Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

Crock Pot Marketing: A fix to and forget it appraoch to online marketing

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Marketing is the bane of most entrepreneurs existence. On one hand it is necessary to communicate with your potential customer base while on the other hand it can be an incredible time suck taking you away from the business of running your business. It needs to be done and as the business owner you are the ideal person to get potential customers the info they need, so what is the answer? I can name that tune in one note…Automation.

Marketing, Marketing, Will Robinson

Ok, so maybe Robbie the robot is not exactly the type of automation we are talking about here but a factory analogy is not too far off. Think about it, the key to marketing (once you have figured out your message and the best way to present it of course) is messaging consistently over time to your potential customer base. The problem that most entrepreneurs face is the same issue that plagued the manufacturing industry in years past, volume. And how did manufacturers resolve the issue? Automation. So why not apply a similar principle to your marketing efforts? I know I am not making an apples-to-apples comparison here but you get the idea. It is all about having the time to generate the appropriate volume whether it be physical product or marketing content. We have established that the key to marketing is the number of touches (and no, not bad touches) you make with a potential client over time but just because you want to connect with them on an ongoing basis does not mean that you have to come back next week at the same bat-time and same bat-channel to bang out more brilliant insights. It is hard enough for entrepreneurs to get into a marketing frame of mind for their own business (even if that is what they do for others) so why not maximize that time when lightning strikes and begin filling a crock pot with marketing gems so you can set it to cook slowly, releasing your brilliance as it heats over the course of an automated campaign?

Recipes for Success

Ok, now you are sold. You know you can count on one or two good days each quarter when you can not only concentrate on marketing your company but you are actually interested in doing it. You have the ingredients, now all that is left is to find the right appliance to turn your marketing recipe into the culinary masterpiece you know it to be. So what are the Consumer Reports best buys for automated marketing:

One of the easiest ways to automate your marketing efforts is through Scheduled blog posting.  Blog platforms often allow you to set a date and time for your postings to go live. WordPress is especially good at this. You can hack out 10 blog draft blog postings and then schedule them to go live at the date and time of your choosing. This allows you to sit down on that one day a quarter and get it all out, all of the industry innovations, customer epiphanies and other nuggets of brilliance related to your business that have been building up but you had not been able to release to the wild. Then once you have extracted every last drop of insight, you can go through and set your wisdom to a slow drip so its magic fingers will touch your clients as regularly as possible. So then you can get back to the business of running your business secure in the knowledge that even though you are not even thinking about marketing anymore, your clients are receiving the benefit of your experience. And once your marketing build up reaches a critical level again you can just rinse and repeat to reset the circle of life.

Email can work in much the same way with the added benefit of your appliance restarting itself for each new subscription so each individual feels the magic fingers at the exact same rate and in the exact same order no matter when they turned on the heat. How does this miracle appliance work you ask? The simple answer is “AutoResponder”. Now I know what you are thinking, “hey, wait a minute, that is what I set when I go on vacation, how can that possible fulfill the promise that you have laid out?” But worry not, the name might be the same but the function is drastically different. Email providers like MailChimp, aWeber or even a more involved service like 1ShoppingCart allow you to set up serialized  autoresponders that run as a result of a subscription to a given email list. These autoresponders generally allow you to set up multiple emails as well as a time delay from the initial subscription so that they can be sent in the order you want them received and with the appropriate time delay between each so your touches can trickle out at the proper rate.

Social Media
Social Media content distribution can also be automated  as an additional prong in your email and/or blogging efforts. Most blogging platforms and email providers offer options for direct social media integration so as soon as your blast of radiance hits your blog or email system, the same information can be immediately distributed to your different social media outlets like Facebook, and Twitter allowing you to magnify your audience all while you are focusing your time on servicing existing customer and business needs.

The bottom line is that through small time commitments and simple automation, entrepreneurs can effectively market themselves without sacrificing the business they are trying to build in the process.

What to look for in a web host, the basics

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Most people are somewhat at a loss when it comes to choosing a web host. It is generally believed that all hosts are created equal and the only real determining factor is price. Sadly this is not the case and if you let price alone drive your hosting decision you might end up with a big headache for the foreseeable future. Now don’t get me wrong, cost should be a factor, it just should not be the ONLY factor in making your decision. Besides, anymore a small business can get decent hosting for as little as $4/month so it is a lot easier to focus on what the host can do for you.


