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The Basics of Webinars: Length, Format, Date, and Recording Options

If you’ve been following our webinar blog series, you’ll know we’ve tackled some crucial aspects of webinar marketing—like whether this tactic is right for your business, how you can benefit from it, how to set realistic goals and objectives, and how to select an audience-pulling topic. We’ve even covered 10 awesome tools for creating and hosting killer webinars.

Today we’re focusing on some of the finer details of webinar development. So, if you’re getting ready to leverage this powerful business tool for the first time, or you simply need a refresher course on webinar basics, follow along as we look at length, format, date, and recording options.

Webinar Length

Webinar LengthOne of the first things you need to consider when planning your webinar is presentation length. While most webinars tend to run between 45 and 60 minutes, there are those that push the 90 minute mark—and beyond in rare cases. The length of your presentation ultimately depends on the scope of your topic and whether you can convey all you need to in a reasonable timeframe. If your topic is too broad, you might want to consider a series of webinars that allow you to provide in-depth information rather than high-level points.

To figure out how much time you’ll need, break down your webinar components into opening remarks, talking points, and a wrap-up, and then assign a time limit to each. A typical webinar usually includes 4-5 minutes for a welcoming message, housekeeping, and presenter introductions; 40-45 minutes for the delivery of the content; and 10-15 minutes for Q&As, action items, and a closing. What you want to be mindful of here is audience engagement and participation. Ensuring your viewers are able to maintain concentration without becoming bored or uncomfortable is key to your success.

Format Options

Webinars can be structured in a number of ways, each with its own set of pros and cons. Popular formats include:

  • Single speaker webinars where one person gives the presentation and answers questions
  • Moderated panel webinars where a moderator facilitates the discussion between guests
  • Interview-style webinars where an interviewer asks expert guests a series of questions
  • Interactive webinars where viewers participate in a variety of activities

Ultimately, you’ll need to determine which format is going to suit your purposes. You’ll also need to take technological requirements and scheduling limitations into account when making your decision.

Date and Time Considerations

Timing is everything, especially if you want great registration and attendance rates. With that said, here are some quick fire tips to help you set the right date and time for your presentation:

  • Consider time zone differences, as well as where the majority of your target audience is based.
  • Since weekends are out, Mondays are for catch-up sessions, and Fridays are for wrapping up last minute business projects, you’re more likely to find success when hosting on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

  • Select a convenient time of day to run your webinar. You want attendance levels and concentration levels at their highest, so you need to determine the time of day that’s best for attendees.

  • Keep special holidays and events in mind. You’ll want to schedule your webinar well in advance, so make sure you choose a date that isn’t going to cause conflict with the schedules of your target audience.

Recording Your Webinar

Webinar Recording OptionsIf you plan to offer On Demand webinars (which you should), you’ll need to ensure you record your presentation and that the recording is of a high quality. The good thing is that most webinar presentation and hosting services offer recording options, as well as the ability to run practice sessions beforehand. Whatever you do, make sure you actually hit the record button when you’re ready to start. Also, consider backup recording software in case things don’t go according to plan.

It’s often the little details first time webinar marketers forget. Have you remembered to take length, dates, times, formats, and recording options into account? Perhaps you’ve forgotten one of these details in the past and now have a story to share. You know where to leave your comments…

10 Awesome Tools for Creating Presentations and Hosting Webinars

When you’ve decided webinars make sense for your business, and the benefits are worth the effort, your next step involves searching for tools and applications that ensure your efficiency in both creating presentations and hosting webinars. With so many options available, where do you begin without feeling overwhelmed?

To help you out, we’ve pulled a list together of popular options you’ll find on almost any best-in-class list for tools and apps in these two categories.

Tools To Create Webinar Presentations That Engage Viewers

 Engaging webinar presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint: The go-to presentation tool for many businesses, PowerPoint lets you create compelling and unique slideshows using a variety of layouts and design tools. For those of you who like to keep track of your talking points with as little distraction as possible, the Presenter View feature enables you to view your notes on the same screen while your audience only sees your slide. If you don’t own the Microsoft Office tool suite, you can purchase PowerPoint as a single app.

Google Drive: Although this tool isn’t as sophisticated as other options, Google Drive still offers a collection of themes, templates, and basic features to develop presentations that are worthy of your webinar. It’s a great tool if you’re looking for software that’s free and easy to use.

Prezi: This virtual whiteboard allows users to create visually appealing and dynamic presentations that include images, video, sound bites, and more. While the tool lets you offer your audience a multi-dimensional story experience rather than a slideshow, it’s important to use Prezi’s software correctly so that you don’t make viewers nauseous. Licenses range from free to $13.25 per month.

ClearSlide: Besides letting you tell your story through a combination of images, charts, shapes, layouts, video, Flash, and more, this provider lets you pull real-time data into your slides, share your creations easily, and measure the effectiveness of your presentations with powerful analytics. Although a free trial is available, you may find this tool pricier than others.

