffic my first week with a new blog. Don't underestimate how your connections can help.
    The video above was irresistible enough to make it onto a Yahoo! news page. What do you think? If you agree this content is viral enough to share, link to it or share it with your network and drop me a line here to tell me you've done so and why. I'm hoping to discuss the results in an upcoming post with a shout out to those who participated. Thanks!

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    10 Ways Blogging Helps Brand Your Business

    We all wear many hats when it comes to running our businesses, but perhaps the most important one for effective branding is that of blogger. Whether you plan to do your own blogging and social media or to outsource the task to a third party, make sure that articulating your brand is a chief consideration with every post you publish.

    There's another reason I mention hats when it comes to blogging for your business though.

    A few years ago, when I was still in the newspaper business full-time, I wore a trademark hat, usually an old fashioned stetson in gray, black or brown with thick band and even feathers, giving me the look of a real old-time reporter.

    Though I was known for my tenacity in investigative stories and, I like to think, for my balance and fairness too, the fact is that hat was a defining part of my persona, my personal brand, if you will.

    It opened doors for me by making me quickly recognizable, made it easier for sources and news makers to pick me out in a crowd, and gave me a real definable image in the community where people were used to seeing me regularly. As a result, people began to relate to me as the face of our local paper.

    As silly as it seems, blogs can have a similar impact on visitors who do not know you, have never met you before, and have no knowledge of your product or service.

    Here are 10 ways blogging will help brand your business in a way that helps you stand out and be noticed:
    1. Spreading the word. Possibly the best reason to have a blog, at least in the short-run, is that it allows you to spread the word about your business, sharing news and information about your products and services.
    2. Boosting visibility. Blogging can increase the visibility of your brand on the Internet, particularly through Search Engine Optimization, a way of making your Website more attractive to the major search engines like Google and Bing.
    3. Establishing authority. Using your blog to establish your expertise in your industry will further define your brand, raising you above competitors.
    4. Building reputation. Your blog will help you build a reputation as a thought leader, preventing you from being considered a mere commodity.
    5. Adding differentiation. Blogs can also help set you apart in your market, not only by helping you build reputation but by establishing a style or brand that makes you instantly recognizable.
    6. Defining mission. Blogs tell prospective customers or clients not only what you do, but why and how you do it, critical for decision makers when choosing with whom they want to do business.
    7. Shaping opinion. Your blog should tell others not only about the work you, do but why it is important and why they should care, showing your passion for your product or service and spreading that enthusiasm to others.
    8. Opening doors. Your blog will introduce you to those who share your interests and passions, either as future customers/clients or as possible referral generators.
    9. Attraction marketing. Blogs make it easier to teach customers about your product or service and how it will benefit them through free content and examples.
    10. Building following. Over time, blogs can help create a community of those who value both you and your product or service, and who will be more likely to buy from you, hire you, or recommend you to friends and business associates.
    Now that you've heard more about the benefits of having a blog, when are you planning to get started? The tools are freely available and the benefits are huge, so start thinking about creating a blog for your business today!

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    Is Your Blog A Marble Mocha Macchiato?

    Does your blogging seem just like an average cup of joe, solid, dependable, but without the oomph you feel your readers demand?

    Well, you can turn that ordinary cup of coffee into a gourmet creation (uh, we're still talking about a blog here!) with just a few simple tricks from the blogging barista. Here goes!

    Two kinds of chocolate. Yes, count 'em--two! Two kinds of mocha syrup, dark and white, make this delightful drink special. Each of your blog posts needs something equally unique to appeal to readers. An interesting or provocative title, an original perspective, or an unusual way of telling your story--these are ways to give your posts that something special.

    Steamed Milk. This provides the real body of the drink, especially here in the US, where, despite the beverage's name meaning "marked" with milk, a generous amount is used. Your blog post needs the same full body of information and ideas to give readers value, not just sugary sweetness. Pour in a generous amount of insight and experience, then spoon on some bubbly foam—anecdotes and examples—to drive your point home.

