Kristen Hicks, Author at HostGator Blog - Page 5 of 24

HostGator Blog

Web Hosting Made Easy!

  • Should You Create a Business Blog?

    Monday, December 11, 2017 by
    why create business blog

    Should You Start a Business Blog?

    You hear about it all the time. Businesses are supposed to have a blog. But is blogging really right for your business? The answer is: it depends. Blogging brings a lot of benefits, which is why it gets so much attention in business and marketing publications. But every business should carefully consider whether or not starting a blog makes sense for you. Here are the main things you should know to help you decide.  

    5 Benefits of Creating a Business Blog

    Business blogs are a great marketing tool. Many of the businesses that have taken the step of investing in blogging have seen notable results for their efforts. benefits of blogging for business

    1. Blogging is good for SEO.

    One of the big reasons business blogging has taken off is that it helps businesses improve their search rankings. Representatives from Google have come straight out and said that high-quality content is one of the most important things their algorithm uses to determine search rankings. And blogging is helpful for other factors that play a role, such as link building (blog posts give other sites more opportunities to consider linking to yours) and time spent on site (reading a blog post takes time). In addition, blogging gives you a lot more chances to try to rank for a wider variety of relevant keyword terms. For instance, a florist that aims for the terms “florist” and “flower delivery” on their main pages could try for long-tail keywords like “best flowers for a funeral” on their blog – creating more searches they’ll potentially be found in. People looking for helpful information that find blog posts that answer their questions will be that much more likely to buy what they need from the company providing those answers.  

    2. Blogging is crucial for content marketing.

    If you’ve given any consideration to doing content marketing, then a blog is likely to be the cornerstone of your content strategy. Blogs are the most obvious format for publishing ongoing content. Even though they’re mostly known for written content, they’re a good space to promote other content formats as well – you can easily embed videos and podcasts into blog posts and include visual content like infographics in them as well. Your blog gives people interested in your content a consistent spot to check back for any updates. And by having a lot of your content in one place, it makes it easy for you to promote other pieces of content to any visitors that show an interest in another piece. Blogging is generally just one part of a solid content strategy, but for most businesses doing content marketing, it’s an especially important part.  

    3. A blog is a good tool for building your email list.

    Email marketing is largely considered one of the most effective forms of marketing available to businesses.  Two-thirds of consumers have made a purchase because of an email they received, and email marketing has an ROI of $38 for every $1 you spend. But for email marketing to work, you have to have a list. And building an email list isn’t easy. While promises of discounts can definitely get you some signups, many consumers will be more likely to sign up for your email list if they know they’ll be getting valuable information from every email you send. For those consumers, you can get their attention with blog content and promote your email list while they’re on the website. Then, the new blog content you create will give you something new to email them about. It’s a whole cycle that helps you build positive relationships with your prospects. Create Your Blog

    4. Blog posts give you opportunities to interact with your audience.

    If a person’s only association with your brand is when they browse your products or make a purchase, then you’ll be easy to forget. But if they know your website includes a treasure trove of useful information on subjects they care about, then they have a reason to check out your website more often, sign up for your email list, and maybe even leave comments or share your blog posts to their networks.  

    5. Blogging helps you build a positive brand reputation online.

    Being seen online is a challenge all businesses face. For anyone to think about buying from you, they first have to figure out you exist. By improving your SEO, giving other websites a reason to link to you, and providing visitors with interesting content to share, a blog provides a lot of opportunities to grow awareness of your brand online.  

    3 Reasons Not to Create a Business Blog

    Those reasons should all be sounding pretty persuasive right now, but blogging isn’t for every business. There are three main things you should be aware of before you take the plunge.  

    1. It’s a lot of work.

    In order to regularly publish new content:
    • Somebody has to pick topics and plan a schedule.time spent blogging
    • Somebody has to write the content.
    • Somebody has to edit the content.
    • Somebody has to find or create relevant images.
    • Somebody has to load it to the blog and publish it.
    • Somebody has to moderate and respond to comments (if you keep comments open).
    • Somebody has to promote the content.
    Those are all pretty basic tasks required for blogging, and depending on your business, that somebody might be you. It may not be practical for you and the staff you have now to suddenly take on this big new project that takes a lot of time. Which brings us to the second thing…  

    2. It can get expensive if you hire help.

    To keep a blog going, you will probably need to either hire new staff or contractors to help you with content planning and creation. Good content strategists, writers, and designers cost money. To do blogging right, you should be prepared to commit a budget to it. Since most blog-related costs are ongoing, you’ll have to expect to keep up expenses over time and should be prepared to spend a lot.  