Keynote: Apple’s answer to presentation software, Keynote is ideal for constructing beautiful presentations with 3D charts, animations, special effects, and other design elements. The tool currently offers 44 different themes, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one to suit the tone of your webinar topic.

Tools for Hosting Webinars Effortlessly

Tools for hosting webinars

When looking for a good webinar hosting tool, you’re looking for things like flexibility, functionality, audience capacity, consistent quality, and reasonable pricing. With these factors in mind, here are five service providers you might want to try if you’re new to the webinar game.

GoToWebinar: This feature-rich software offers full-service registration, customized branding, screen sharing, recording options, interactive features like polls and Q&As, phone and VoIP support, post-session surveys, follow-up emails, video hosting of recorded webinars, and more. Packages range from $99 – $499 per month with a 20% discount for annual plans. A 30-day free trial period ensures you can evaluate this webinar hosting tool without any risk.

AnyMeeting: Ideal for small businesses, AnyMeeting’s features include the ability to customize the meeting with your own branding, record your sessions, share your screen, present PowerPoint presentations, and play Youtube videos. It’s also mobile-friendly, offers Twitter and Facebook integration, and provides you with a personal URL. While the upside is you have access to a free version that allows up to 200 attendees, the downside is that an advertiser-based model supports it. Alternatively, you can opt for the ad-free Pro25 or Pro200 plan, which run for $18/month and $78/month respectively.

Instant Presenter: This excellent tool is jam packed with features that allow you to promote your webinar, engage your audience, and evaluate your message’s effectiveness. Besides automated meeting and registration tools, custom branding, PayPal integration, and presentation sharing, you’ll have access to live video and audio, a whiteboard, polling, survey and testing tools, on-demand recording, and other useful features. Although pricing starts at $35 per month for a maximum of 25 attendees, Instant Presenter offers a 20% discount if you purchase an annual plan.

WebEx: Whether you’re hosting a small webinar with a few people or large-scale event with up to 3,000 participants, WebEx offers a powerful hosting solution for businesses of any size. As part of their packages, you’ll find customizable invitations, registration tools, application and multimedia sharing, polling, Q&As, chat, high quality voice and video conferencing, record and play back options, lead tracking, campaign management, and attention-monitoring functionality. While the free plan is limited, WebEx offers competitive rates when you compare their features to similar providers in the market.

Adobe Connect: Adobe’s web conferencing platform provides you with an all-in-one solution that includes tools and templates for developing engaging landing pages and emails, a brandable console, polling and surveys, an interactive whiteboard, chat, recording and playback, attendee reporting, lead tracking, and marketing analytics tools to help you optimize campaigns. You can expect to pay around $45/month for the annual plan, $55/month for the monthly plan, and $0.32 per minute per user for the pay-per-use option. Adobe Connect is definitely an option to explore if you’re looking for a robust webinar hosting platform at an affordable rate.

Bonus Options:

Before you put an unknown tool between you and your audience members, make sure you test these options out and select the best one to suit your business needs. The last thing you want is to lose a prospect or client because of crappy audio or other technology-related issues.

Are there any presentation tools or webinar hosting services you’d recommend? Drop us a line in the comment section below and tell us why you love them so much.

Free Email Marketing Tools

free-email-marketing-toolsWe have covered a lot of paid email marketing programs in other posts, but aren’t there any free tools out there? I look for free software all the time, and most of what’s out there gives the illusion of being free. By that I mean it is promoted as free and looks pretty darn close to being free until you try and use it only to find out that nope, it isn’t free. That’s not an absolute truth, though, and we’ve found some email marketing tools that you can use completely free of charge.

As a side note, I think there is a mentality on the web that everything (in terms of software) should be free. I tend to disagree with this because we often don’t see all the person-hours and investment that goes into creating some of these free programs. If something has genuine value and can help make me money, I have no problem paying for it. Okay, on to the free stuff!

email-spam-checkerEmail Spam Test

There are always lots of blog posts and articles on what not to say in an email body or subject line, but not so many tools that actually scan what you are sending out. Emailspamtest.com does this, and it’s super easy. You just type in your subject line as it will be displayed in your email, copy and paste your plain text or HTML/CSS markup and click “Scan.”

The email spam test does its thing and pops out a score (with explanation) on the other end. It lets you know if your message will be considered spam or not. The tool is completely free to use (there aren’t even any ads on the site), and you can do it as many times as you want.

In case you were wondering, the site uses rules derived from the popular Spam Assassin Project, an open-source Apache project aimed at combating email spam.

Build Free Templates

Campaign Monitor gives users the ability to build an email template for free. At the time of this writing, you are able to go to their website, choose from among a handful of popular templates (i.e. newsletter, sales template, etc), customize it with their WYSIWYG editor and then download it into a zip file.

