Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Author: Jim Connolly (page 139 of 176)

So, you want more blog readers?

I wrote a very popular post recently, about getting more blog comments.  This post is all about how to get more blog readers and it starts with a question:

“Have you noticed how some blogs and websites are really difficult to read for any period of time?”

You know the blogs I mean, right?  The blogs where you find yourself just skimming the content because after a glance of the page layout, you just don’t feel like reading the whole thing?  If you want to attract more blog readers and increase reader engagement on your blog, you need to make reading your posts a comfortable experience.  Otherwise, people will just skim your content and miss what you have to say.

There are already millions of posts that explain how to get more readers via SEO / social media etc.  This post offers you some easy, yet super-effective ways to massively improve the readability of your blog and by extension, it’s reach, impact and readership.

So, let’s go!

Column width

There’s a lot of research, including my own, which suggests that once the width of a content column (that’s the part of the blog you are reading now) goes beyond a certain limit, it becomes less and less readable.

Although some have said that the maximum width should be just 65 characters (including spaces) I have found that there’s almost no difference until you go past 85/90 characters.  I did a test a while ago, where I increased the width of the content area on one of my blogs to 100 characters and had to stop after just a week, because of the massive drop in every reader-based metric!  I saw a huge drop in the average number of pages per reader, fewer comments and a drop in the number of times a post was shared.

So, if your current blog layout goes beyond 95 characters – consider reducing it.

BTW: The content area here is 502 pixels wide and I use a 15px Arial font, which equals a limit of around 85 characters.

Fonts

If you want people to be able to comfortably read your blog content, they need to be able to see what you’ve written without squinting!  Many blogs use very small font sizes and as such, are way too hard to read on normal monitors and almost impossible to read, on smaller laptops and netbooks etc.

I use a 15px font size here, similar to that used by many other marketing and social media bloggers.  You may want to use something a  little smaller, but I strongly advise you not to go too small.

Black and white? Not quite!

Most new blogs use black text on a white background.  Although black text on a white background REALLY stands out, it can be harsh on the eyes; especially tired eyes!  That’s why it’s a really good idea to use a dark grey font on a white background, as used on many popular sites, like; The BBC, Seth Godin’s blog, Problogger and many other leading sites.

On this blog, I use the same shade of grey as The BBC, which is #464646.

Don’t let Bob or Mary screw up your blog

Whenever you make changes to the layout of your blog or website, you will get feedback from people, like Bob and Mary.  Bob’s a great guy and has a passion for blogs with really wide content columns and super-small fonts.  Mary’s also a wonderful warm human being, who loves those blogs that have jet black text on snow white backgrounds.  They are both entitled to their opinions, but you must not change the basics of your blog design based on what Bob or Mary might prefer.

The vocal minority will often unintentionally lead you to make piss-poor decisions about the look and feel of your blog.  As bloggers, we need to be a lot smarter than that.  We need to look at the facts – The metrics we can measure.  If after making a change, you notice; greater engagement, more comments, more people sharing your content, an increase in the number of pages the typical reader reads – then you are on track.  Even if Bob or Mary’s intentions were good, they were simply expressing their unique preferences.

Listen to all your readers, not just the vocal minority!

Some advice on making these changes

If you are like me and know nothing about HTML or CSS coding, it can be an expensive pain in the rear, to have to make changes to the layout of your blog.

This is why I recommend you consider doing what I did, and start using the Headway wordpress theme; which will allow you to make changes to your blog, without learning how to code.  Headway (affiliate link) lets you make the kind of changes mentioned here, in seconds.  In fact, I built this blog from scratch, with zero need for expert help, using Headway.  It’s given me total control over the blog and saved me a fortune.  It’s also the ONLY product I have ever endorsed here!

Summary

Ultimately the decision regarding the look and feel of your blog, is down to you.  However, there’s an old saying in business, which assures us that; “success leaves clues.”  There’s a reason why so many of the world’s most respected and popular blogs do things in a certain way.  They have already done the testing and measuring.  Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to the readability element of your blog, it’s a wise move to make the experience as good as possible for your readers.

I’d like to know what additional tips you have, for making content more readable.  Equally, do you have any experience of changing any of the elements mentioned in this post?

Let us know what you think!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Image: TEIA MG

Here’s a glimpse into YOUR future!


Would you like to know what your commercial future looks like?

Let me show you!

Just as your past actions have created the commercial success you are enjoying (or otherwise) today, the actions you are taking today are what will determine your results over the coming months / years.  Cause and effect.

If you are repeating the same approach to developing your business today, as you have done in the past, then your future will be “about the same” as it is now.  Yes, there will be highs and lows, but these will be within the same ballpark as your current ones.  Never much better, never much worse.