    3. A bad blog is worse than no blog.

    This point relates directly to the other two. If you try to rush your blogging just to get something out there, it will look sloppy and hurt your reputation rather than help it. If you hire the cheapest writers you can find and get keyword stuffed low-quality content or worse, plagiarized content, it could hurt your SEO and it certainly won’t meet any of the goals you want a business blog to achieve. The main reason a business shouldn’t create a blog is if they’re not prepared to commit the time and money it takes to make sure it’s good. That means consistent, high-quality content designed to help you meet clear goals. All the benefits mentioned above only kick in if your blog is good, so don’t waste time and money trying to have a blog just to have one. Make sure you do it right.  

    How to Do It Right if You Do Start a Blog

    If you’re convinced that blogging does make sense for your business, here are a few steps to take to help you get the most out of it.  

    1. Create a plan.

    Your blogging will be more organized and successful if you take time before you start to work up a blogging plan. Figure out what you want your blog to accomplish, what types of topics you want to cover, and the types of blog posts you want to publish.  

    2. Figure out a realistic blogging schedule.

    A common reason brands give up on blogging is burnout. If you underestimate how much work is required to keep your blog going, you’re likely to overextend yourself and decide it’s just too much work to keep up with. To keep that from happening, be realistic in working up a schedule for your blog. Don’t try to publish every day if you have one person on staff trying to fit in blogging on top of other responsibilities. In that case, starting with one blog post a week may make more sense. Whatever you do, do make a schedule in advance. You’ll be far more likely to stay on top of blogging if you create a content calendar and commit to sticking with it each month.

    3. Define who you’re writing for.

    You can’t just write about whatever topics interest you personally – your interests aren’t necessarily the same as those of your customers. To help you focus your blogging efforts and make sure they reach the people you most want to see them, take time to figure out who your target audience is. What do your customers tend to have in common? Think in terms of demographics, interests, and online behaviors. Building out buyer personas can help you visualize the person you want to talk to when you plan out your blog and create content.

    4. Promote your blog content.

    These days, publishing great content isn’t enough on its own. The web is too saturated with content on all types of topics. To stand out and make sure your content reaches your audience, you have to put some effort into promoting your blog posts. That means sharing them on social media, sending them to your email list, and considering paid distribution and promotion. All your blogging work won’t count for much unless you make sure people get the chance to see the content you create.  

    5. Pay attention to analytics.

    Once you start blogging, you’ll start collecting data on how people find and interact with your posts. Expect it to take a little while for your blogging to find traction, it usually does. But as you go, keep an eye on those analytics so you can find trends in which types of topics, blog post types, and promotion tactics perform the best with your audience. Your data will provide you a lot of insights into how to improve and get more out of your blog as you go. Committing some time to data analysis can go a long way to getting better results from blogging over time.  

    Is a Business Blog Right for You?

    If blogging for your business sounds overwhelming, then it honestly might not be for you – for some businesses the time and monetary commitment makes it a no go. But if the benefits sound worth the work, then you may be ready to start enjoying the benefits of business blogging.
  • Beginner’s Guide to Advertising on LinkedIn

    Monday, December 11, 2017 by
    guide to advertising on linkedin

    LinkedIn Advertising Guide

    With so many social media channels competing for user attention, LinkedIn has managed to set themselves apart as being the primary place online to make business connections and share professional updates. That may make it a strange advertising fit for some brands, but for B2B businesses, LinkedIn advertising is well worth considering. HostGator Dedicated Server Hosting

    Why Businesses Should Advertise on LinkedIn

    LinkedIn currently has nearly 5 million users. While in general, those users aren’t as active as people are on other social media sites – only about 100 million people are active monthly – when you consider the focus of the site, that just makes sense. LinkedIn isn’t where people go when they’re looking for distractions from work or looking to be entertained; it’s where they go when they’re in work-mode, ready to network and gain education relevant to their business needs. 61% of LinkedIn users are 30-64, and 75% of users have incomes over $50,000. And 70% of LinkedIn professionals say they consider the site a trustworthy source of business content. While there’s a wide range of industries, job titles, and professional levels represented on the platform, for most B2B brands you can trust that some of the serious business decision makers you want to reach will be on there. And they’ll be on there when they’re thinking about work and business decisions, which is the time you most want to reach them. In addition to ads that show up on the LinkedIn site itself, the social media company has developed the LinkedIn Audience Network, which enables you to use their advertising platform to deliver ads to a number of sites across the web they’ve deemed “brand safe” and high quality. Their whole advertising apparatus is set up to reach professionals when they’re in a professional mindset. If that’s who your brand most needs to reach, then LinkedIn’s an important channel to include your marketing mix.  