Server Software
The first stop on your hosting voyage should be about the functionality that the host offers. Now start back to your homework again. As I may have mentioned before making a plan is always the best any to start any web project. And if you have your plan handy, then you will know what you are looking for. At the most basic level you need to decide between Linux and Windows hosting. There are pros and cons to both, the key is knowing what your finished site will require (if anything) in order to function the most effectively. Linux is usually a safe bet if you are not sure and a basic static HTML site will work on either platform out of the box  but having a plan will take the guess-work out of it.

If your site is going to be built using PHP (whether it be a custom build or something like WordPress) you are best off with a Linux server. While with .ASP or .Net, a Windows server is a better option. There are components that will allow some things to run on either platform interchangeably but depending on your planned use, it is best to stick with the type of server it was initially designed to use.

Storage & Transfer
Other things to consider when choosing your hosting plan is the amount of storage space and data transfer you are allotted each month as part of your plan. Storage space is pretty straight forward – it is the amount of physical disk space you have available for storing your files on the web server but Data Transfer is a little trickier. Data Transfer is more about traffic. It is the amount of data that can be transferred from your site to your visitors each month. Now, I know what you are thinking, “that does not pertain to me because I don’t really have anything I want people to download”. Well, that is not exactly what it means. Data Transfer covers every page and every element of every page that is sent to a user when they come to your site. What that means is that if you have an HTML page that is 10K and you have 5 images on that page that are each 20K, you are transferring 110K of data each time that page is viewed.  Plans generally cover 2-5GB of data transfer each month and unless you actually have large downloadable files  or have mistakenly decided to host your own videos on the site, most small business will not have an issue with this. But be weary, If you do end up going over your allotment it might come back to bite you with up-charges. Video is usually the cause of data transfer up-charges and one of the best ways for small businesses to avoid this type of issue is to host your video on a sharing site like YouTube because you can still embed the video in your page but the data is being transferred directly from YouTube to your visitors so you get to see the benefits of having video on your site without the potential cost issues.

For most small businesses a basic plan will have all that you need.

Email is an often overlooked component of web hosting packages. Never discount the value of having an email address that is specifically associated with your domain. It presents a much more professional image and many times you get a great deal more functionality out of it that you would have with Gmail, Yahoo or your local cable provider. Most come with at least 10 email addresses and some come with hundreds. Make sure to pay attention to the available features for your email as well while deciding.

Depending on the type of site you are building you may also need a Database. And although PHP, ASP and .NET do not require the use of a database to be useful, their real power comes from the dynamic delivery of content. The most common type of database is MySQL which is generally offered with Linux plans (and required for WordPress) while Microsoft SQL server is the DB of choice for .NET.

A major differentiator between different web hosts is reliability. Most decent hosts offer a 99% + up-time guarantee. You need to make sure that the host you choose is not a fly by night operation that is going to cause more problems than it solves but bigger does not always equal better. Some of the big boys have had financial issues in recent years causing problems for their users when they had to sell out and the users had to jump through hoops to keep everything status quo.  Make sure you are comfortable with the host you chooses because the longer you are with them, the harder it is to leave. And if you do end up having to leave (no matter how little time you have spent with them) be prepared for the pains that can accompany it (propagating your domain to a new host can cause downtime with your website as well as wreak havoc on your email). The best option is to do your homework upfront so you don’t have to deal with the dentist over the issues caused by excessive teeth gnashing.

For the most part, customer service with your web host will be pretty transparent and you won’t really care, that is until you have an issue. And although they do not happen with great frequency, problems do occur and they seem to always happen at the most inopportune times. And at times like those it is good to know there is someone you can contact to get it resolved quickly. Check to see how they handle customer service. Is it email only or do they have a number you can call and do they have hours that will work for your needs? I know I have had to contact support in the middle of the night a few times for different clients and the fact that I was able to get a response from someone at 2AM and avoid the potential unpleasantness from eager site goers inability to do what they wanted was more than worth it. Make sure their availability will suite your needs (and a phone number as an option is always a huge plus).

There are a number of companies out there that can get you what you need, when you need it, with reliability and  service to back up the sale. Some of my top picks are below:


Now that you know what you are looking for (at least on a basic level), get out there and find the host that can help make your online dreams a reality.

5 more great WordPress Plugins

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

In a continuing effort to improve both user and usee experience with WordPress sites, I offer a few more handy plugins to help make life on both ends of the site a little easier.