Of course you are going to have to install it on whatever software you are using to do email marketing, but all the coding is done. If you have ever tried to code an HTML email template before, you know it’s tough work. It can be incredibly difficult to ensure that dimensions are correct and to make sure all of your styling and HTML shows up.

email-template-builder

Test Your Email in Different Clients

So this is one of those programs that offers a slightly free teaser, and you have to sign up if you want more. If you are just sending out messages occasionally, or your email marketing isn’t a large part of your overall initiative, the free review you get on this site is probably sufficient. If you do a ton of email marketing, you might want to look into signing up.

Litmus is one of my favorite tools for email marketing. As marketers, messaging is extremely important. If our messaging doesn’t come across properly, we risk losing our audience. Just like different browsers display web pages differently, email clients display emails differently. Some may block all formatting and images, whereas others may let some through. Still others may kick your message to the spam folder where others don’t care.

With Litmus, you can at least see what your messaging would look like to people using major email providers. You also get the added benefit of seeing how your emails look on mobile devices.

email-client-tester

Track Your Success

Tracking your success is a part of the email marketing game, so you need something in place to do that. Even if you use paid marketing software, those programs will only give you metrics related to your messages and not what people do on your website after they’ve clicked through.

Google Analytics is one of the most popular web-based tracking platforms, and it’s also free. They have pretty good tutorials to help you install it on your site, and you can track links using Google’s URL builder. Insert specialized links in the emails you send out and you can track people that come to the domain where you have tracking installed.

You’ll be able to see how many visits came from an email blast you sent out, what those people did on your site, how long they stayed and loads of other information.

Free Trials

You are going to be hard-pressed to find an email marketing provider who will operate for free. Companies like iContact used to offer a free version of their software; however, those that still offer it typically don’t let you store a lot of contacts in their database.

iContact, however, will let you sign up for a free trial before you buy. That is at least good enough to see if you like the program before you commit. You’ll also get to send out some messaging for free for a little while. For the most part, though, if you want a decent email marketing provider, you are going to have to pay the nominal expense for an account.

This list is probably not complete, and new programs pop up all the time. You have to do a little digging, but there are usually lots of free or nearly free tools floating around out there. Be careful not to give out sensitive information to companies that look shady, and if something seems too good to be true, it is.

 

What free tools to you know about for email marketing? If you know of some not mentioned here, please share in the comments below!

Free Social Media Monitoring Tools You Should Check Out Today

Listening.

It’s a simple skill. It’s the key to good communication, and it’s a building block for any strong relationship. Knowing how important communication, relationship building, and conserving financial resources is to you and your business, we’ve created a list of free social media monitoring tools designed to tap into relevant conversations and help you mine valuable data about your brand, industry, target market, influencers, competitors, and more.

If you’re wondering why sites like HootSuite and Viralheat aren’t on our list, it’s because we’ve already touted their awesomeness in a previous post on free social media management tools. So without further ado, here are additional tools we’d highly recommend you add to your marketing arsenal.

Pluggio

Social Media Monitoring - Pluggio

Although Pluggio was initially built around Twitter, this web-based social media monitoring, content curation, and management service offers Facebook and LinkedIn integration, Twitter growth data, a bookmarklet, and Bit.ly stats. The free plan allows one team member to manage up to five social profiles, schedule or drip-feed ten posts at a time, monitor ten RSS feeds, and grow a following using five Friend Finder Search Agents. If you opt for the free plan, you’ll also gain access to forum support for those times when you need a little extra help.

Overall, Pluggio is the perfect complement to any social media management software you’re currently using.

SocialMention

Social Media Monitoring - SocialMention

SocialMention is a popular listening tool that searches across the web to find real-time mentions of your brand, products, services, or chosen keywords and then aggregates information into a single stream for your convenience.

Besides digging up and analyzing data from the usual suspects, SocialMention also searches through blogs, comments, bookmarks, images, Q&A sites, news, events, video, and audio sites to provide feedback on sentiment, strength, passion, and reach. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic tool for monitoring and measuring what others are saying or feeling about your brand and targeted topics. If you leverage the tool properly, you can easily filter out questions you can answer to build authority, and address comments where sentiment is negative.

Mention

Social Media Monitoring - Mention

Although a free plan will always limit your abilities, Mention is a fantastic, feature-rich tool that allows you to keep tabs on social media activity and listen in to real-time conversations that are valuable to your business. It often picks up things that similar tools like Google Alerts will miss, so you might want to think about using it as a replacement.

With the free plan you can monitor up to 250 mentions, create two alerts with multiple keywords, and receive daily web alerts. Mention will also let you see real-time social alerts, choose two languages, and archive data for a month. The good news is you can use their Pro plan for a 31-day trial period before it reverts to the free plan.