    Types of LinkedIn Ads

    LinkedIn offers an array of ad type options brands can take advantage of. Some of them you’re able to create yourself through their self-service advertising platform; others you’ll need to work with a rep to set up.  

    Self-Service Advertising

    Self-service advertising is the easiest way to get started with LinkedIn advertising. In this category, you have three main ad options. 1. Text Ads linkedin text adsText ads are the ones you see along the side of LinkedIn pages that include:
    •   A small image
    •   A hyperlinked headline
    •   A short description
    These are pretty easy to set up on your own, and are one of the most affordable ad options on the platform. The format is similar to that of PPC ads on platforms like Google Adwords, so you may be able to make some slight tweaks to copy you already have prepared.   2. Sponsored Content linkedin sponsored adSponsored content ads show up in the LinkedIn feed alongside the updates people see from the contacts they follow. For people who use LinkedIn as a tool to find valuable resources, getting your content into that feed can be a useful way to reach them. These ads look a lot like the other content shares you’ll see in a LinkedIn feed. They include:
    •   Your name and logo
    •   A short description
    •   A link to the content you’re sharing
    •   An image
    •   The title of the content
    If your content gets engagement on the platform – likes and comments – then people will be able to see that as well. If you’re considering content promotion options (and any business doing content marketing should be), then this is a good option for getting your content seen by a wider audience.   3. Sponsored InMail linkedin sponsored inmailSponsored InMail messages show up right in your prospect’s inbox, thus giving you a chance to reach people in your target audience more directly and even add some personalization to the ads based on what you know about them. Since people see these when they’re going through their messages, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll notice it than with ads that show up in their feed or on the busier main page of the site. There’s some variety in what you can include in a Sponsored InMail message, but messages usually include:
    •  A message title
    •  The message itself – you have space for a longer message here than with the other two self-serve ad types
    •  An image
    •  A clear CTA button – you can choose what action you want the recipient to take here. For example, the button could drive them to your website, to download a piece of content, or to sign up for a webinar.
    Sponsored InMail can be a good way to cut through the noise on LinkedIn and reach your prospects more directly.  

    Advertising Partner Solutions

    For those a little more serious about LinkedIn advertising, you can choose one of the other two categories of ad types that require working with a representative or third party platform to buy and create. Display Ads If you’re already doing programmatic advertising, you can use your buying platform to purchase ads to be displayed on LinkedIn. These can take a few forms that include the visual ads you see on the side of the main page on LinkedIn and the text ads you see along the top of the screen. LinkedIn display ads linkedin ads example Dynamic Ads LinkedIn provides the option to purchase dynamically generated ads that are personalized to your audience based on their behavior on the platform. For example, these could be recruitment ads that include the targeted user’s profile picture. These ads require working directly with a LinkedIn sales rep to purchase and develop. If you want to provide your audience with a more personal advertising experience, they’re the best way on LinkedIn to do that. linkedin dynamic ads

    LinkedIn’s Targeting Options

    One of the best things about social media advertising options in general is that social media sites tend to have a lot of data about their users that translates to valuable targeting options for advertisers. LinkedIn is no exception. They might not have the kind of detailed data on user interests that Facebook does, but they still have plenty of information on users’ professional backgrounds, current job status, and professional aspirations, in addition to general demographic data. LinkedIn’s extensive targeting options include:
    •      Gender
    •      Age
    •      Geographic location
    •      Company
    •      Industry
    •      Business size
    •      Job title
    •      Job seniority
    •      School attended
    •      Subjects studied
    •      Degree level
    •      Professional skills
    •      Years of professional experience
    linkedin ad targeting In addition, LinkedIn allows you to create customized groups to target with their Matched Audiences feature. You can upload a list of contacts from your email list or use website retargeting to create a list in LinkedIn of users on the site that have interacted with your brand previously. You can then create ads targeted at them specifically. Ad targeting can help you ensure you get the best bang for your buck with LinkedIn advertising. If you only pay to get your ads in front of the people they’re most likely to be relevant to, your success rate increases. And the more specific you can get about reaching that exact right person, the higher your ROI is likely to be.  

    How Much LinkedIn Advertising Costs

    That higher ROI is important to think about, since LinkedIn has a reputation as one of the most costly social media sites to advertise on. Most cost-per-click pricing starts at $2 per click and can go up to $5, and you can end up paying more if your campaigns don’t do well. But HupSpot’s research with LinkedIn ads (Sponsored Content, specifically) has found that they get a higher conversion rate than other advertising channels. Even though the CPC is often higher, as with on other advertising platforms, you can control your budget and set a maximum on what you’re willing to spend each day or the total amount you’re willing to spend on a campaign. LinkedIn does require a minimum spend of $10 per day or campaign and a $2 minimum bid on Text Ads.  Beyond that, how much you spend is up to you.  