WP-Spam Free
Those of you who have comments enabled for blog postings on your WordPress site know just how annoying comment SPAM can be. Yes, you heard correctly, SPAM (it’s not just for email anymore). But fear not, as with most things WordPress…there’s an app for that. Just like the filter on your inbox, WP-Spam Free will weed out the Viagra and Mortgage company ads (along with any other comments that don’t pass the smell test) that bots try to post to your site as soon as they get wind that there is a form to be submitted. It is great for you because it keeps unwanted content from showing up without your knowledge or in the case of having moderation setup, it will keep your inbox free of most of those blog born irritants. And it is great for your clients and potential clients because they do not have wade through drug and porn ads to find that diamond in the rough comment that they are looking for to make sense of everything they are reading.

Ever wonder about those “Tweet” buttons that appear on some blog posts (like the one to the right), well that is a great little plugin called TweetMeMe. What it does is add that nifty button to each of your postings and then it is kind enough to track the number of times other people thought enough of your latest rant to share it with their friends. All your visitors have to do to spread your wisdom is click the button and login to their Twitter account (assuming they are not already logged in) and there, like a virus, your knowledge finds its way to more willing hosts.

CForms II
OK, so how many of you are frightened by the prospect of adding a form to your site and even more troubled by the spew of nasty that is returned to you in email when your brilliance is rewarded with an inquiry? Worry no more. Contact Forms II was designed with you in mind. Now all you have to do is select from a list of field types, decide the order in which you would like them to display and you are off to the races. There is even an easy interface for setting up the email that comes back to you with those awesome results!

Looking to jazz up your posts to include a photo of the author or maybe want to look really awesome when responding to your blog comments? Well, if you answered “Amen, Brother” or some other type of affirmative response, UserPhoto is the plugin for you. Simply install it and you will find additional fields at the bottom of your account editing screen. All you have to do then is browse for that photo that just screams You and you are set. Let it upload and BAM (to borrow an expression) you are looking more sharp and professional than anyone has the right to be.

After the Deadline
For those of you bemoaning the fact that Spell Check is missing from the WordPress bag of tricks, cry no more. After the Deadline not only finds all of those textual faux pa’s but it also will school you on improper word usage to help you make the most of the brilliance that is leaking from that overstuffed brain. Just tell WordPress you want to publish your post and After the Deadline, like the Gentlemen’s Gentleman that it is, will scan your prose for things it finds to be naughty in its sight and allows you the opportunity to snuff it before your error is seen by the masses waiting for the next installment of the cool that is you.

Now that is what I call putting the Fun in Functionality. So don’t just sit there, strut on over to (or start your search right from your own sites admin interface) and take the first step toward enjoying making your site more enjoyable to use.

5 plugins to streamline your WordPress administration

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

WordPress offers thousands of little pieces of code designed to help you extend the functionality of your site with the least possible effort. These little pieces of code are known as plugins. Plugins can range from simple admin only enhancements to full-on new site features that are ready to deploy to your user base. The trick is finding the right one to fit your particular needs.

Here are 5 great admin enhancements that no site should be without:

Page links to
Although outmoded to a degree by some of the newer “Menu” functionality in recent versions of WordPress, this simple little plugin can save you a significant amount of time when making edits and additions to your site. Essentially it is a simple redirect for the page/post in question. It adds a control to your post/page editing console that allows you to set an internal or external URL and it redirect all traffic to that post/page to the specified URL. It is great when linking menu items out to third-party or other affiliated sites and allows you to either open the link in the existing window or pop up a new one so that you can send people out without forcing them to leave your site. As I said, the new Menu functionality covers this but I really like this plugin because it allow you to do it on the fly while right in the page editor so if you decide that the content on this page is no longer relevant and you would prefer any traffic coming to it to go to another page instead, there is no need to remove any content or do anything fancy, just enter the URL and you are off to the races.

Exclude pages
Another great plugin that is outmoded by the Menu functionality of the recent versions of WordPress but still a must have for simple sites or sites with themes that do not support the new menus (and there are a lot of them out there). All it does is add a single check box to your post/page admin that is checked by default and says “include page in navigation”. Have a sales page that you want to keep it from showing up in your menus? No need to pay a developer to make some funky changes to your theme code, all you have to do is uncheck the box and update the page, easy pease.

TinyMCE Advanced
A strange name but a familiar tool to all WordPress users if they only knew. You disagree? Well, have you ever updated a page or added a post in WordPress? Well, then you have used TinyMCE. TinyMCE is the script that is used to create that wonderfully familiar “Word”-like editing interface that you use to make things pretty in your posts. TinyMCE advanced builds on that great base and offers additional functionality, like table creation and editing, that can make it significantly easier to maintain your pages and posts. Instead of a measly two rows of buttons, you can now customize the features that are available so your editing menu can be as unique as the stellar content that you are creating with it.

