Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Blogging (page 7 of 39)

Content Marketing: Get better results, by removing these 3 words

In my opinion, there’s no real need to insert the first 3 words of this sentence into your newsletter, blog or social networking update. What you write is, by default, your opinion.

in my opinion

Here’s why I want you to reconsider using those words in your marketing messages, unless you legally have to.

Hands up time!

The reason I am sharing this with you, is that I just caught myself writing the words ‘in my opinion’, in a blog post I am working on. It immediately dawned on me, how totally redundant those words are.

Moreover, they would have significantly diluted my message – just as they can dilute your marketing messages.

Why do we feel the need to say in my opinion, when we state our opinion?

I asked myself that question and here’s what I came up with: I think it’s a way to make a point, which is harder for others to attack. If I start a statement saying in my opinion, I have distanced myself from stating it as a fact.

For example:

  • If I say the new XYZ book is terrible, I am stating what I believe to be true. The book is terrible. Period.
  • If I say that in my opinion, the new XYZ book is terrible, I’m stating that it’s possibly a great book, but I thought it was terrible.

Of course, in both those examples I am giving my opinion. The thing is, that first statement sounds so much stronger. It tells you exactly what I believe. The second statement comes with a qualification, in case you disagree. Even though, as I said a moment ago, in both cases I am giving you my opinion.

The next time you find yourself about to dilute your message or soften a statement, by saying in my opinion, think whether you really need to use those three words or not.

A word of caution

As my friend Danny Brown said earlier, there are legal reasons why you may need to put a qualifying comment before a statement. Telling people that food at the XYZ restaurant is low grade dog food, without stating it as your opinion, could land you in trouble in some parts of the world.

Make your marketing messages stronger

However, if you are a social media marketing expert and want to tell us that randomly following people on Twitter is a waste of time, there’s no need for you to say, in my opinion randomly following people is a waste of time. We know it’s your opinion, without you telling us.

If you can make your point without those 3 words, you get to express what you believe to your readers at a deeper, more intimate and maybe more honest level. This is especially useful for those of you seeking to position yourself as a leader or authority in your field.

Comment Liberation

Comment liberation

As long time readers will know, this blog has had a serious comment spam problem for some time. Today, I believe I have the best possible solution: Comment liberation.

I currently  attract around 3,000 automated spam comments every day, trying to bypass the various filters I have in place. I also get human generated spam, from people who manage to bypass the filters and need to be manually moderated. It takes a lot of time dealing with the spam problem and also the knock-on problems caused by the spammers.

The comment moderation time suck

I thought I had found a solution, but the solution itself has caused just as big a time suck as the original problem. The various filters I have applied to the blog to catch the spammers also catches legitimate comments and stops people every day from leaving comments. I then get emails from them asking where their comment is and have to get into the software, fish their comment out, add their ip address to a safe list, then publish their comment.

I looked at other commenting systems and each does some of what I need but none do everything. However, all of them offered an option for comments from social networks to be pulled into the blog.

This got me thinking

I then had a bit of an epiphany. I found myself asking better questions:

Why do I actually need to monopolize comments here on the blog? Surely it would make more sense to liberate comments, so people could make them wherever they want, without me moderating anything?

Even if I had zero issue with spam comments and trackback spam, I’m not sure it makes sense (for me) to hog the comments here on my blog.

Yes, hosting comments on a blog is a good idea and has a number of advantages for most bloggers. Here are just a few:

  • It generates more page impressions to their site, as those who comment or follow the discussion on their blog keep returning to comment or check for new comments.
  • It could help with SEO, as new comments may count as ‘frequently updated content’, something Google rewards.
  • If the blogger doesn’t publicly publish their email address or they get very few email comments, it’s a useful way for them to get feedback from a subset of their readers.

None of those apply to me:

  • I don’t need page impressions, as I have no advertisers to keep happy.
  • I don’t SEO the site beyond the absolute basics. I write it exclusively for humans and not robots.
  • I talk to readers about my posts daily on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.
  • I publish my email address publicly and get feedback all day every day from readers (which I love).

Social networks have given everyone a voice

I connect every day with readers on social networks, something that wasn’t possible when I started blogging. Every reader now has an account with at least one social network, giving them a voice and a community to say what THEY think about what they read.