SocialPointer

Social Media Monitoring - SocialPointer

While this real-time social media monitoring tool is still in its beta phase, there’s no doubt it packs a punch for individuals and businesses looking to monitor online social conversations. The platform enables users to create groups of keywords and then track and monitor the web for relevant chatter and social mentions.

Besides aggregating content on your dashboard, SoicialPointer offers filtering functionality, tagging capabilities, and email alerts. Overall, it’s a great tool for finding and engaging potential clients, monitoring competitor campaigns, managing your brand’s reputation, gaining real-time user feedback, and more. It even provides stats based on your groups and each keyword within them. In fact, comparing your targeted phrases has never been easier.

Buzz Equity

Social Media Monitoring - BuzzEquity

Similar to SocialMention, Buzz Equity is a free social media monitoring tool that helps users understand what people think and feel about a particular brand. It also shows the level of awareness around a brand and uses analysis and ranking algorithms to provide insight into reach, strength, intensity, sentiment, and passion.

Users have the opportunity to drill down into search results and uncover information and conversations based on time, location, source, and language filters. As a bonus for businesses operating within the Chinese and Japanese markets, it searches social properties based in East Asia too.

Are there any free social media monitoring tools you prefer? Share them with us in the comment section below and let us know why you love them so much.

SEO Tools for Excel

ExcelThere are tons of commercial tools out there for SEO, but the unsung hero of the practice is a program whose traditional home is in the business world. Microsoft Excel has some interesting uses as a tool for optimizing websites among its many other simple, yet very advanced, applications. Check out this list of SEO add-ons for Excel.

SEO Tools for Excel

This is an add-on for Excel provided by Niels Bosma. You can do a lot of cool stuff with this addition like creating score card reports, domain research, on-page analysis and even import data from Google Analytics. You can also monitor social media efforts and work with data in MjesticSEO or SEOlytics.

You can currently download the tool for free and all that is required is Microsoft Excel and the full .NET framework  for it to work. If you don’t have the framework, it is conveniently provided on the download page of Bosma’s site. The only thing you have to give in return for the software add-on is your email.

asap-utilitiesASAP Utilities

This isn’t marketed as an SEO add-on, but it can be used to automate a lot of routine tasks such as finding and removing duplicate keyword phrases or grouping similar keywords together. You’ll have to pay for this add-on; however, you can play with the free version to see if you can find any use for it before spending money. If you decide to download the full version,  it costs 49 bucks at the time of this writing. If you have no idea where to start with the add-on, there is a great tutorial  on how to use the add-on here.

Make Links Live

This tool is actually a macro and not an add-on, and it’s useful for only one thing – making links live. That may not sound like anything special, but if you have thousands of links in a document and for some reason you want to make them all live when they are not, you are in for some tedious work.

This macro lets you do it by clicking one button. The macro for versions of Excel older than 2007 can be downloaded here. The macro for newer versions of Excel can be downloaded here.

urlURL Tools

The SEO tools add-on mentioned above has a URL extraction tool in it, but you can also check out this one. It allows you to extract the root domain name from URLs in a spreadsheet. This comes in handy when you have a ton of URLs, but just want to see the root domains. You can download the add-on here, and learn more about how to install it here.

excel-functionsUseful Excel Functions

This isn’t an add-on either, but John Doherty shares 8 useful excel functions for SEO work. Some of these may save you a ton of time when working with large amounts of data. John’s post shows you how to use common Excel functions to do things like finding duplicate data, extracting URIs, clean domain names and create keyword lists among other tasks.

Excel is one of those rare tools that lets people do some really simple things with advanced features that don’t get in the way. If you just want to plug in some numbers, you can do that. If you want to store thousands of lines of complicated code, you can do that too. You can use it for accounting work or to do optimization work on websites.

Do you use Excel for SEO? What other add-ons, plugins or functions are good for SEO? Join the conversation by commenting below.

6 Cool Tricks and Hacks for WordPress

wordpressIt’s common knowledge among the online community that WordPress is a very popular CMS. As such, you can always find cool tricks to make it unique or do things beyond its out-of-the box features. Check out these 6 cool hacks you can do to any WordPress site.

Highlight Blog Author Comments on Your Own Website

These little hacks will make it so any comments that you post on your blog will be highlighted in a color of your choosing. The exact configuration of code may vary depending on what kind of theme you have installed, but this should work for you, or at least point you in the right direction.

Look for the CSS that is applied to your author comments. If you are using the default WordPress commenting system, you will be looking for a class like .authcomment. Once you have found it, apply a hex color of your choice. You can find examples of hex colors here

Your CSS should look something like this,

.authcomment

{

background-color: #YOURHEXCOLOR;

}

You will also want to define a class in comments.php like this,

<?php

$comment_class = (YOURUSERID == $comment->user_id) ? ‘comment-admin’ : ‘comment';

?>

404errorMaking a Custom 404 Error Page

Many WordPress templates come with their own 404 error pages. They are typically named 404.php. You can find this file in your theme folder. You should also be able to find it in your WP backend.