Twitter Tools
Twitter tools is a great plugin to help you enhance your social media presence. Although recent version updates have made the configuration a little more involved, it is well worth it. It offers the ability to automatically send a Tweet to your followers each time you make a new post to your blog thus helping you kill two birds with one “publish” click. Now rather than creating a new post and then tweeting about it two days later because you got sidetracked right as you finished, the tweet will go our simultaneously allowing your followers quicker access to the brilliance you offer on a regular basis (kind of like this 🙂 ).

All in one SEO Pack
what can I say, it is all about the SEO and the All in One SEO Pack is just what the doctor ordered. This simple plugin allows you to quickly and easily optimize your site for search engines. If offers base functionality to set keywords and descriptions and home page title while adding a new component to your Page/Post editor that will allow you to optimize every page on your site individually. So now whenever you make changes on your site you can just as easily make sure that your page continues to be optimized to enhance your organic SEO. With this in place, you will have a solid base for any SEO strategy.

These are but a few of the thousands of great plugins out there being developed and maintained by the open source community. Wish you could work more efficiently? In all likelihood there is app for that. So stop wishing, and start searching. And although the first things you see may not be the plugins you’re looking for, move along and you will fins what you need.

Social networking for your social network

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Just when you thought you were the last one to arrive at the social networking party, you realize that you got there just before your blog. Everyone talks about how you can leverage social media for your business but did you know that your blog can now take care of that all on its own? Thanks to one of the thousands of brilliant developers out there who make your life easier by developing applications for everyone’s favorite time suck, you can now syndicate your blog on Facebook allowing the teeming masses of yet undiscovered business potential to see your ramblings (good or bad) while they busily catch up with that varied list of butterflies that they try to keep up with daily.

Networked Blogs allows users to subscribe to your blog feed and have it displayed directly on their personal or Facebook Fan page. The best part is that rather than needing to go back and check out your favorite rantings (and/or astute business knowledge – tomato, tomato), the new entries post directly your wall as soon as they hit the net (you are there all day anyway, may as well make it time well spent).

And what is the bottom line of this wonderful new toy, you ask? Aside from the obvious user benefits, in essence, it allows your blog to have a go at social networking on its own. Just imagine what it can accomplish when left to its own devices in the worlds largest shampoo commercial. Think about it. You apply your brilliance to your keyboard and hit publish, but now instead of it just going to your Great Aunt Ruby and her Bridge club, you are now reaching John in Des Moines and Roxanne in Nelson, B.C.. But it doesn’t stop there because as the commercial goes, they tell two friends and so on and so on and so on…or at least one of their friends sees the feed and decides to read your post, and then one of his sees it when he subscribes and all of a sudden you have a whole new market of suburbanite professionals.

So who says that your social interactions actually require you? Just do with your blog what you have always done with you dog, make sure it is well fed and well-groomed, then head out in public and let it draw the chicks…uh, I mean people, to you.

What’s the deal with Social Networking?

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

If you are not living under a rock and do not rely on the “Trash Heap” to give you the latest news of the day, then you have probably heard the term “Social Networking”. And while it is all the buzz on the internet, many people are unsure of what it is exactly.

So what is Social Networking anyway? Well, Social Networking, in general, occurs when individuals interact with other like-minded individuals in a social setting. But the definition of the term has morphed somewhat in recent years to refer more specifically to Online Social Networking which is the same but with a (cyber) kick. Online Social Networking occurs when these same individuals come together through various member access mediums to chat, share photos and generally connect online. There are many things online that can be considered to be social networks but for the purposes of this article we will confine the definition to connecting with individuals through things like Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In.

Ok, I get it but so what, isn’t that stuff just for teenagers? Well, not exactly. Although many of the largest social networks initially catered primarily to high school and college students, times they are a changin’. Now you will find a great cross-section of society getting involved with social networking because of how convenient it is to stay in contact with friends and family along with re-connecting with old friends that you lose touch with over time. The median age of your average social networker has been steadily climbing over the past few years. In fact, in 2008 social networking outstripped email in overall reach with 66.8% of internet users accessing member communities online compared to 65.1% for email.