All this for less than 7% of the feedback I receive

It’s insane that I currently spend almost as much time dealing with comment spam and the issues it creates, as I spend writing blog posts! All this aggravation makes so little sense, when you consider that published comments on average, make up around 7% of my entire daily feedback from the blog.

Comment liberation

So, as from this post, I will be closing the comments here and opening up the conversation, by passing it over to you, to talk about wherever you wish. Social networks and email is, after all, where most of the conversation around my work has been for the past 18 months, anyway.

If you want to chat with me away from the gaze of your social network, you are very welcome to email me. My email address, jimconnollymarketing@gmail.com is on every page of this blog. My full address and phone number are listed here.

Not for everyone

Not only is my approach not right for every blogger, I think it’s the wrong approach for the vast majority of bloggers. For example:

  • If your business model needs the additional page impressions that come from comments, this is not for you.
  • If you prefer to have the conversation hosted on your property, this is not for you.
  • If you write just a couple of times a week or less and have lots of time to moderate comments, this is not for you.
  • If you are just getting established and need the social proof, which lots of comments can provide, this is not for you.
  • If you don’t get regular emails from readers and need comments as a way to see what people think about your posts, then this is not for you either.

However, I truly believe this is the best way for me to provide you with as much value as possible. As you would expect, I will look at the situation over the coming weeks and let you know what my experience has been.

Clearly, if I find I have made a mistake, which is possible, I will try another solution.

Be irresistible to prospective clients in just 3 steps

irresistible, attract clients

If you want clients and prospective clients to think of you as the go-to person, for whatever service you provide, I believe you’ll find this post really useful. It’s based around 3 steps you can take, which will change the way people think and feel about you, so you become their irresistible choice.

What is a go-to person?

Firstly, I’d like to confirm what I am referring to when I use the term, go-to person. I’m talking specifically about those valued people in business, who we immediately think of when we have a need, related to their area of expertise.

When someone thinks of you as their go-to person for a particular need, they go direct to you.

  • They don’t ask a friend for a recommendation.
  • They don’t poll their friends on Facebook.
  • They don’t take their need to a search engine.
  • YOU get the call!

Clearly, the commercial value of being the go-to person for your marketplace is huge. Not only will you retain your existing clients for longer, you will also attract more inquiries from prospective clients.

To earn this valuable position, we need to focus on 3 core areas.

go-to guy, go to person

1. Demonstrate that you know your subject

A newsletter or blog is a great way to achieve this. By sharing useful ideas and information, people come to think of you as a valuable resource.

This is why it’s so important to avoid the common mistake, of only offering diluted information to your readers. If you hold back the good stuff, the really useful ideas, you will cause your readers to assume that shallow information is all you know!

Give away as much value, freely, as possible. Now, at this point some of you will be concerned, that if you give lots of valuable information away for free, people won’t bother hiring you. That is actually the exact opposite of how it works.

Here’s what really happens, when you offer extremely useful information for free in your newsletter or blog posts:

  • Some people will use your free ideas, with no intention of hiring you. As they were never going to hire you anyway, you lose nothing.
  • Some people will use your free ideas and get part of the way, then realise they need your expert help. These people will call you. Had you not given so much free information away, you’d never have positioned yourself as their go-to person.
  • Some people will see the value of what you do, then figure out very fast that it’s far better to hire you to do it for them.

It works. People in that 2nd and 3rd group make up almost all of my non-referred clients!

2. Demonstrate that you are approachable

If we want people to get in touch with us, we need to be as approachable as possible to them. This means taking every opportunity to demonstrate that we are friendly and professional.

Unbelievably, many business owners are cranky or confrontational, even when they are sharing their thoughts online, for the world to see. This is, of course, their prerogative. However, there is a price to pay for being cranky or confrontational. It makes us far less approachable. If we want people to feel comfortable approaching us, we need to be approachable. We need to show humility. We need to remove any barriers.

3. Demonstrate your reliability

Again, publishing a newsletter or blog posts is a great way to demonstrate your reliability. Of course, this is only the case if you have reliably published content over a reasonable period of time. If you write a newsletter or blog and the last thing you published was several months ago, it works directly against you. Instead of demonstrating your reliability and stick-ability, you do the opposite.