Of course, if you are working smarter today than you were last month or last year, then your future will be brighter.  The highs will be higher – maybe MUCH higher, and the lows will be less frequent and not quite so low either.

The great news is that we can change our future and improve it beyond all recognition, by making better, more informed decisions today and taking action.

True; we can’t instantly achieve massive commercial success.

You know what though?

We CAN instantly set a new course, which will take us there!

Isn’t that fantastic?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Vestman

Quick tip: Know your outcome!

I wrote recently about how people often look for the right answers to the wrong questions, so the best they can hope for, is to discover how to do the wrong things, correctly.  Here’s a quick tip, if you want to avoid the cost and frustration of this happening to you!

Know your outcome

In order to start getting the right answers to the right questions, you need to get back to basics and ask yourself what ULTIMATELY is it that you want to achieve – Your outcome.

For example: A guy recently asked me how to improve the results of his paper company’s telemarketing team.  That was the wrong question, because it’s not the outcome he wanted to achieve.  What he ACTUALLY needed to know, was how to cost-effectively increase the quality and volume of sales into his company.  I explained this to him and was able to show him how to cut his overhead by more than £50,000 a year and increase his sales at the same time – sending his profits into the stratosphere!  Had I simply answered his question, he would have seen a smaller increase in sales and far smaller profits!

Take a moment to consider the outcomes you want to achieve for your business and see if you are focusing on the right questions and answers, for what YOU want to ultimately achieve.

Do you set time aside to ask questions that ensure you are on track?  What kind of questions do you find useful?  Let us know!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Marco Bellucci

http://jimsmarketingblog.com/2010/04/26/the-right-answers-to-the-wrong-questions/

Do you give too much away for free? Read this!

As a marketing coach, I get asked that question all the time.  In order to answer it for you, we need to split the kind of expert or specialist advice you can offer, into one of the two following categories:

General advice – Which is designed to address common questions or challenges.  For example; “Are mail shots as effective as they used to be?”

Specific advice – Which is designed to address someone’s particular situation.  For example; “I have a 3 partner law firm and need to attract more local, commercial clients.  What should we invest our marketing budget on?”

Giving general advice away for free

This is what I do, here on the blog.  In my case, I write about general areas of marketing and business development, which I hope will be of value and interest to as many small to medium-sized business owners as possible.  Giving general advice in this way, is known as content marketing.  This gives  prospective clients a chance to see my approach to marketing and to get to know me a little.  It also helps me reach more people with my work, as many of the people who find something they find really useful here, share it with their friends and social networks.  It works for my readers and it works for me.

However, before you decide to become a distributor of free information, you need to factor in the cost of writing and delivering it to your marketplace.  I spend a huge amount of my time on this blog and have paid out on things like server hire, programmers and designers.  The information on sites like this is only free for the reader, not the provider; so consider the time and financial costs before you proceed – BUT DO PROCEED!

I highly recommend offering general advice for free, as a content marketing tool.  This blog and it’s Twitter account, has generated the majority of my fee income over the past 12 months and massively increased my name awareness within my target market.

Giving specific advice away for free

This is a lot trickier, because of the enormous amount of risk attached.  So, although giving specific advice to people on their unique problems can be a way to generate new clients, you need to be cautious before adopting it as a business development option.

Let’s look at it from a time management perspective.  You only have so many hours in a day and it can be enormously time consuming to plough through all the details of someone’s problems, in order to give them the answers and instruction they need.

For example: In a quarter of the time it takes me to give free, specific advice to just 1 person, I can write a blog post, which will be seen by thousands of people that day!

Also, let us not forget those freebie hunters out there, who will never spend a penny on your professional help and simply leech free information from you, posing as a prospective client.

The bottom line

If you run a busy enterprise and you value your time, the best way to market your services via free advice, is to focus on helping as many people as possible; as I do here.  Yes, if someone contacts you with a specific problem and you believe that by showing them a little of what you can do, that they will pay you to provide the help they need – do it!

However, we can’t expect the marketplace to place a monetary value on our expertise or time, if we don’t!

What have your experience been, either of offering the kind of global help I provide here or on people looking for freebies from you?  Share your experiences with your fellow readers and myself, with a comment.

Photo: Ell Brown

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Marketing tip: Use a wider marketing mix!

How well do you prepare for unexpected, potential business problems?

Some people are great.  They cover all the bases and sleep well at night.  Others are not so good; like the trainer I heard of, who had 30 people in a conference venue waiting for his seminar, only to find that his laptop was broken.  He failed to take a second copy of his presentation, to use on a replacement laptop.  The event was cancelled.

A USB thumb-drive with a copy of his seminar presentation would have cost him pennies and saved him thousands in refunds.

From a marketing perspective, I’m always amazed that so many business owners rely too heavily on a single, major source of new business, leaving them exposed and unprepared, if that source stops delivering.