    LinkedIn’s Advertising Analytics

    LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager dashboard provides metrics on the performance of your ads and campaigns. In addition to information like the number of impressions, clicks, and social actions, they also provide data on who’s clicking on your campaigns so you can determine if your ads are reaching the right people and better understand which ads work best with which demographics. linkedin advertising analytics You can also set up conversion tracking in LinkedIn, so you can better see which of your ads are successfully driving the actions you want your audience to take. This is important information to help you better evaluate the overall ROI of your advertising with LinkedIn.  

    How to Get Started Advertising on LinkedIn

    If you’re ready to go ahead and get started advertising on LinkedIn, start by going to the LinkedIn Advertising page and clicking on one of the buttons that say “Create Ad.” how to create ads on linkedin This will take you to LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager site, where you can choose which of the three self-serve ad options available you want to start with. (Note: if you want to jump straight to dynamic advertising, click on “Contact Sales” here instead and a LinkedIn rep will get in touch to talk you through the process). get started linkedin advertising Once you’ve made your selection, the Campaign Manager site will walk you through the information you need to provide to create your ad. linkedin ads set up Once your ad is created, you can choose your targeting options. choose linkedin ad targeting Then set your budget, add your payment info, and you’re ready to launch. linkedin ad budget You can have self-serve ads ready to go in well under an hour from the time you got started.  

    Conclusion

    If you sell toys or camping gear, LinkedIn might not be the most effective channel for your ads. But if you sell something like B2B software, professional training courses, or anything else that’s likely to interest a professional audience specifically, then it’s a smart place to be. Investing in advertising can make your efforts on the site go further and give you the chance to reach a new, relevant audience.
  • Is Your Website Doing Its Job?

    Monday, December 4, 2017 by

    is your website doing its jobIs Your Website Meeting Your Goals?

    Your website is your main face to the world online. In most cases, it will be the first thing people see if they go looking for you online and it’s probably the place most of your marketing points people back to. In short, it’s important. You don’t just want to make sure it looks good and professional (although that matters), you want to know that it’s doing the job it’s supposed to do. For your website to be worth the time and money you put into it, it needs to get you results. It’s up to you to track what your website is accomplishing, determine if it’s falling short of your goals, and make any needed changes to ensure it does start doing its job. Here’s how to make that happen. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    To start, what is its job?

    Different websites have different purposes. If you’re running a blog and primarily want to grow your audience, then your goals will be different than a business trying to sell products. The first step to figuring out if your website is doing its job is therefore to define what that job is. Sit down and write out the goals you want your website to achieve. These may include:
    • Making sales.
    • Increasing awareness of your brand.
    • A high level of engagement, as in blog comments or contact made through the website.
    • Growing your email list.
    • Increasing your followers elsewhere online, such as on your social media accounts, podcast, or YouTube channel.
    It’s likely that you’ll have multiple goals. Figure out what all of them are, and determine which one is the top priority. For example, if you want to make sales, you’ll also want traffic (no one will buy from your website without visiting it first), but sales take higher priority than the traffic, since visitors that don’t buy are worth less.  

    How to Measure Your Goals

    The best tool to track most of the goals you’ll have for your website is Google Analytics. You probably already have Google Analytics set up for your website, but if you don’t, getting started is pretty easy. Simply set up a property for your account and add the code snippet Google provides you to the pages on your website. If your website has a lot of pages, that last part could take some time, but for Wordpress sites, there are plug-ins that simplify the process. If you are just now setting up your Google Analytics account, then it will take some time for you to see the kind of results described below, so make a note to return to this post in a few weeks. If you already have Google Analytics data though, you should be able to start checking how well your website’s doing its job now.  

    What to Look For

    Here are the main analytics to check for the different goals you have.

    1. Awareness

    If your main goal is increasing awareness of your website or brand, then the primary metric to check is traffic. Google Analytics puts this information front and center in the platform. You can see how many people visit your site and how that number changes over time. check awareness in google analytics Google Analytics also provides a lot of useful information about where that traffic’s coming from, and what pages attract the most people. This information can help you figure out which of your efforts for driving more awareness are working the best so you can re-work your marketing plan to get the best results. channels in google analytics What if my website’s not getting traffic? If checking these metrics reveals to you that your website’s not doing its job, then increase your online marketing efforts. Your website can’t accomplish anything if people can’t find it and marketing is how people find it. In particular, look into SEO, paid search, and social media to help raise awareness.  