If you have been in business for a long time, let people know. When a prospective client reads my about page, they can see that I set this marketing business up in 1995 and that I have worked in marketing all my adult life. That, along with almost 6 years worth of publishing ideas via Jim’s Marketing Blog, offers those thinking of hiring me a huge confidence boost. You should do the same for your prospective clients and customers too.

IMPORTANT: Drawing a line

It’s important at this point, to make a very clear distinction between positioning yourself as the go-to person and positioning yourself as the freebie person.

Yes, it’s a privilege to be regarded by our family and friends as a person they know they can rely on for whatever they need. However, in business, we need to draw a line between what we are prepared to do for free and what we will offer as a paid service. Otherwise, we are likely to become a magnet for freebie hunters. Freebie hunters are people who abuse the nature of others, with selfish demands for free goods and services.

For example, I occasionally get emails from people, asking me to do unpaid work for them. These range from things that would take me a few hours, to tasks that would take me a week.

It’s worth mentioning that many of my clients started off as readers, yet none, not one, of my clients came to me after asking for freebies.

How to get the balance right: The one-to-many approach

There best way to offer free information, which is scalable and sustainable, is to adopt the same approach I use here. I call it the one-to-many approach.

Here’s how I do it: All the free work I do for people is offered via Jim’s Marketing Blog and the email version of the blog. I call it the one-to-many approach, because I create one piece of work and it benefits many people.

Offering one-to-one work for free, simply does not scale. It makes no sense for me to give an hour of my time to 1 selfish person, when I can use that same hour to write something, which will benefit thousands of people.

Finally

For some business owners and consultants, there is a huge mindset change required, to adopt the idea of freely sharing, valuable content. However, for those who embrace the idea, the rewards are huge. It’s the primary marketing model I have used for years and is the most powerful form of marketing I have ever seen. I can’t recommend it highly enough to you.

Bloggers: Social search and the freedom to focus on quality

Social search is changing the game for business owners who blog and create content. Thankfully, it’s changing things in our favour and that’s what today’s post is all about.

Even the best search engine is flawed

Whilst regarded by many as the best search engine available, even Google search is extremely easy to fool and still often rewards frequently updated content, over high quality content. As a result, people like myself who find it easy to write regularly, and those who use super-smart SEO to game Google, often outrank far better writers.

The answer is here… well, almost!

Thankfully, traditional search is becoming less and less relevant, as social search, (recommendations from our social networks), soar. I can either go to Google or Bing and search for what a machine ‘thinks’ is a great article about marketing – or I can see what my friends, the people I know and trust, recommend.

Google themselves really get social search and have spent hundreds of millions of dollars (maybe more) on the development of their own social network. Whilst the Google team do not call Google+ a social network, it’s a place where you can network and share ideas with like-minded people. I connect there with almost 20,000 people and it certainly feels like a social network – a darn good one, too! You can join me on Google+ here.

Social recommendations from people you trust

Even if your prospective customers are not asking their networks for recommendations, it has never been easier for them to find what their friends recommend.

With the advent of Facebook’s social graph, you will soon be able to get that information extremely quickly. Twitter search and Google+ search are already there and make it simple to see what your friends recommend. The image below is a screen shot of what I saw, when I did a Google+ search, to see what business books were being recommended by people I know.

I trust this far more than a search result, which could well have been gamed.

social search

 

Freedom to focus on quality

I believe that those who have been put off blogging, because they either lacked the inclination to publish regularly or the time / money to get their SEO ‘right’, should reconsider.

I suggest they change their approach, so that they focus on publishing useful blog posts, when they have something useful to share – then share it on their social networks. If they are writing something of value, their friends will share it with their friends and a subset of THEIR friends will share it…

Ironically, if enough of their friends link to it and share it, it may also do well in search engines. This is especially the case if you use basic SEO (and you should).

For WordPress bloggers, I recommend Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. It gives you the freedom to write exclusively for humans, whilst making your work visible by getting the basics right.

Google doesn’t own your voice!

Google is just a company, a huge and influential company, but just a company. Don’t give them too much control over what you have to say. You own your voice – not Google.

