Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Blogging (page 7 of 40)

How NOT to improve your website or blog

salt

Did you ever read a post by Seth Godin, which says how some amazing piece of software (or plugin), helped him create the most popular marketing blog in the world?

No.

That’s because it didn’t happen like that.

In fact…

It never happens like that!

Like every top blogger I know, the success of Seth’s site had nothing to do with ‘special’ software or plugins. Read more here…

It’s always about great content, professionally marketed to the right people.

Average content, marketed in an average way, produces average results… no matter how many special plugins a site has.

Why there’s so much unnecessary software out there

Mel Brooks explains it perfectly with this joke. It’s about a guy who owns a tiny store in the middle of nowhere. A customer walks in and is surprised to see boxes of salt stacked on every shelf.

The customer says: ‘Wow! You have a lot of salt – how come salt is so popular here?’

The store owner replies: ‘Salt isn’t popular here. I can’t even remember the last time I sold any salt.’

The customer then says: ‘So why do you have so much salt in stock?’

The store owner looks at him and says: I can’t sell salt… but the guy who sells me salt can REALLY sell salt!

Salty software

That’s why there are so many people right now, with under performing blogs and websites that are packed full of salty software.

It’s generally of little, if any, value… but the Internet marketing experts selling the salt, are REALLY good at selling salt!

2 Reasons not to be a copycat writer

copycats, copywriting

As many of you were kind enough to point out, one of the world’s biggest websites ‘borrowed very heavily’ from a post I wrote last week. They did so with no reference to my original post and yet people spotted it immediately.

There are 2 useful lessons here, which I would like to share with you.

1. Copies seldom have the same impact as the original

Even though that site gets millions of visitors a week, their rewritten version of my post achieved just 30% as many social shares as my original.

By padding out my points so that his post wasn’t an exact copy, the power of the original post was lost. He’d wasted his time. He deserves better than that. Time is too important to waste.

Had he started with my post, referenced it and then expanded on the original or added some new, relevant information, he could have improved my work and avoided the embarrassment that followed.

Here’s some great advice on why it’s a bad idea to copy other people’s work – It’s from Steve Jobs and Picasso.

2. People notice

Within an hour of the rewritten post being published, people started contacting me via email, Facebook and Google+ to tell me. Although I decided not to join in (I found it interesting but unimportant), the conversations on social networks naming the author and site have created a bit of an embarrassment for them.

Here’s the thing: Every piece of work we produce will get noticed, to a lesser or greater degree. If we do anything we are not proud of, as soon as we hit send or publish, it’s out there.

Thankfully, the opposite is also true

When you put your own work out there and share your own ideas, people value the uniqueness of your contribution.

It makes you stand out from the ‘ditto heads‘ who just agree with everything.

It makes you stand out from the copycats, who copy everything.

It makes you stand out for being you!

Is Google’s SEO loophole hurting your business too? Here’s how to check

google problem

Google has opened the door to an aggressive SEO tactic, Negative Backlink SEO.

Here’s what it is, how it works, how to tell if you’re being targeted and how to stop it hurting your business!

Negative backlink SEO

Google now proactively punishes sites, which are linked to from sites with a bad reputation. Previously, Google only punished you, if you linked from your site to a ‘bad neighbourhood’. This included link farms, article directories, link exchange portals, etc.

Now, you get punished if they link to you – even if you know nothing about it!

So, your competitors or anyone who would like to hurt your business, can do so simply by linking to your site from dubious sites or directories. They can do it anonymously too.

The move by Google is supposedly aimed at stopping websites from buying links or exchanging links, in order to boost their search rankings. Instead, it has created a huge headache and Google is showing no sign of relenting.

Are you being targeted?

The only way to know if your site is being targeted, is to monitor the sites that link to you. There are lots of tools to do this, some you pay for others are free.

If you use Google analytics, you can set up a Google Webmaster account for free and it will provide you with a list of all the links it can see, which point back to your site (backlinks). You can access Google Webmaster Tools here. The benefit of using Google’s solution is that it shows you what Google can see and as Google is the hub of the problem, this makes sense.