    2. Engagement

    There are a number of different metrics you can use to track engagement. In Google Analytics, the best metrics for engagement are found under the Behavior tab. You can see how long people spend on your site and check the bounce rate, which tells you how many people leave your website soon after landing on it. google analytics behavior Under Behavior Flow, you can learn the typical sequences of activities – which webpages people typically come to your website through, and the pages they visit next from there. google analytics behavior flow In addition to the metrics in Google Analytics, you can gauge user engagement with more active interactions, such as blog comments, email signups, social medial follows, and interactions with your live chat window, if you have one. Figuring out these secondary analytics to check for engagement will depend on your goals – if customer service is a top priority of your site then interactions with your chat window or contact form are important; if you’re doing content marketing, then those email signups and blog comments are more likely to be meaningful. Any marketing software, platforms, or plug-ins you use for these purposes should provide you with analytics data to help you easily track your progress in these areas. What if my website’s not getting engagement? If your analysis of your analytics tells you that you’re not getting the engagement you hope for, then you have a few potential steps to consider. If a lot of your visitors leave the site soon after reaching it, then the problem could be an issue of web design. Do user testing to determine if your website is intuitive to use or if people have a hard time finding what they’re looking for. Make sure your testing includes mobile, especially if your analytics show that many of those quick exits happen on mobile devices. Mobile use is so common today that if you don’t provide a good enough mobile experience to keep your mobile users on the website, you could be losing out on a lot of your potential followers. Also consider testing out different CTAs to keep users interacting with your brand rather than leaving the website. You want there to be some encouragement on every page they land on to do something else – whether that’s navigate to another page, sign up for your email list, make a purchase or some other desired action. If people reaching your website from paid search links or social media promotion quickly bounce, there may be an issue with your promotional language not matching what people see when they get there. If you have PPC ads promoting a sale that already ended, your visitors are not only less likely to stick around, but they’re more likely to associate that bad experience with your brand. Make sure the messages you use when marketing and advertising your website match up with what’s on the landing pages you direct people to. Use your analytics to try to get to the root of the problem here and test out different solutions to see which one does the trick.  

    3. Sales

    If your website promotes a business, then your most important metric is the sales it helps you make. If you have a service-based business, that may mean setting up conversion tracking in Google Analytics to track each time your user fills out your web contact form or calls the phone number on your website. If you sell items through the website, your ecommerce platform will likely provide some tracking functionality, and you can set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics as well. What if my website isn’t getting enough sales? There could be a number of problems that keep you from getting sales. Some issues could be due to problems offsite – like a competitor that offers better prices or does more aggressive marketing. But there may be problems you can fix on your own website that will make a difference. One issue could be ineffective or missing CTAs. Go through your website to check if you’re consistently encouraging people to take the actions you want them to take on each page and add CTAs encouraging purchases anywhere relevant that you find them missing. If you already have CTAs and they’re not doing the trick, test out different wording, colors, or styles to see if a change can increase conversions. Another potential issue could be last-minute barriers to purchase. Have you ever started to make a purchase only to find that the shipping costs are more than you expected or the checkout process was too long and unwieldy? Research has found a few main causes of shopping cart abandonment, check and see if your website is guilty of any of them. why people abandon shopping carts online In some cases, you could be attracting people who may be interested in your products at some point, but just aren’t ready to make a decision yet. Some of the engagement solutions above can help with this. Include CTAs to join your email list so you can continue the relationship, or look into retargeting ads that will remind your former website visitors of the products they checked out previously.  

    Conclusion

    Sometimes it can be tricky to identify the exact problem that’s keeping your website from doing its job, but do your best to parse the metrics you have and use testing to work out the rest. It does mean more work, but all the work you put into your website will only pay off if you pay attention to results and do what it takes to keep your website effective.
  • Top Tech Trends to Watch in December 2017

    Monday, December 4, 2017 by
    December Tech News

    December 2017's Biggest Tech Stories

    The holiday season is upon us. Many tech companies are working at a fast pace to provide new updates and products before the end of the year. To keep you posted on some of the last big tech stories of the year, here are some of the main trends and news stories to be on the lookout for in December. Create Your Blog

    1. The Fight for Net Neutrality Continues

    If you spend much time on social media, you may have seen pleas from your contacts to call your reps about net neutrality. Ever since the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his plans to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules, people and businesses have been up in arms imagining the worst-case scenarios that could result. Critics are worried that the repeal of these rules will give too much power to internet companies, allowing them to control what people are able to access online and stifling competition from companies that can’t pay-to-play enough to reach an audience online. A vote on the repeal is set for later this month and in the meantime, opponents are lodging complaints with the FCC and calling their representatives in the hopes of keeping the rules in place. For now though, the future for net neutrality looks uncertain.  