  • Tell us who you are and what you know.
  • Tell us how you can help.
  • Answer our most pressing questions.
  • Become a valued online resource.

The search engines may or may not ‘rank’ all that value. However, people will and it’s people who hire you and buy from you. It’s the model I have used here for almost 6 years and it works extremely well.

PicMonkey: Highly recommended

Today, I want to recommend a wonderful, free resource to you. I’m talking about (drum roll please) the PicMonkey app!

picmonkey review, picmonkey image

PicMonkey and me

In short, PicMonkey is a web based app you can use for free, to edit photos and create designs. However, that brief description does not do the app justice. Not even close.

PicMonkey has become an invaluable resource for my blogs and websites. Just to qualify that, since last winter, almost all the graphics you see on this blog were either created or edited using PicMonkey.

From Photoshop to PicMonkey

Previously, I used Adobe Photoshop to compress images, resize images, fix images and place text on images. Photoshop is one of the best pieces of software out there and has an almost endless number of great, professional features. However, for someone like me, who just needed to quickly make images for blog posts, using Photoshop was like using a Formula 1 car to go to the shops.

Picmonkey image

With PicMonkey, I can do everything I need in a fraction of the time. Also, because it’s web based, there’s no need to install (or buy) software for all my devices. I just visit the site and am working in seconds. This also means that it works fine on Windows, Mac and Linux.

How free is PicMonkey?

Some products offer a free version, which is either time-limited or so scaled down as to be of little real value. With PicMonkey, the majority of the features are available free of charge.

In many cases, people will upgrade, not because they need the premium features, but because they want to show their support for what is a superb service. I use it daily and have not found anything I have needed to do, which required a premium account.

picmonkey image

I can not recommend this amazing app highly enough. It’s fast, easy to use and a superb productivity tool. Give PicMonkey a try.

If you are a blogger, or want to make images for Facebook, Google+ etc, it could be just what you’re looking for.

If you want lots more tips and ideas like this, click here and get future posts delivered to your inbox!

WordPress botnet attack: Improve your security

If you have a WordPress blog or website, it’s important that you improve your security, as soon as possible. This post explains why and offers some tips to make your WordPress site safer and gives you links to 2 free security tools you can use.

WordPress botnet attack

Wordpress botnet, username password, distributed attack

Hosting companies worldwide are reporting a surge in attacks on WordPress sites right now. It was reported yesterday that a botnet, with an estimated 90,000 servers (and growing), is trying to log into WordPress sites by cycling different usernames and passwords.

Ars Technica reported today, that this ‘huge attack’ could create a botnet like we have never seen before. My security provider, Sucuri, (affiliate link) says the number of attacks has increased by almost 300% in just a few weeks.

(UPDATE) This free online tool from Sucuri, will check if your blog has been attacked. It also shows you if you’re using the latest version of WordPress and if your site has been blacklisted. You will see your results in seconds. Simply enter the address of your blog.

WordPress botnet: What to do

As this attack seems to use brute force to cycle through usernames and passwords, I suggest you beef up your log in security, by adding a WordPress plugin. This will block anyone from accessing your site if they attempt more than a certain number of failed log ins. The plugin I use is called Limit Login Attempts and is available for free, from The WordPress Repository.

By default, WordPress allows people unlimited log in attempts. This means botnets can target your website / blog with hundreds or thousands of different user name and password combinations. By limiting log in attempts to just a handful, you make it significantly harder for this type of attack to happen. (Update) Whilst this may help and is a good idea against general attacks, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg has suggested that ‘log in throttling’ plugins may not be of much help with this specific attack.

Change your WordPress username from admin

I also suggest you change your WordPress user name from ‘admin’. Admin is the default WordPress user name and sites using it are massively easier to break into, because only the password needs to be hacked.

If you’re not sure how to change your WordPress username, there is a step by step guide here. You can also go to YouTube and search for: ‘Change WordPress username’. There are lots of videos showing exactly what you need to do. It’s very simple, takes just a little time and improves your security significantly.

Update your WordPress software and plugins

It’s important to make sure you’re running the most recent version of WordPress. New versions of WordPress often contain security updates, which will protect you from attacks that target older versions of the software. Before you update WordPress, it’s a good idea to back up your data first.