So what does this really mean to you? Well as a business owner, you have an opportunity to take advantage of all this virtual water cooler milling. Make hay while the virtual sun shines. With the proliferation of these groups and their ever-increasing depth of connections to others, your message can go viral in no time at all. And the SEO potential is staggering. If you can reach one person at any of these online watering holes, that message can potentially be carried infinitely as well as being picked up by your favorite search engine with yet another golden link to your website. Think back to your favorite shampoo commercial. You get one persons attention and they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on…

So how do I do it? The key to effective social networking, like with may other things, is planning. If you come up with a solid strategy for your business or product, you can hit them over and over without them even knowing it. And remember, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. The best part about social networking is that the networks themselves can interconnect to reinforce your message. Make sure that any strategy includes multiple points of contact.

As I stated before, there are a number of popular social networking sites out there but I will focus on some of the most popular:

Facebook is the quintessential social networking site. Anyone who is anyone online is on Facebook in some way shape or form. Any business or product can set up what is known as a Fan page on Facebook. It is essentially an online profile for you business that allows you to post messages, upload photos, share success stories or even have discussions with clients and potential clients. It can be like having your very own conference room in the ether where you can post the latest information about your products and services or share your success. And the best part is that when you post a link or even just make a statement about your business, it automatically shows up in the news feed that your “fans” spend their time with every day. It is a great way to keep top of mind with current and potential clients.

Twitter is a micro blogging platform that allows you to send updates to your “followers” 140 characters at a time. It does not seem like much, but it is enough to drive traffic to product information, blog postings or to inform “followers” of events. These quick postings are called Tweets. It is used by many as a means of communicating what they are doing “right now” but as a business medium it is growing daily to help connect businesses with potential clients, value added resellers and vendors.

Linked-In is the only one of the networks I have listed that was specifically intended for business use. You can add a complete profile about you and/or your company and then you can connect with people you have worked with in the past or present. The people in your network can then connect you with people in their network who are looking for someone in your field. The connections can get pretty deep so it kind of becomes like the 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon but with potential business connections and who knows, maybe even Kevin Bacon himself.

Now that you are setup with your accounts, don’t simply rely on Linked-In,Twitter, or Facebook alone, use them in concert to make your messages sing. There are applications available that will allow you automatically post your Facebook Fan page status to your Twitter account (or vice versa) and Linked in will also display your tweets. And if you really want to melt your brain, set up a blog and set it to update Twitter, which can then update Facebook and Linked-In thus allowing you to post a single piece of content related to your business and have it reach multiple levels of people on multiple networks all at the same time…now talk about a Breck Shampoo moment.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when developing your Social networking strategy is that you have to update regularly to see any impact form your efforts. Social networking is not a fix it and forget it type of meal. This is the type that requires a candy thermometer and patience while you stir and stir to make sure that it doesn’t get scorched.

I don’t need a blog so why would I use WordPress

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

WordPress is a blogging platform that has been around since 2003 but has really seen an explosion of use recently. A lot of the explosion is due to the proliferation of blogs that have popped up over the last few years but that is not all of it. WordPress was originally developed for blogging but it has evolved into much more over the years and is now what I would consider to be a full fledged CMS or Content Management System.

So you can use it to manage your blog, big deal!

Well, it is a Big Deal because it is not JUST for blogging anymore. Don’t get me wrong, WordPress is one of the easiest and best bloging platforms out there but its real power lies behind the scenes. WordPress allows you to create static pages, upload and manage media (graphic, audio and video files) and is one of the most extensible systems I have ever seen with thousands of free Plug-ins to help it do pretty much anything you want from enhancing your SEO to having an online sotre.

So what do I care? Why is WordPress so special?

It has a lot going for it here are three solid reasons to use it:

  1. WordPress is Free to install (even to host if you don’t mind having a domain on your site) and easy to implement as an add-on application through many Web Hosting Control Panels.
  2. WordPress is supported by a huge community of Open Source developers that are constantly adding and improving the already impressive and modular system.
  3. WordPress is focussed on usability and user testing (something that is not often found in an open source application)

The most recent explosion of use is not by bloggers (although they may have a blog on their site as well) but by businesses looking for an inexpensive way to get the most out of their website. And you really can’t beat WordPress for that. There are hundreds of Free “Themes” that allow you to essentially Skin your installation of Wrodpress any way you want. And if you are looking for something more customized to your business, WordPress can handle that too. Many web developers can develop a WordPress theme as easily as coding any other type of website but the beauty of WordPress is that once the design is done and set, you don’t have to depend on a third party to update your site, you just dive right into the password protected admin area of your site and update pages as easily as using a word processor. No coding knowledge required.

More and more WordPress is becoming the most economical way to either join the internet age or to enhance the online properties you already have and no matter what it is you are doing on the web, WordPress is a great place to start.