    2. Uber Reveals Cyber Attack Cover-up

    Even as the country continues to reel from the news of Experian’s data breach earlier this year, we just got news of the next one. Uber announced last month that in late 2016, some hackers managed to access some of their user data. At the time, the company chose to pay a ransom and keep the data breach secret, but under new management, they’ve now chosen to alert people to what happened. If a data breach is normally bad for a brand’s reputation, one that’s accompanied by a cover up is even worse. Uber’s current leadership is hoping late transparency is better than none at all in the eyes of their customers.  

    3. Stitch Fix Launches IPO

    One of the biggest tech IPOs in November was the fashion startup Stitch Fix. The company’s model of matching online personal stylists with customers wanting to let someone else do the job of picking out their clothes has been popular with customers. Their initial showing on the stock market suggested they were less popular with investors, but soon that changed as stocks soared 50% in the first two weeks.  For now, they seem to be going strong.  

    4. SendGrid Also Launches Successful IPO

    Stitch Fix got the most attention, but the email marketing company SendGrid also entered the New York Stock Exchange last month. They managed to raise $131 million when they first launched, and saw stock prices go up 13% by the end of the first day. To any business owners reading this, that’s not much of a surprise. Email marketing is one of the most important parts of business success in the internet age and investors are simply showing they recognize its importance too.  

    5. Facebook Announces Facebook Creator App

    Influencers have become a big part of the way that people and brands experience social media. In a bid to try to attract more influencers to Facebook, the company has announced Facebook Creator, an app which provides a number of features to make creating and sharing content on the platform easier. Users can add intros, outros, interactive stickers and custom frames to their videos. They can more easily respond to social media messages on a unified platform. And they can access more analytics on how people interact with their content.  For businesses doing content marketing and any influencers they work with, these changes are worth being aware of. facebook creator app 2017 tech news

    6. Amazon Offers New AI Tool for Businesses

    Once again, Amazon’s done something to make it into our monthly write-up. This month, they launched a suite of products that bring AI technology to businesses. This includes the DeepLens camera, which uses AI technology to fuel features like image recognition for objects, animals, and people. They also released SageMaker, a machine learning service that will help data engineers use AI services better. In short, they’re throwing their support behind the importance of AI and expecting to make a lot of money with this technology by helping other businesses make more with it too.  

    7. AirBnb Makes Moves Toward Accessibility

    AirBnb’s popular service has given lots of people more attractive alternatives to hotels when they travel, but until recently its options largely left one population out: the disabled. Last month they made an important move to rectify the situation by acquiring the startup Accomable. The acquisition was a natural fit for the company, since Accomable was essentially offering a version of the same service AirBnb provided, but with a focus on accessibility. AirBnb listings will now provide more specific information on the types of accessibility options available, and a portion of customers previously left out by the service will be able to find options that work for them on the site.  

    8. Companies Begin Work on Smart Cities

    In the past couple of months, multiple businesses have begun planning “smart cities.” Alphabet is working on a smart community on the waterfront in Toronto. And Bill Gates is building a smart city in Arizona. Both projects aim to test out concepts on how to build a better city that uses less energy, has less traffic, is better equipped to face climate change, and is better able to take advantage of the kinds of tech solutions the companies are working on – most notably self-driving cars.
    There are a lot of good ideas out there for how to make cities better, but most of them are hard to implement in cities that already exist. These high-tech city design projects will help prove the difference these tech solutions can make in an atmosphere where they’re easier to build and start using.  

    9. Robots Keep Advancing

    Robotic technology continues to little by little see impressive advancements. Last month, a robot from Boston Dynamics successfully pulled off a backflip. In case it’s not clear, that’s a really big deal. It’s hard to master the technology required to make a bipedal robot backflip, making this one more notable step toward robots being able to accomplish human tasks. On the more commercial side of things, Ubtech has just released Lynx, a small humanoid robot with Alexa built in. The robot can walk, talk, and supposedly work as an avatar for busy people who can’t make it to events or meetings. You can see what’s happening through the robot’s camera and respond in real time with live audio. If you have $800 to spend on a tiny advanced robot, then the future is here for you.  

    See you next month!

    December’s a busy month for everybody, but especially business owners and marketers. If you don’t have time to keep up with this month’s tech news, then be sure to check back in early January for our next installment. Until then, happy holidays!
  • What Kind of Blogging Makes Sense for Your Business?