Make sure your plugins are up to date too. Out of date software is easier to hack and newer versions often provide additional security, which patches holes found in older versions.

Update your WordPress blog themes

If you use a blog theme, make sure that it’s up to date. It’s also important to either update or delete OLD blog themes, as these inactive themes can still be used to get into a site. Before updating your blog theme, remember to back up your data first.

These are just some of the things you can do, for free, which will make your site safer. With such an increase in WordPress botnet attacks right now, it makes sense to take some time as soon as you can, to improve your security.

News regarding this attack

VentureBeat: WordPress admin accounts target of botnet attacks.

TechCrunch: Hackers Point Large Botnet At WordPress Sites.

The Verge: Massive botnet using brute force attack to target WordPress sites.

UPDATE: WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg released some advice from his blog:

Here’s what I would recommend: If you still use “admin” as a username on your blog, change it, use a strong password, if you’re on WP.com turn on two-factor authentication, and of course make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest version of WordPress. Do this and you’ll be ahead of 99% of sites out there and probably never have a problem. Most other advice isn’t great — supposedly this botnet has over 90,000 IP addresses, so an IP limiting or login throttling plugin isn’t going to be great (they could try from a different IP a second for 24 hours).

Social Business: Before you publish, press pause and think

online reputation

I want you to think about the following for a moment:

  • The last tweet you sent.
  • The last blog post you published.
  • The last marketing email you sent.
  • The last blog comment you made.
  • The last Facebook status you wrote.

First impressions count

Each of those actions, could easily be someone’s first exposure to you. If so, it will form their first impression of you. First impressions count, even if they are inaccurate. First impressions count, even if you are having a bad day.

In business, the impact of a bad first impression can be huge. That’s because you often don’t get a second chance.

So, hit pause and think

It always pays to pause for a few moments before you publish anything, especially if you are angry or in a bad frame of mind. Think. Never underestimate the impact of an angry tweet or a caustic blog comment, etc. Once it’s published, it’s out there. It’s in play. It’s carrying your name. It’s carrying your reputation.

Today, prospective clients and customers habitually research us via search engines and our social networking accounts, before contacting us. Thankfully, we have total freedom over what we say and thus, what we think is perfectly acceptable for prospective clients and customers to discover about us.

Our freedom of choice on this speaks volumes about us – and it does so all day, every day.

I can help you build a massively successful business. To find out more click here!

Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it.

As a passionate advocate for small business owners, I want to make a plea to you: Stop writing your blog posts and web copy primarily for Google.

google

Earlier today, I spoke with a business owner who wanted to know why the ‘traffic’ to her website and blog was not converting into business or sales leads. According to her analytics software, around 400 visitors arrive on her sites each day, then leave again without making a purchase, making an inquiry or subscribing.

She wanted to know what was wrong.

As her problem is extremely common, I thought I would share what I found with you, along with how to avoid falling into the same trap.

Keyword stuffed nonsense doesn’t convert people into customers

Within seconds of seeing the sites concerned, it was clear why they were so ineffective, why they had not attracted a single sales inquiry in 9 months. It’s simply this: They were primarily written for Google and not for people. Her content was keyword stuffed – here’s Google’s definition of keyword stuffing.

Her content was over ‘optimized’ for SEO and not written to appeal to prospective customers. For example, her website had the same 3 word phrase repeated 41 times on the home page alone! The services page on her blog has the name of her service repeated 39 times in just 350 words. It read horribly. It reflected poorly on her and her business. It was toxic and she has been paying the price.

In her eagerness to get ‘traffic’, she forgot about customers, prospective customers and what they would find when they actually arrived on her sites.

Effective SEO should be based around making great content easier for search engines to find and read. It should not be about producing keyword stuffed junk, which people can’t understand or connect with.

Writing for people

It’s hard enough to write compelling content, which will motivate people to buy from you, call you, email you, visit you, link to you or share your work. If your content reads poorly because it’s stuffed with keywords and key-phrases, you stand no chance.

You may get fewer visitors from search engines then those who stuff their content with keywords, but you will engage your readers. That’s what attracts customers, generates sales leads and (ironically) motivates people to link to and share your work – which massively improves your search engine rankings, anyway.

Photo: Danny Sullivan.

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