Your Blogging Questions Answered – @therichbrooks

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The-Rich-Brooks-PinterestWhether you’re a veteran blogger or new to the world of blogging, the same goals apply: find, reach and engage your readers, and turn them into eventual customers. You achieve this success by building your readership and email lists, for starters. But how exactly do we do that?

The Marketing Agents Podcast host, Rich Brooks, reaches into the mailbag to discuss vital aspects of blogging including; creating value for your audience, keyword research, consistency, guest blogging, promotion using various social media platforms, as well as weighing in on how much value we should really be putting on blog comments.

Howdy everyone! This is Rich Brooks and you’re listening to episode 92 of The Marketing Agents Podcast. We are less than 2 months away from episode 100 and we’re planning a doozie for the triple digits.

This episode is all about blogging, we’re going back to the mailbag and answering your questions about blogs. We’ve got questions about just getting started, about getting comments, about the importance of blogging if you’re a local company. If you have a blog or if you’ve been considering one, this is going to be a great episode for you.

So this episode is another mailbag episode where I answer your questions, so there’s no special guest star this week, no other expert that we’re going to be interviewing. It’s interesting, I was looking through my Libsyn stats the other day – Libsyn is the company that I use to host my podcast – and I was a little surprised that the mailbag episode that I did a couple months ago was one of the most downloaded episodes in that time period. And I guess I just found that surprising because the only person out there promoting these episodes is me.

I mean, if I’m interviewing somebody else, very often they’ll push out a few tweets for me or mention it to their audience and we pull in a few new people. And there’s more to promote when I’m talking to somebody else, it’s a little more exciting, and for the mailbag episodes I’m basically more or less talking to myself. I’m taking emails that I received from you guys and reading them on air and trying to answer them the best I can.

So I was surprised that so many of you actually downloaded that episode, so I figured I’d do it again. And if you have any questions, if you listen to this podcast that spurs some question that you have – and it doesn‘t even have to be about blogging – anything under the digital marketing umbrella, send me an email. You can ask me on Twitter, you can use the contact form, you can use the show notes, whatever it is just feel free to reach out.

Alright, let’s go to the first question of the day. This first email comes from “Sarah” who asks:

“I’ve never blogged before and I’m just getting started, what are some ways in which I can build my readership?”

That’s a great question and everybody has to start somewhere when it comes to blogging. Everybody started their first blog at some point with no readership, no built in audience, nothing. You’re in a place that a lot of us have been familiar with.

I guess the first thing that I would say is make sure that you’re providing value for your audience. Remember that if this is a business blog, you’re not blogging for yourself, you’re blogging for your audience. So when I talk about creating value for your audience, I’m also talking about knowing the kind of questions that your audience has and the problems that they struggle with. And this comes down to doing some keyword research.

Now I’ve said this before, long before I was a social media guy I was a search engine optimization guy. And I still am. I still think that it’s critically important to do some simple keyword or market research into what your audience is struggling with. Chances are you don’t mention here what your business is, but chances are you’ve been in business long enough that you know some of the problems that your customers are dealing with, they’ve asked you these things before.

I would recommend taking some of those keywords that are part of their questions and the words that keep on repeating and dropping them into a tool like Keyword Planner or Google Trends, both of those are free tools from Google. The first one is part of Google’s Adwords platform, but it is free once you register for it. And the other one is just a free, available tool at Google Trends.

I find that taking some of your best keyword phrases that you want to blog about, and trying different variations using both of those tools, with help you find out what are the real words that people are searching for and what has the highest search volume. And chances are, more often than not, you’re going to want to target those phrases that are appropriate and have a higher search volume. Because that’s going to bring a lot of traffic to your website. When you first start off, search engines may be one of your best referers for new traffic. So that’s something that you always want to keep in mind when you’re creating your blog post.

I also think that you should be consistent, and that having some sort of editorial calendar can help you. It doesn’t need to be anything too extreme, there are certainly some great programs out there. I just use a simple Excel spreadsheet. In fact, what I’ll do in the show notes is leave a link where you can download our editorial calendar template. It will be blank and you can just use this yourself and hopefully that will kind of help you plan out the weeks and months ahead. And what I find is nice about that is a lot of people feel they have to write so much, an editorial calendar tells you when things are due, but also gives you the freedom to blog or write on a certain day.