I remember speaking with the owner of a printing business, who attracted most of his sales leads from a networking group he attended.  Although it worked for him, others in the group saw little in the way of results, so the group folded.  Overnight, he lost his primary source of new business.  His income dropped like a stone and he ended up having to let some staff go, because he literally couldn’t make payroll.  It took him almost 18 months to get back to where he had been, before the collapse of the group!

Your marketing strategy needs the right mix

As I have said many times, one of the secrets to a successful business, is to have a number of effective marketing processes working for you all the time, to form a marketing strategy.  The most successful businesses I know, use 8 or more different forms of marketing at any one time (often more.)  This broader approach to marketing provides 2 massive benefits:

  1. It means the business is never over dependent on any single source of sales or enquiries.  This makes your business far more robust and better prepared.
  2. A number of effective marketing processes working together, creates something called compound marketing leverage.  Like compound interest, compound leverage gives you a disproportionately large increase in sales; because the sum of the parts is greater than the total of their individual values.

If you are over dependent on a small number of marketing activities, the time to develop a broader, more robust and reliable marketing mix is now!

So, how many different forms of marketing are you using right now?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Basykes

The right answers to the wrong questions?

One of the problems with people who use a DIY approach to marketing, is that they often waste time and money, looking for answers to the wrong questions.  As a result, the very best they can then hope for, is that they learn how to do the wrong thing, correctly.

I was prompted to write this, after hearing someone talking earlier about the problems they have, because of the URL they are using for their website.  It is hard to spell and apparently, even the site owner’s friends often misspell it.  The URL also has no SEO benefit, as it does not contain anything that a potential customer would associate with the actual products offered by the site.

One of the reasons this blog is on page 1 of Google (and has been for a year) for the term “marketing blog” or “marketing blogs” is that the words marketing blog appear in my URL.  As a result, almost 100% of the 20,000 links that point here, have anchor text that tell Google this site is related to the term marketing blog.

The site I mentioned earlier is pretty new, has just a handful of links pointing to it and apparently, it gets very little traffic.  So, the solution to the guys URL issue is simply to get a more people-friendly and seo friendly URL – and THEN to market the site effectively.  However, the site’s owner was focusing on how to overcome all the problems with the existing URL.  In other words, he was looking for answers to the wrong question.

This is easily the single most common marketing problem I see among business owners and entrepreneurs.  To quantify that, I would guess that well over 95% of the marketing questions people ask me, fit into this category.

Of course, the reason this is such a widespread problem, is that the people who are right now wasting their time and money looking for answers to the wrong questions, are totally unaware.  They will think that I wrote this post for someone else.

I produce a great deal of free marketing material, in an effort to help as many people as possible.  As someone who’s passionate about helping people, this conundrum is perhaps my biggest frustration.

Is there an equivalent frustration in your industry or profession or am I alone here?

Photo: Horia Varlan

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Lucky me?

I live in a small village, in an area known for its natural beauty.  We occasionally have people walk past our home, who are on their holidays.  They see the open fields, the winding canal and the streams that snake their way through the village, and occasionally tell me;
“You’re very lucky to live in such a beautiful place.”

Lucky?

As with most things in life, luck had nothing to do with where I live.  In order to move from London, where many of my friends were and where 100% of my clients were based, required a huge amount of planning, financial investment and hard work.  I had to totally redesign my business model and leave the city, where I grew up and had lived almost all of my life.

Planning and action

As a marketing professional, I see people every day, who are hoping that they will get lucky one day and suddenly attract the income and lifestyle from their business that they have always wanted.  Their marketing is ineffective, their sales are disappointing and yet they decide to carry on by themselves, so nothing changes.  Sure, they work really hard, but hard work is not the secret of success; if it were our grandparents would all have been millionaires!  We have to be smarter than that.

If you know someone, who is working hard but not getting the results they want from their business, tell them not to wait for things to “just get better.”  In my experience, the world doesn’t work like that.  Every successful business and person I have ever studied, achieved their success through careful planning and taking action to make those plans real.

When we do the right things correctly, it’s amazing how our luck changes!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Welcome back Danny Brown!

Like many people, I was overjoyed this week to read that my friend Danny Brown is back to business, after his recent health challenge.  You can read about it here on Danny’s blog.

If you have not previously heard of Danny Brown and wonder why so many people have been talking about his return this week, this might help.  It’s a post I wrote last November, recommending his blog and explaining why it’s a must read, for myself and many others.

I appreciate this is not the typical kind of post you expect to see here, but I really wanted to share this great news with you!

If you are interested in; PR, social media, fund raising or marketing, I also recommend you join Danny on Twitter, via @DannyBrown.

Have a great weekend!

Older posts Newer posts