I have also found other backlink tools often inaccurate, when testing them. There are over 107,000 backlinks to Jims Marketing Blog, with most backlink apps and programs only able to find between 10% and 20% of them.

Fixing the problem

Technically, this should be pretty simple. You find the toxic links using Google Webmaster Tools, then send the links to Google, using their Disavow Tool - You can find it here. Google then disavows (or accepts you show no responsibility) for those links and stops penalising you. You then ask Google to reconsider the penalty it applied to you and hope for the best. Here’s how Google’s Disavow Tool works.

In reality, this can be a massive pain in the ass. New, toxic backlinks can be added to your site at any time, meaning you need to remember to check for new links, regularly.

Also, if you’re new to this, it can be hard to tell a valuable link from a toxic link. Some toxic links come from URL’s that look pretty normal and some genuinely great links come from URL’s that seem dubious. So, be very careful what links you decide to ask Google to disavow. Whilst you can reverse the process, it’s best to be sure before you disavow anything.

You can also email the site owner, to ask if they will manually remove the link or links to your site. Obviously, your success will depend on whether the site owner wants to help or even if the site linking to you is still being actively managed.

Google is not the only game in town

Google has never changed the rules as often or as dramatically as it does today. As I wrote a few days ago, many small business owners are seeing Google search traffic drop like a stone. I received dozens of emails from people following that post, whose businesses are suffering seriously from these changes. It’s a very real problem. One that Google seems oblivious to.

Thankfully Google is not the only game in town. It is just one component of Internet marketing.

So, regardless of whether you are being punished by Negative Backlink SEO or any of the other 3 changes Google has made recently, I strongly recommend you diversify your Internet marketing.

You’re not scared: You just need the right strategy

seth godin, fear

We live in a golden age of marketing, with amazing opportunities for you to grow a hugely successful business. So, what are you doing with it all?

Today, you can share your ideas via blogs, email and social networks and build a community of people, who are interested in your work and what you have to say. Moreover, you can do it for peanuts. When done correctly, this generates regular inquiries from highly targeted prospective clients.

What an amazing opportunity.

What does the typical small business owner do?

They decide not to build a community around their own ideas, beliefs and thoughts. Instead, they create social networking accounts for their business, then mostly fill them with the thoughts, links and work of other people. They start a blog, but fill it with generic ‘me too’ content that tells us nothing about them, their beliefs or ideas.

Yes, they get follower numbers, but no community. In fact, most people that follow them will know very little about them or their business.

I was prompted to write this, after hearing some very strong words on the subject from marketing thought leader, Seth Godin. I provide a link to the audio below, so you can hear what he has to say, in context (it’s around 7 and a half minutes in).

No personality, invisible conduits

During the 15th episode of Seth Godin’s Start Up School podcast, Seth called those who regularly share his content and the content of other well known experts (rather than their own ideas): “No personality, invisible, conduits”.

Seth continues: “These people aren’t showing the guts to say, I have a point of view. I have something to say.”

That’s a little harsh and very different to my experience of business owners. Very few of whom are gutless.

It’s not guts that small business owners lack

I disagree with Seth’s belief that it’s fear, which primarily stops people from creating their own content.

I started what’s now called Content Marketing in 1998, with my marketing newsletter. Over the years, I have spoken with countless small business owners, about building their business via email, then via blogging and social networks.

Do you know what stops them?

Here’s a clue: It’s not fear!

In the majority of cases, they simply don’t know what to do or where to start. It’s a strategy they need.

They don’t want to waste time just adding to all the noise that’s already out there. They want results. Let’s not forget, business owners have already shown the courage to start their businesses, often leaving ‘safe’ careers to do so.

When business owners know what to do and they can clearly see the direct commercial benefit of sharing their own ideas, most will get straight to work on it. They are not gutless – certainly not those I work with.

So…

If you are not developing effective marketing assets online right now, stop what you are doing. Then, either learn how to build an effective content marketing strategy or hire someone who can show you exactly what you need to do.

Yes, feel free to share other people’s content, but remember to tell us who you are and what you think. It’s the latter, which creates community, builds relationships and drives marketing success online.