To modify your existing 404 page:

  1. Log into your backend.
  2. Open your theme editor or click “appearance” then “editor”
  3. Look for “404.php”

Open and edit the template by inserting your own text or code to display.

you should see code like this,

<?php get_header(); ?>

<div id=”content”>

<h2 class=”center”>Insert some clever or funny text here that users can see when they hit a URL that does not have a page associated with it.</h2>

</div>

<?php get_sidebar(); ?>

<?php get_footer(); ?>

Make All External Links Open in New Window by Default

To do this you will be searching for a file called link.htm; however, it may vary based on your theme. It can typically be found in the wp-includes directory and specifically at wp-includes/js/tinymce/themes/advanced/link.htm.

All you have to do is switch the order of the two lines of code below:

From

<option value=”_self”>{$lang_insert_link_target_same}</option>

<option value=”_blank”>{$lang_insert_link_target_blank}</option>

To

<option value=”_blank”>{$lang_insert_link_target_blank}</option>

<option value=”_self”>{$lang_insert_link_target_same}</option>

Now external links pasted into your posts should open in a new window.

Make A Custom Login Page for WP Backend

This is a nice little touch to brand your website even if you are the only one to see the login page. Depending on your version of WordPress, you will be looking for a file called login.css.  In that file, you will be looking for background-color and h1 background image properties. The image will be located in your images folder and may be named logo-login.png or something similar.

You can also change the default link on the page from wordpress.org to your home page. If you want to change the login form, look for a hook like “form” somewhere in login.css. You can change anything you want from the fonts, input fields, links, etc.

Style Individual Posts

This hack allows you to style individual posts apart from the rest of the styling on your WordPress blog. You might want to make one post stand out from the rest such as announcements, or maybe a post that contains a special offer. You will be using this function:

<?php the_ID(); ?>

This function displays the numeric ID of the current post. It can also be used as a unique anchor identifier for each post, allowing you to style posts individually if you want to. The identifier might look like this inside of a post:

<h3 id=”post-<?php the_ID(); ?>”>Your Post Title</h3>

Entire posts are typically contained within divs and use of a div plus the function might look like this.

<div class=”post” id=”-<?php the_ID(); ?>”>post headline, post body, etc</div>

Find your specific post ID and insert style properties in style.css or applicable style sheet associated with your theme. It would look something like this.

#post-84

{

background-color: #fff;

font: ‘tahoma’, Arial;

}

Create a Page That Displays a Random Post

You will need to create a custom page in WordPress, and you can do this pretty easily from your backend interface. Just create a page and install the following code on it:

<?php

query_posts(array(‘orderby’ => ‘rand’, ‘showposts’ => 1));

if (have_posts()) :

while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>

<h1><a href=”<?php the_permalink() ?>“><?php the_title(); ?></a></h1>

<?php the_content(); ?>

<?php endwhile;

endif; ?>

It is a loop that runs a query to tell WordPress to show random posts. Notice that the number attributed to ‘showposts’ is set to one. If you want to show more than one post on the page each time it is refreshed, increase that number.

There are tons of other hacks you can find around the web. WordPress is an extremely flexible CMS that you can customize in pretty much any way you want.

 

Are there any special tricks that you use with your WordPress blog that you would like to share?

Inbound Marketing: How to Blog with Inbound Marketing

Our previous inbound marketing posts focused on building buyer personas, keyword research and value propositions. In this post, we talk about pulling those things together in a blog post to be effective at ranking well in search, producing useful content for your target market and converting readers to buyers.

A Quick Guide for Creating Buyer PersonasWriting for Your Personas

The whole point of making buyer personas is to learn more about who your target market is and keeping that in mind when designing marketing messages, among other things. You can also use that information to write blog posts. A key purpose for your blog is to draw your market in with content that delights them.

For example, maybe you have a product or service that has a long sales cycle and requires a lot of education to buy. You can use a blog to educate buyers so they have more information at their fingertips when they do decide to purchase from you.

Perhaps there are tips related to a service you offer where you can teach your customers how to do it themselves. For example, a computer hardware and repair company could use a blog to show visitors how to do their own repairs on a corrupt hard drive.

Just as you would use your personas to design marketing messages or products or services; you should also use them to design the content you produce for your blog.

google keyword toolLeveraging Keywords

An additional benefit to blogging for your business is that you expand your opportunities to rank for more keyword phrases. Search engines rank web pages and not entire sites. Each page or document is best optimized for a single keyword and its variants. In this way, a search engine knows that a particular document is relevant to a specific query.

Following these concepts, webmasters and marketers only have so many pages on a website to optimize for keyword phrases before they run out. With a blog, though, each new post is a new page, and hence a new opportunity to target a keyword phrase.

You can use the keywords that you developed in your research activities to plan out the posts you will have on your blog. Start with words that you want to rank for most or that have the greatest potential for developing useful content.