You should also be promoting any new blog posts you have through your personal social channels. So if you are just getting started with blogging, maybe you have a business page for Facebook or an audience on Twitter, or maybe you don’t and you’re just getting started with everything. This is where leveraging your own, personal profiles can be really helpful. I still do this to this day. So if I have a new blogpost for flyte or The Marketing Agents, I’m certainly going to promote it through any business pages I have on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, but I’m definitely going to promote it through my personal account as well, which tends to have a little more engagement level. So I would definitely leverage any social channels you’ve already built up.

Also, get people on your email list as soon as possible. As soon as they get to the website i would use things like create lead magnets, things they’ll want to download that require email registration so they get on your email list, using some sort of pop up box or light box where the screen goes gray and there’s a little box that says something like, “Get all this great advice for free delivered right to your inbox.” Those things can seem annoying but are hugely effective at building your list. Depending on what you’re doing, offering discounts in the store through email.

Just yesterday I was buying a book and they were obviously looking for people to join their email list as they were registering for an account. But the way that they phrased it with a little check box, “Yes, send me discounts on future books.” And I know what they’re doing, they’re just getting me on the list. But the way they phrased it was so gentle that of course why wouldn’t I want to get alerts about discounts on future books. So find a way of phrasing that in a similar way or a way that works for you to continually build your list.

The reason why you want to build your list is it’s tough enough to get people to visit your website or your blog once, it’s almost impossible that they’re going to find you time and time again. So you want to get access to the most valuable property on the internet, which is somebody’s inbox, and they’re giving you permission to let them know when a new blog post goes live.

I guess my last tip for you is guest blogging. Find blogs that have similar audiences and offer to guest blog there. There are a lot of different ways that you can find guest blogging opportunities. Once simple way is just Google the phrase “guest blog + (whatever your industry is)”. So if you are a juggler, you would say something like “guest blog + juggling”, and you’ll find all the juggling blogs out there that are looking for guest bloggers. They’ll be open to your type of content, you can create valuable content for them, and then link it back to your website or blog. You don’t want to create the same blog post, but what you can do is basically create a an inverse or mirror version of something. So if you had a blog post for “Five Things To Never Do During A Juggling Performance”, you might write a very similar post but just reverse it. Something like, “Five Ways To Keep Kids Entertained At Your Next Juggling Party”.

By using some of those techniques: providing value, being consistent, by promoting new blog posts through your personal social channels, by building your email list and by guest blogging you should quickly grow your readership and subscriberbase at your blog.

Ok, our second email today from the mailbag comes from James. James asks: “Is it a good idea for a local jeweler to have a blog?”

Yeah, I think it’s a great idea for a local jeweler to have a blog. And just to kind of expand this, I think most small businesses should consider a blog, even if you’re local. It’s an interesting thing that I hear time and again from people, “Well, I don’t know if I want people all over the world finding my website or blog. I’m really just focused on my local community.” I never really understood that.

I mean, yes, if you’re only selling to your local community that should be your priority. But I’ve never really been upset that people from other places over the world find my content interesting and might get some value out of it. Now let’s assume that most jewelers – that I know of, at least – tend to do all of their business locally. I know that there are some people that will ship anywhere in the world, but most of the business is local business for jewelers. So let’s focus on this question as if it was about the benefits of a blog for local, small business.

One of the things that having a blog does is offers you a lot of search engine optimization opportunities, and it also becomes a hub for your social media. So no matter what you’re doing out there in social media, you can always drive people back to your hub. Remember that with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you don’t own those platforms. You are basically building up an audience or building up a house on somebody else’s property. So ultimately you want to lead people back to your website, and since a blog tends to be more social than a static website, you definitely want to consider the blog as the hub of your social media activity.

Now you can also use your blog to increase both your online visibility and also your local credibility. ANd to do that you can create a lot of blog posts that are very geo-specific. So again, if I all of a sudden found myself owning a jewelry shop and I tried to promote it, one of the things that I might do is write a blog post called something like, “Five Romantic Places In Portland, Maine To Propose”. Because I want to find those people who are getting ready to pop the questions, these are the people who might be looking for a ring. I might also create more blog posts specific to what you need to know when you’re buying an engagement ring or how to choose a perfect ring for that person you love, or should you take your fiancee shopping with you. I’d have a lot of those kinds of things, but I would definitely try to create those very geo-specific questions in my blog post to help me with some of the local search issues that might be going on.