    Espresso. With a sharp, bold, full-bodied flavor, a perfectly pulled shot of espresso produces the counter punch, the balance to the sugary sweetness of this delicious concoction. Your blog post needs that balance too. Give your writing a little edge. Attack sacred cows in your industry. Don't be afraid to say the emperor has no clothes! Have you figured out that a standard practice in your niche doesn't work? Don't be afraid to say so.

    So, how about you? Are you serving up the same ol' same ol' for visitors to your online café? Then try serving up a tempting new mixture more enticing then your ordinary cup of joe. Add a special touch to your blog posts that makes them unique and more valuable to your customers. Take a tip from the blogging barista and make your blog a marble mocha macchiato instead.

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    10 Attraction Marketing Tips When Blogging

    Wikipedia defines attraction marketing as "marketing techniques specifically designed to teach the customer what you are doing and how a service or product will benefit them well before they purchase it."

    But when blogging for your business, how can you make your product, service, or brand attractive to potential customers? And how can you create content that will generate referrals for your business and that will bring qualified leads to your site?

    Here are 10 tips you can use to incorporate attraction marketing into your business blogging efforts:

    1. Offer something free. This could be something as simple as the free and informative copy in your blog articles, or could include other free content like informative or entertaining videos, free apps, e-books, or other downloads. Your blog allows you to update constantly, so you'll want to keep the free offers coming, encouraging readers to always return for more.
    2. Define a problem and a solution. Most important in the concept of attraction marketing is showing customers the benefit of the product or service you offer. Blogs can be an excellent way to do this. What are some problems your product or service is designed to address? Publish a few posts about how your brand solves them.
    3. Talk about your product or service. Tell readers about your product, how it can help them solve a problem, and why you created it in the first place. While focusing on solving a need for your customer is always a great way to get their attention, rounding out your company by explaining your product or service and how your company works is a way to establish a brand they will remember.
    4. Create content for your customers. Yes, content is still king, but, of course, it must be the right content for the customers you are trying to win. You wouldn't put blog posts about vintage muscle cars on a blog for your motor cycle repair shop or articles about cat grooming on a site advertising custom dog toys. Be sure to stick to the subject and reach out to the audience interested in your products or services.
    5. Remember, you're in show business. Your posts must be entertaining and something that readers look forward to each day, not pages that drone on endlessly about you and your brand (and how great you both are.) Sure, you'll want to pay attention to point number 4 above. Be sure that your content attracts the right audience, people who are either potential customers for your product or service or those who will create referrals for you. But targeted content still doesn't give you a license to be boring.
    6. Help someone with something they need. One great way to get your audience's attention is to help out with something they need. Are you an accountant? Can you explain the new tax code in language anyone can understand? Do you sell electronics? Can you show someone how to use their new digital camera or give tips on the best video camera on the market?
    7. Find a niche/need no one else can fill. It will always be easier to show customers how your product or service can help them if you find a unique and elegant solution to a problem everyone has--like the need to market effectively online. Can you show people a unique solution to their problem, one no one else can easily provide? Great! Build this into your business blogging efforts.
    8. Explain things step by step. Don't just tell people what you are going to do. Tell them how you are going to do it. Don't be afraid they will steal your solution without hiring you. They are paying for your expertise, not just an idea about how to address their problem. Explaining how you will solve their problem or, in another case, how your newest product really works, will add to a customer's perception of the value you provide.
    9. Tell a compelling story. Back to the importance of entertainment in effective blogging, your blog posts should NOT be about a boring list of features or a complicated pricing breakdown (though certainly demonstrating the value of your product or service should be a part of the story you tell.) Instead, focus on the narrative of solving problems and providing solutions. Your posts should be about changing the lives of your customers, not about a dusty old list of benefits. Blogging is the perfect format for telling this story.
    10. Forge a connection with visitors. Your readers shouldn't be people who simply stop by and then move on to the next available page with content. They should be people you establish a relationship with and get to know personally. Knowing what they expect through comments and other interactions will help you understand what they want and need and allow you to tailor your products and services accordingly.

    How would you use blogging for effective attraction marketing? How can it help your customers get to know your product, service, or brand better? Leave your comments below. We'd love to hear from you.