It is very important that you create a balance between optimizing a post for a particular keyword phrase and actually making the content useful. Typically (for content visible to users), having the keyword in headers of the page as well as sprinkled throughout the copy is a very effective strategy. With that in mind, you shouldn’t force keywords into your writing. If things look unnatural, not only will it turn visitors off but it may look deceptive to a search engine.

ValueStrategic Placement of a Value Proposition

Your company’s value proposition can be used in many of your marketing and sales activities. It can also be used in blog posts. Remember that many people go online to look for information. More precisely, they are looking for detailed, useful and — most importantly — free information.

A blog is a great venue to provide that free information, and it’s also a great place to convert your visitors into customers. Whether people are looking for information before they buy or how to do something on their own so they can save money, they invariably end up in the same position of deciding that they want to buy. A call-to-action at the end of your blog posts with your value proposition is a perfect conversion prompt for people shifting from the information search phase the buying phase of their online activity.

Ideally, your value proposition should be in the form of an image, or at least linked text to a landing page where visitors can perform some sort of action. HubSpot is a company doing this every well.

hs-call-to-action

What other ways can you tie together buyer personas, keyword research and your value proposition other than blogging? Join the conversation by commenting below.

Optimizing Your Small Business Marketing Blog For Success

The best blogs are those that work within the framework of an overall industry. If you run an entertainment blog, for example, you want to make sure that everything about your blog is tailored for the world of entertainment. Things are no different for owners of a small business – except, perhaps, for the fact that a good small business marketing blog can make or break the business behind it. We’ve already had several weeks’ worth of discussion about how anyone can set up a blog, but this week is going to be a bit different. Instead of speaking in generics, we’re going to go over the steps again from the perspective of an individual who is setting up a new small business marketing blog. Everything we’ve discussed already still applies, of course, but there are subtle tweaks to some of the steps that we have used that can really help a small business break out of the pack and establish a dominant blog.

Domain Names, Titles and Hosting

Domain Names, Titles and HostingIn previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of naming your blog from a branding standpoint. If you’re in the business of creating a brand new blog or business, you absolutely have to go for a name that’s going to stand out while still being relevant to your blog’s content. If you’re working on marketing for a small business, though, you’ve already got an existing brand – the name of that business. As such, a great deal of your work has already been done for you. You need to make sure, for example, that your website’s title (and thus domain name) tie back to the original business. If your business already has a hosting solution and domain name, it’s usually wise to have a subdomain for your blog. Great (and easy to remember) choices include www.yoursite.com/blog or www.blog.yoursite.com – both are easy to remember and keep your business’ name at the forefront of the reader’s mind.

If you’re starting from scratch, always make sure that you go for a paid hosting option. I’ve recommend hosts like BlueHost in the past, and I stand by that recommendation for small businesses – not only does such a service give you a better sense of legitimacy in the online world, but the higher level of customer service and dependability is going to reduce your downtime and give you access to a more regular client flow. As a new or established business, you want to make sure that you give potential customers or clients the best chance possible to read your blog on their own schedule – not on the maintenance schedule of a less expensive, but less reliable, entity.

Configuration and Plug-Ins

wordpressEverything we’ve mentioned so far still applies to a small business marketing blog. Setting up WordPress is still your best way to create a clean and useful site, and choosing a minimalist theme that doesn’t distract from your content is the best way to make sure that you can keep readers focused. A small business’ blog might differ from the traditional blog by its attachment to an already existing main page, though, and it is important to make sure that you have some kind of continuity of theme between the two pages of the site – transitions should feel seamless and should help to reinforce the connection between your blog page and the other pages that offer your products and services. This is a huge reason why I advocate simplicity in web design – keeping things simple allows you to make a more cohesive look without requiring you to spend too much time worrying about aesthetics.

If you remember back to our discussion about blog plug-ins, you’ve already been shown five very useful WordPress plug-ins for your blog. These represent the three kinds of utility you really want for your small business marketing blog – safety, sociability and SEO. These five plug-ins will help you to back up your data (a major relief if you lose anything), keep your customers engaged and allow you to better position your site on search engine rankings. The way you design and maintain your site is going to impact how easy it is for customers to find you – and thus dictate how useful your blog is to your business.

Planning and Marketing

Planning and MarketingAs the owner of a small business, you already know that planning is everything. Even more so than a typical blogger, you have to have a plan of action for your content. Always make sure that you know what’s going to go on for the next thirty days on your blog, including not only who is going to contribute content but exactly how that content is going to help you with your sales or service goals. Your content needs to not only be evergreen enough to help make sure that your search rankings are positively impacted but specific enough to help you accomplish certain seasonal goals.

On the marketing side of things (likely the reason that your small business marketing blog exists), you’re going to spend time working on SEO. The way that you’ve designed your site so far, the plug-ins that you’ve chosen and the way that you create your content will help your site to rank higher than those of your competitors. SEO is a game that you have to stay ahead of, so make sure that you keep up with the latest techniques (something that’s quite easy to do if you frequent the TCA blog).