And then, of course, within the post I’d be taking words that were Portland, Maine (for this example) related to that and I’d be linking to specific pages on my website to help increase the search engine visibility and giving those search engines a little bit more of a hint that if someone’s looking for a local jeweler that they should be looking at my website as one of the contenders.

Another blog post I might write is think about different times in people’s lives when they’re likely to buy jewelry, so you might create something like, “The Best Restaurants In Portland, Maine For Anniversaries”, and just any of those kinds of content where I’m creating it and pulling people in who are looking for that kind of information and value, that they see this is a local jeweler who’s really trying to help them out whether or not they buy something from them. Of course, they’re already there at your website so they’re more likely to consider you and it just increases your value to them.

Now remember as you’re creating these blog posts – like any small business owner, you’re super busy – remember that these can be repurposed, repackaged and promoted through many of your social media channels. When you have a new blog post you can promote it through Facebook, you can promote it as a tweet, as a LinkedIn update, you can take a bunch of photos from your blog post and turn them into Instagram posts. There’s a lot of different ways in which you can repackage this, but also promote it at the different social channels to drive traffic back to that blog.

As I mentioned before in the previous answer, always be using your blog to build your email list. You want to get people on your email list. Now people may not want to hear from a jeweler every week with new content, but maybe every month. Or, if you do estate jewelry – like a lot of jewelers do – people are often looking for buys and so maybe one of the things you want to do is create some content around what you need to know to buy or sell estate jewelry.

And then for the people who are interested in that, chances are they would love to get on an email list where you tell people about what’s just come into your shop before you tell anyone else. So you could promote it somewhere on the blog – in a lightbox or side panel – maybe it’s a call to action from one of these estate jewelry blog posts that you’ve created. Something along the lines of, “If you’re looking to buy or sell estate jewelry and want to get a sneak preview of what’s coming to our store, make sure you join our mailing list. We let you know there a week before we make it available to the public so you’ll always have first dibs, just make sure that you sign up for our email newsletter.”

And as I’ve said before, email is the most important tool when it comes to your marketing, your sales, your conversion. So definitely be looking to get people onto your mailing list.

So is it a good idea for a local jeweler to have a blog? Absolutely. I know it takes time, I know it takes effort, but you’ve got some great product there and some great stories to tell. It doesn’t just have to be focused to local, you can tell “success stories”, maybe feature a bride and groom who came to your store or promote somebody’s anniversary or something. The more you can promote the fact that you are a part of the community, the more successful you’ll be.

Our last question of the day comes from Martin. Martin says: “I’ve been blogging for a while, while I have decent traffic, I’m not getting much in the way of comments. How can I get more comments at my blog?”

One of the things that I’ve realized over the years is that in certain industries certain blogs get more comments. If comments are your main concern, I would strongly recommend that you stop blogging about whatever you’re doing, and blog about celebrities or religion. I guarantee you that you will get a lot of comments at your blog. However, that’s probably not good business advice.

What I’ve told many other small business owners and marketers who have come to me over the years complaining that they don’t get a lot of comments, I say to them, “Comments aren’t clients. Comments aren’t customers. Comments don’t actually pay the bills.” So I would not make getting comments my #1 concern. In fact, it seems like more and more popular bloggers – at least in my industry – are moving away from having comments on their site.

Chris Brogan recently stopped allowing comments on his website, citing the fact that most conversations were going on in social media these days anyway. So for him, comments seemed redundant. I believe copyblogger stopped taking comments, and Seth Godin has never taken comments on his blog.

It used to be that comments were a requirement for a blog, but these days I’m just not convinced that is. My day job, flyte new media, when building websites with blogs for clients we now ask the clients if they want to have comments with their blogs. It used to just be a forgone conclusion that we would do this for them because of the additional work that a lot of people have because of comment spam or because they’re not getting the kind of comments they want or they don’t have the time or bandwidth to actually deal with them. Comments have become something that is optional when it comes to your blog.

Now if you say, “Ok Rich, that’s great, but I am still interested in having a robust, engaged community and having comments on my blog. So what do I do?” I can tell you some of the things that tend to work. One of those things is, just ask people. Ask people as you close out a blog post, “Hey, what do you think? What’s your experience? Tell me one specific thing about X that you’ve learned from Y.” Something along those lines can certainly help.