    Monday, November 27, 2017 by
    what kind of blogging should your business do

    How to Create a Blogging Strategy for Your Business

    You’ve decided it’s time for your business to start blogging (good call!), but now you have to figure out exactly what that will look like. You need a strategy. The first thing you have to acknowledge is that blogging is hard. It requires a lot of time, energy, and skill. If you go into it expecting it to be easy and think you can just figure out what you’re doing as you go, you probably won’t get much out of your blog and may well give up a few months in (you wouldn’t be the first business to do so). To actually do this right, you need to start by thinking through the kind of blogging that makes sense for your business.Create Your Blog

    Answer These 4 Questions Before You Start Blogging

    First, sit down with your team and ask yourself some questions:
    1. What’s the goal of your blog? You shouldn’t start a blog just because you read somewhere that businesses should have a blog. You need to figure out what you actually want to accomplish with your blog. Is your main priority improving your website’s SEO? Building relationships with your customers? Growing an email list? You’ll probably want to accomplish some combination of all those things, but figure out where your priorities are. That will help guide your blog efforts.
    2. Who’s your audience? Who are the people it’s most important to reach with your blog posts? A blog that gets tons of traffic from the wrong audience won’t serve your business well, you have to make sure you design your blog strategy around reaching the people most likely to become your customers.
    3. What’s your bandwidth? Be realistic. How much time does your current team really have to work on this? If you’re trying to fit all the work of creating and running a blog into already full work schedules, something else will have to give.
    4. What’s your budget? A blog itself doesn’t cost that much money to set up and run (especially since you already have your domain and hosting), but you’ll likely find you want to consider hiring professionals to help you with the writing, image design, SEO, and promotion. You may also need to spend money on things like images and plug-ins to get the blog looking just right.
    Knowing the answer to these questions going in can help you craft a realistic strategy for your blog. Here are a few of the other considerations you’ll need to make.  

    Blog Frequency

    One of the most important parts of your blogging strategy will be determining how often you’ll be updating your blog. Research on this subject has come to a very clear conclusion: the more you publish, the better the results you’ll get in traffic and blog leads.
    blog frequencyhow often to blog
    But there’s a good reason most businesses don’t publish several blog posts a day in spite of this data. For most of people reading this, it just isn’t possible to produce that much blog content and have it all be of a high quality. What you have to figure out here is what you can realistically manage based on the bandwidth and budget you just figured out. You have to account for the time it takes to plan out your blog each month (e.g. doing research, coming up with topic ideas, setting up a calendar), write the blog posts (this will vary, but think somewhere in the range of 1-3 hours per post), edit the blog posts, and load them to the blog and schedule them. That’s gonna add up, and it’s very likely you’ll need to hire people beyond your current team to be able to fit it all in. Pick a realistic goal for blog frequency to start, and be prepared to scale back if you realize it’s too much to keep up with long term. It’s more important that you maintain a high quality in your blog posts and keep up with a consistent publishing schedule than that you publish multiple posts a day.  

    Blog Post Length

    You have two issues to figure out here:
    1. How long should your blog content generally be?
    2. Do you want some general consistency in content length, or some blog posts that are longer and some that are shorter?
    There’s not a clear right answer to either of those questions, but this is an area that marketers have done a lot of research into. The results aren’t quite as clear-cut as they are with blog frequency, but generally speaking, long-form blog posts perform better in terms of SEO results, shares, and traffic. There is some variety in just how long posts can be to get those results though. SerpIQ found that the top 10 results in Google tend to fall somewhere in the 2,000-3,000 word count range. how long should blog posts be But an analysis of how blog content gets shared found that blog posts over 3,000 words fare best in that regard. longer blog posts are shared more Basically, making sure a good portion of your posts are comprehensive and provide detailed information on the topic in question is probably a good strategy. There may occasionally be topics you write about that don’t require that kind of in-depth coverage, in which case don’t try to stretch it. But do try to make your sure your posts pack a lot of good information. Do keep in mind here that longform posts take longer to write than shorter ones. If you decide to aim consistently for 2,000 word posts, you should anticipate that they’ll take you approximately four times as long to write as 500 word posts. Figuring out what you want in this step may mean revisiting your goals in blog frequency.  

    Write Yourself or Hire Someone?