Running a small business marketing blog can be intense, but it doesn’t have to be frightening. Follow the advice above and you’ll be miles ahead of the rest. As long as you remember to put the blog to work for you in a way that’s efficient and makes sense, you’ll have no problem getting to the top of the heap. If you want to make that next great leap in efficacy, though, stay tuned for what’s coming up – we’ll be discussing the 20 best business blogs next week.

Our Series On Blogging

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in starting at the beginning with our special series on blogging. Follow the links below to get more detailed information and insight:

Are You Starting a Blog? Begin Here

How To Start a Blog — Domain Names, Content Creation and More

Essential Advice on Naming Your Blog

Hosting Your Blog — Make the Right Choice for Your Needs

How to Set Up Your Blog with WordPress

Don’t Panic When it Comes to Blog Configuration!

Are You Ready to Start Blogging?

Marketing Your Blog: A BASIC Guide

Advice on Making Money with Your Blog

 

Do you have any additional tips for optimizing a small business marketing blog? Join the conversation below.

A Guide to Writing an Ideal Social Media Manager Job Description

Hiring a Social Media ManagerYou want a professional—a social media manager who not only knows how to handle the demands of this challenging position, but someone who is also as passionate about your business as you are. A huge part of attracting qualified applicants and eventually hiring the right candidate lies in your ability to write a great job description that is both detailed and accurate.

What should a social media manager job description look like? Follow along as we outline key aspects you should consider when constructing yours.

Job Description – The Basics

If you’re familiar with writing job descriptions or advertisements, you’ll know that your document should include several basic elements.

Title: While this may seem obvious, many employers list their social media job openings incorrectly. Besides using “social media manager” to improve the volume and quality of candidates, you’ll want to use this title because it’s the key term job seekers will use when looking for a position like the one you’re offering.

Education: Indicate whether a degree, diploma, or similar certificate is required.

Employment Type: Is this a part-time, full-time, or casual position?

Experience: Many social platforms, tools, and marketing techniques are relatively new, so you’ll have to be realistic in your expectations. However, you might require additional experience in a relevant area of marketing.

Travel Required: If your company’s social media manager is required to travel, you’ll need to state that here.

Salary: Pay should be market related and in line with the job requirements.

Benefits: Outline any benefits or bonuses you’re offering along with the post.

Location: You’ll need to specify the location this position is applicable to if your business has premises in several cities or countries.

Reporting To: Add the title of the individual your new employee will report to directly.

Position Summary

In addition to being concise, accurate, and written in a style that communicates your employer brand, the summary you write should enable potential candidates to qualify themselves for the position a little better. In the case of a social media manager, you’ll want to provide a very brief overview of the role and the type of person you expect to fill the role.

Example:

The social media manager is responsible for implementing and leading the company’s social media strategy, generating brand awareness and engagement, advocating product and service adoption, and measuring social ROI. The right candidate is a highly motivated, strategic thinker with extensive social media experience and a passion for online community building. The ability to coordinate efforts across various departments to ensure brand consistency is a must. This is a full-time salaried position with benefits and opportunities for growth in a dynamic company.

Key Responsibilities

Social Media Manager ResponsibilitiesAlthough you’ll need to outline the responsibilities of your social media manager according to the needs of your business, typical duties include the following:

  • Develop, refine, and implement the social media strategy. Coordinate with various stakeholders to ensure a company-wide, integrated approach to social programs.
  • Manage the day-to-day activities of social media campaigns. Duties may include: overseeing account creation and design elements; writing editorial content; online advocacy; content curation; designing, creating, and managing social ads and promotions; developing and managing community outreach efforts; identifying and reaching out to influencers; managing the social media editorial calendar; monitoring conversations and responding to users; cultivating leads and sales; and reporting on ROI.
  • Manage the online presence of the company on relevant platforms and seed content as per the social media editorial calendar.
  • Manage the company’s online reputation.

  • Seek out and experiment with innovative methods for social media brand building.

  • Monitor and capitalize on social media trends, tools, new channels, and apps when appropriate.

  • Provide feedback to marketing, public relations, and editorial teams regarding relevant insights gained from social media monitoring.

  • Monitor, measure, and report on the effectiveness of social programs, as well as the impact on overall marketing efforts. Make recommendations for possible revisions to campaigns.

Job Requirements

When it comes to qualifications and experience, there are certain things you can expect to be true of every social media manager.