I also find that a lot of people don’t want to be the first person to comment. So it might be that you reach out to a friend/colleague/confident and ask if they’d mind leaving a comment just to get the ball started. I often find that you need to seed a forum to get things started, so that’s certainly a possibility. Of course I would never publicly recommend this, but in a pinch if there’s nobody you can ask, consider creating a second persona and going in and leave a comment as well.

You can also incentivize. I’ve seen people who give away a book or something for the best comment. I’ve seen people give away tickets to an event. That can work short term, it doesn’t always have a long term effect. But if you want to get a lot of comments around a certain blog post, you can certainly try that.

One of the things that you can do to build community is respond to commenters quickly. Be aware when people do leave a comment – this is something I learned from Social Media Examiner – when I’ve guest blogged for them, one of the things they request is that you’re around during the day and that you check back to make sure that when somebody leaves a comment that you’re responding and engaging the community. And that can have a really good effect.

What you may find is that you have some people who are commenting all the time. Sometimes it’s for good reason, sometimes it might be a little bit for ego or that they’re also trying to increase their own visibility online. These people should be embraced. So if you do have somebody who’s leaving intelligent or inquisitive comments on your blog, even if they seem to be leaving comments at every blog post, it’s not the end of the world. And certainly try to engage them. It’s certainly better than those people that leave comments like, “I really enjoy your blog post, I will be bookmarking it for later.”

Lastly, one of the things that I have not tried but John Goodman – who’s been interviewed on this podcast before – recommends, he really feels that all comments are terrible. So what he does is he just set of the Facebook comments tool. The reason he does this is since he’s really not too concerned with the comments in general but he’s looking for more visibility for his posts, in most cases when people leave a comment using the Facebook tool; a) hopefully they’re being more civil because it’s tied to their real Facebook account, but b) that’s also getting promoted and published through Facebook so it increases the visibility. And from what John was telling me, even for a blog post that has been dormant for quite some time, if somebody comments on it, all of a sudden it appears back in the feed and generates a lot more activity and visibility for that post. So he’s getting a lot of resurgent traffic for older posts by using the Facebook comments.

So hopefully if you are looking for comments, that gave you a great place to start and tactics to use. But again, I don’t know that comments are really what you need from a blog. It certainly feels good, but ask yourself if this is really helping grow your business.

Alright, that’s it for this weeks mailbag. If you have any questions about blogging, email, webinars, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, whatever questions you may have I would love to try and help you out or point you in the right direction. You can email them to me at rich@themarketingagents.com, you can go to the comments section of this blog post and leave your questions there. You can hit me up on Twitter, I’m @therichbrooks. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have, and hopefully I’ll be able to answer them in a future episode of The Marketing Agents Podcast.

Now for the full transcript of today’s show, as well as all the amazing show notes and juicy links, please head on over to themarketingagents.com/92. And if you’ve got a friend or a colleague who is a digital marketer whether they’re a small business owner or a dedicated marketer or they’re working in nonprofits and are looking to learn more, please feel free to share the shoe with them. Send them a link, send them over to the The Marketing Agents website, it’s definitely appreciated.

Alright, I’m going to go start packing for Vegas, hopefully I’ll see a bunch of you out there.

Show Notes:

  • It’s not too late to attend New Media Expo 2015, where you can see Rich and other experts speak on content creation. Be sure to enter the discount code “rbrooks20” for 20% off!
  • One option (and Rich’s personal choice) for a podcasting hosting company is Libsyn.
  • Got a burning question for Rich? You can reach him via email, Twitter, his company (flyte new media) contact form, or this podcast (The Marketing Agents) contact form.
  • Free keyword tools available to you that were discussed in this episode:
  • Are you a podcaster or aspiring podcaster from Maine? The Marketing Agents Podcast host, Rich Brooks, has started a Facebook group for you, The Maine Podcasters Alliance! Feel free to join this informative group that is guaranteed to inspire and educate.
  • Transcription for this podcast provided by Jennifer Scholz Transcription Services.The-Rich-Brooks-Facebook
  • Rich, haven’t had the chance to listen to the show, but the transcript is awesome… lot’s of solid information. As for the jeweler having a blog question… everyone in every industry can benefit from sharing content. It doesn’t matter what in the world you do, in fact, sometimes the stranger and more obscure… the more traffic you may get. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. BTW… I’m making a big comeback on Instagram after you mentioned it to me… people are leaving comments like… “where have you been” and “I thought you died” it’s pretty funny.

    • Brandon, glad to have you back on Instagram! And, I’m glad you’re alive. 🙂