    If you want to keep the writing in-house to start, then you’ll need to make plenty of room in the calendar to ensure your team can take on the additional duties.  That may mean lengthening deadlines on other projects or figuring out other responsibilities that can be dropped. Asking employees that already have full schedules to somehow fit blog writing in as well won’t turn out well – not for them and not for the quality of the blog posts you’re likely to end up with. Cost of time for online shop ownerIt’s more likely that you’ll need to hire someone new, whether by creating a new employee position (or a few) at your company, or by hiring freelancers to fill in the gaps in what you need.  This comes with a number of benefits:
    • You don’t overload your current team.
    • You can hire people with the distinct skill set you need. Consider looking for people skilled in content strategy and SEO, as well as copywriting.
    • You’ll have an easier time sticking to a calendar if you’re paying people to meet deadlines rather than trusting employees in other positions to fit it in on the side.
    The clear downside to hiring more people is obvious: you have to spend more. And if you try to find the cheapest people to hire, you’re likely to end up with blog posts that aren’t usable or need a lot of editing to be worthwhile. If you’re going to invest in blogging, making sure it gets done right is worth it, so take time to find experienced people that are a good fit for your brand to hire. One possibility to keep in mind here is looking for ghostwriters. If you want your name on the blog posts – one benefit to blogging is building up thought leadership – then you should seek out writers who are okay with you publishing posts under your name rather than theirs (be prepared to pay more for this). Some writers are happy to work from your notes or interviews they do with you to make sure it’s your insights in the posts, but with their writing skill making it come out more polished and web ready.  

    Types of Posts

    There are a lot of different ways for you to approach individual blog posts and having a few main types of blog posts in mind that you know you want to use can be helpful in starting to put together your strategy and content calendar. types of bloggersWhile this list isn’t necessarily comprehensive, here are a number of common blog post types to consider including in your plan:
    • In-depth informational posts – This is what you see a lot with longform posts. They dive deep into a particular topic to bring together all the useful information the reader could need.
    • Tutorials – Posts that talk readers through how to do something can be very useful to them and thus good for you.
    • List posts – List posts are very popular, probably because they make it easy for people to skim for the information they need. They frequently perform well, so consider incorporating them into your strategy.
    • Curated posts –Bringing together information and links from other sources can be valuable to readers who don’t have time to seek out the information on their own. Link roundups or other curated posts can therefore provide a value-add to your readers.
    • Industry news – Pay attention to industry news and add your voice to the events and updates that are relevant to your readers.
    • Posts on relevant trends – Covering trends in your industry is another good way to add your insights to issues people are concerned about.
    • Interview posts – Interviews with an expert source can help you attract the expert’s audience while bringing new insights to your own.
    • Checklist posts – A checklist can help people needing step-by-step instructions on something they’re working on.
    • Review posts – Reviewing products, books, or other content out there can help your readers know of other relevant things they should consider trying (or not).
    • Answers to FAQs – Any questions you regularly hear from customers and prospects can be turned into informational blog posts.
    • Event recaps – Any webinars, meetings, or conferences you and employees attend could become the subject of useful blog posts for your readers.
    • Case studies – Seeing examples of how to do something is often useful. Providing specific case studies in blog form can therefore be beneficial.
    • Posts about your product – You don’t want to go to this well too often, but your blog is a good place for posts about how to use your product more effectively or for announcing updates you’re making to it.
    • Posts about company updates – When there are big changes at your company or new products, announce them with a post on the blog.
    • Posts highlighting other forms of content - Your blog can help you promote other types of content you create such as podcasts, videos, infographics, and quizzes. Including transcripts of podcasts and videos is also good for SEO and allows you to reach the people who prefer reading over viewing or listening.
    If you were struggling to figure out where to get started with blog posts, that list should give you some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. You don’t have to stick with any particular type of post, in fact you should try out lots of different ones to see what your audience responds to best.  

    How to Promote Your Blog Posts

    We’ve established that regular blogging is hard, but even for those that put the work in, getting people to find and read your blog is a whole other challenge. When you’re planning out what your blogging will look like, make sure to include plans for promoting your blog posts . Pushing your posts out on social media is probably the most obvious promotion tactic you can use, but it’s not enough in most cases. Consider other ways to get your posts in front of people, including:
    • Promoting blog posts to your email lists.
    • Using paid social or paid search ads to promote your blog.
    • Writing guest posts on relevant blogs to expand your audience.
    • Getting involved in relevant online communities in order to share your expertise and content.
    • Using influencer marketing to expand your reach.
    The work you put into your blog posts won’t count for much unless people find your blog. Invest in making that happen. If this all sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Running a blog is hard work and running one that increases traffic, grows your audience, and improves SEO is even harder. It’s competitive and it’s a lot of work, but it’s a good way to reach your potential customers and raise the profile of your company. If you’re willing to commit, it’s worth doing. Take some time to plan out what you’re going to do before you dive in.