Skills or Experience ChecklistSkills or Experience:

  • Strong organizational and project management abilities;
  • Sufficient knowledge and understanding of social platforms, tools, and techniques, as well as the skill to leverage these assets effectively;
  • Quick learner with a willingness to experiment;
  • The ability to demonstrate creative and strategic thinking;
  • Excellent communication skills—both written and verbal;
  • A working knowledge of ethical SEO principles and how they relate to social search;
  • Proficient at implementing and managing a content marketing strategy;
  • The ability to cultivate and nurture online communities (usually demonstrated through the candidate’s own profiles or previous social media work);
  • In-depth knowledge of various blogging platforms and content management systems;
  • The ability to identify potential issues and apply customer service and relationship management principles;
  • An understanding of social media metrics and reporting;
  • A team player who is capable of taking the lead when necessary;
  • Marketing, public relations, business development, communications, or sales experience;
  • And a sense of humor is a plus.

Education:

  • Bachelor’s degree, diploma, or equivalent in marketing, communications, public relations, or journalism.

That’s it! Whether you use this as a template or you start from scratch, there’s no reason you can’t develop a social media manager job description that will have the right candidates flooding your inbox for a chance to publicize your brand across social media properties while building long-lasting relationships with key stakeholders.

Have we missed anything? What would you include in a social media manager job description? Join the conversation in the comment section below.  

Advice on Making Money With Your Blog

Now that you’ve got your blog up and running, you can turn your energy towards something a little more fun – making money with your blog. While it is absolutely great to have a blog that’s out there to help you express your feelings, it’s also helpful to be able to recoup the costs of running your blog. If you run a business online, you can also use that blog as a new revenue stream – a great way to bump up those profits and justify the time that you’ve spent working on this new project. There are many great ways that you can begin making money on your blog, but today we’re going to discuss the five best. These are five tried and true approaches to making money with your blog – the same methods used by the most successful blogs on the Internet.

 

Affiliate Advertising

Affiliate advertising is quite a bit less intimidating than it might sound. Put simply, this commonly used type of advertising is simply the process of joining a program (Amazon Affiliates is a good place to start) and placing the relevant ads on your blog. There are dozens of affiliate programs out there, so it is usually a wise idea to choose one that sells products that are relevant to your readers’ interests – a company that sells computer equipment, for example, might be a great fit for a programming blog. Affiliate advertising is not an instant payoff, though – your readers have to either click a link or buy a product for you to make money. The fact that these programs constitute a fairly hands-off revenue stream, though, always makes them worth using.

 

AdSense

Google LogoIf you’ve spent any time online, you’ve probably run into Google’s AdSense program. As a webmaster, all you have to do is join the program and make use of a simple code to put AdSense to work – Google and the users of AdWords will do the rest. AdSense is the most popular advertising network on the web, creating a series of contextual advertisements that rarely take away from the content of your page. The biggest issue with AdSense for a new blogger might be the payout terms – Google doesn’t pay out until you reach $100, so you might have to wait a good while for that payment if you’ve got a small audience.

 

Advertising

If you want the freedom to choose your own ads or you simply don’t feel like AdSense will make you enough money in the long run, you can attempt to find advertisers on your own. This is a fairly difficult process for a new blogger, but one that can pay off quite handsomely for the owner of a blog that is established in its field. In a perfect scenario, these advertisers will come to you to ask for ad space on your page – this gives you a bit of an advantage in negotiating price, but it also requires you to be passive in your approach. If you are new to the scene, though, you might want to do a bit of legwork yourself. Look for appropriate advertisers and ask if they’d like space on your page at a competitive rate, or find an advertising network (BuySellAds is a good choice) that can help to introduce you to advertisers looking for new outlets.

 

Product SalesProduct Sales

Your blog can be a spectacular platform for selling the things that you make. If you are a musician, for example, it only takes a moment to add a link to the iTunes or Amazon Music stores that can allow you to sell your latest single. Those who are better at crafts or design might want to feature their own merchandise from a site like etsy on the blog, giving you a great chance to increase your sales. One of my favorite types of product sales, though, is the eBook – you’re already spending a great deal of time generating content for your blog, so why not put some of that energy into making a long-form work? You can not only link your blog to your eBook sales page, but you can even use your blog as a space to post promotional chapters and previews. This can help you to generate great new content and earn income at the same time – a perfect method of making money with your blog.

 

Product Reviews and Paid Posts

There are businesses out there that desperately need their products reviewed, and your blog might provide a proper forum for such an activity. There are quite a few sites out there that will pay you for a sponsored review or post, some of which can provide you with a regular source of income. This method of making money can be tricky, though, as paid posts can alienate some readers. Only try this route if you have a good rapport with your readership and if paid reviews/posts make sense on your blog.

Once you’ve started making money with your blog, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. There are quite a few ways to turn your blog into a monetized venture, and only time will tell which works best for you. Once you’ve started the process, though, you will quickly find your blog’s income-generating properties indispensable. All that’s left for you to do is to learn how to put your blog to work in a way that works best for your needs – and next week, we’ll discuss how to do just that for small business owners.

 

Do you have any other ideas about making money with your blog? Let us know what you think by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.