Getting less traffic from Google? Here’s why it may not matter soon

Less traffic from google, google traffic

If you’re one of many business owners experiencing a drop in search traffic from Google, here are 3 important changes you need to know about.

I’m also going to explain why I believe Google search traffic could be of less importance to your business soon.

The first change: Google changing the rules dramatically and often

For years, business owners have relied heavily on Google to generate online sales or inquiries. They danced the Google dance. They did what Google wanted. They invested heavily in SEO, either financially or by pouring their valuable time into making their site the way Google wanted it.

And it worked. Consistently.

Then something happened!

Google decided to change the rules dramatically and regularly. Suddenly, what worked, no longer worked. What was once within Google’s guidelines, was suddenly outside their guidelines. It’s causing a lot of small business owners a lot of pain, as they fall lower and lower down the rankings.

The best SEO experts are starting to figure out how to work with the new search engine landscape. If you can’t afford the best, it may be some time before the rest of the SEO industry catch up. However, this is not the only reason you may be seeing worse results from Google. It’s not even the most important reason.

Two far bigger changes are happening, which are lowering the value of organic (natural unpaid) search results – even if you manage to rank on the first page.

The second change: Google has made your organic search results less visible

At the same time as Google changed the way it ranks sites, it made those sites that do rank, harder for prospective customers to find.

How?

By burying your organic search results below an increasing number of Google ads. Now, for many valuable search terms, your prospective customers will see a page full of ads from your competitors, BEFORE they see your organic search results. All the results in the screen below are paid ads.

For instance: On my MacBook Pro, I needed to scroll down the screen, past ELEVEN paid ads, to see the first organic search result! (See below)

Less traffic from google, google traffic

So, even if your SEO gets you the number 1 organic slot on the first page of Google’s Search Engine Results, it may provide fewer sales or inquiries than before, because that number 1 organic search position is buried under so many paid ads.

The third change: Google sends less traffic to sites than before

The third change, is that Google search may be becoming less relevant with fewer people using it. Google search traffic could be 30% down on last year, according to a huge study!

This report from buzzfeed looked at Google search traffic to leading sites, including: The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. In total, the sites it tracked have a readership of 300 million. That’s a lot of data. They found that between August 2012 and March 2013, search traffic from Google nosedived an incredible 30%. That’s a huge drop in such a short time.

However, it was expected. Here’s why!

The rise of social search

It seems that people are now increasingly asking their social networks for recommendations and answers. These networks have added a totally new dynamic, to the way we find information online.

Think about it. Which would YOU trust more:

  1. A restaurant recommendation from a trusted friend on a social network, who knows what you like.
  2. A restaurant that appears on Google via a paid ad or simply because they have good SEO.

It’s no contest.

Facebook has invested heavily in Facebook graph search, which was launched in March 2013 and looks set to eat into even more of the Google search user base. Other social networks, including Twitter and Linkedin, have search facilities too, which they are now developing constantly.

Why these changes?

Simple: Google is trying to make as much money as it can. There’s nothing surprising here. It’s a business after all.

Google has a near monopoly on search and is now leveraging that power, to get you to pay them if you want to be found.

Unless… you choose to take control of your Internet marketing away from Google and make SEO and SEM (search engine marketing), just part of your Internet marketing strategy.

Diversify your Internet marketing

This post from 2010 was largely scoffed at, when I suggested people should rely less on Google and use a wider, human focused approach to their online marketing.

Some listened to me. They started building their social networks, created communities around their businesses and stopped writing keyword optimised content for Google – choosing to write for humans instead. As a result, people now talk about their products and services and share their content all over social networks.

That’s an approach I recommend you at least add, to your overall marketing strategy.

In short: Stop relying on Google (or any one tactic) for the majority of your business. Instead, build a community (or tribe). Spread your reach and spread your risk.

You don’t have to ignore SEO, especially if you optimise for search terms, which few competitors buy Google ads for.

Just make sure your online marketing consists of more than keeping Google happy. Too many eggs in one basket is seldom a wise, long term strategy.

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.

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