I’ve been blogging for Garrendenny Lane for almost five years and I know I would probably cringe if I were to dare to look back at my first posts, particularly as they were for a business blog rather than a personal one. However, one learns from mistakes or (more advisably) from reading about someone else’s errors so here goes!
Reading Heidi Cohen’s post on her reflections after two years of blogging inspired this post too so many thanks to Heidi (and her excellent blog)
Having just written a post over at Blog Awards Ireland entitled ‘How Blogging Helped Lorna Sixsmith Beat The Recession‘ outlining how blogging brought in sales for one business and became the formation of another, it seems a good time to reflect on what I’ve learnt from 4.5 years of blogging.
I also love seeing businesses grow from small beginnings, particularly if they used blogging successfully to help them grow and recently featured Hunters Lodge Living as an example in my guest blog at Tweak Your Biz. Blogging can bring your business increased sales and it can also help in more unexpected ways too.
What I have learnt from 5 Years of Blogging:
- Connections – Write about ten posts first and then start to connect with other bloggers. Find a few blogs to read regularly and write interesting comments to engage with them. Drop them an email to introduce yourself and tell them about your blog. They may have time to check out your blog and say ‘hi’. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t – emails can become buried in those inboxes!
- Blogroll – Add complementary blogs to your blogroll. You will find interesting blogs to read on the blogrolls of other blogs in your subject area and this way, you may become part of existing communities.
- Photographs – always include at least one photograph. Apart from breaking up the wall of text, they provide visual interest. Try not to use stock photographs all the time as they become boring and unoriginal. Get your camera out and take photos you might be able to use. If using someone else’s photographs, always attribute them as the source.
- Calls to Action – I received many queries via phone calls during the first six months of my blog’s existence. These calls came because people had found my blog but weren’t sure if I sold the product I had blogged about or where they could get it. Initially I thought the blog was working extremely well as people were calling but then the penny dropped! I needed a call to action so that people would know where they could purchase the product and/or what services I offered.
- Goals and Objectives – Every so often (once every six months), review the goals for your blog and rewrite your objectives. For example, one of the goals for this blog is to promote the blogging training and work we provide to businesses. One of my objectives then is to ensure that readers know we can teach people how to blog effectively and that they can outsource their blogging to us. Hence, I need to show my expertise by writing about blogging in an knowledgeable and informed method, including a call to action.
- A Store of Topics – Keep a record of your ideas in one place. Keep them in evernote, a diary, a notebook, started as a draft in your dashboard – it doesn’t matter where but keep a list of your ideas. Even if you seem to have more ideas than you’ll have time ever to write, I promise that there will come the day where blogger’s block strikes and you will so grateful that you have a list to choose from.
- Jumble it up – Don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. We often do a ‘Find it Friday’ post on this blog whereby people email us questions and we answer them in a blog post but if the questions don’t arrive, we just write a different post.
- Community – try to become part of even one community – be it another business community or one that is more suited to your subject area e.g. interiors. Comment on their blogs and strike up a friendship on twitter or facebook. Don’t become disheartened if you don’t get many comments compared to others – that takes time and it also needs you to take the time to comment on other blogs.
- Other Social Media – when I started blogging in early 2008, I only had the blog to contend with whereas now bloggers are expected to spread their content amongst linked in, twitter, pinterest, facebook, google +, stumbleupon and more. If it all seems too much, just choose one or two. Measure the results and see if it is working. If not, add another platform and measure again. Don’t let them bog you down – use what you have time for and what you find works for your business.
- Spelling and Grammar – I tend to type quite quickly and although my spelling is quite good, typos do occur. I also skim read very quickly (I actually find it hard to read slowly) which means I sometimes miss typos. Get someone else to check your work if you need to – offer to check theirs if they check yours.
If you are debating starting a blog for your business, don’t delay – do it! Businesses that blog get more business and leads than those who don’t! Get help to set one up or with the writing. Remember we offer one to one training as well as teaching courses so do get in touch with Marie or I if you’d like to know more.
I’m often asked (and I’m sure every other social media consultant is asked this question too) how to get more fans on facebook. I devoted some posts some time ago to how you can use the ‘marching’ methods amongst others and provided my reasons as to why I wouldn’t recommend the ‘marching’ method fully. However, today I am going to give you a relatively easy and free method that I am wholeheartedly recommending – how creating compelling content that is shared by your existing fans can really grow your fan base and encourage interaction.
My Garrendenny Lane (online shop) facebook page was fairly static at 1550 fans for some time and I had organising a facebook competition on my ‘to-do’ list but hadn’t got around to it.
I generally post an update once a day, sometimes it will be a link to a blog post or to one of our products and sometimes it is a photograph that I come across and think my fans would like to see.
I look at the ‘people talking about it’ numbers to indicate how well the page is performing, what percentage of fans are likely to see the updates and how a business is interacting with its fans/potential customers. Seeing a page that has 8,000 likers and 2 people talking about it is a disaster in my eyes and certainly doesn’t say anything positive about the business. The number of people talking about your page indicates the numbers who have liked, commented on and shared your page hence it shows the level of interaction too. The higher the percentage of people talking about your page relative to your number of fans, the more fans will see your updates in your news feed.
The Garrendenny Lane page generally had anything between 35-85 people talking about it, occasionally going up to 150. I could get up to 15 likes on an update, perhaps up to 5 or 6 comments and one or two shares. I just couldn’t get more people to share my pictures. I saw pictures that I had put up on my page being shared from other pages, pages that achieved up to 300 shares on one picture (yes, the very same picture that I had uploaded). Admittedly they had a huge fanbase but what I was doing wrong? In a word, nothing – sometimes people just don’t think about sharing a picture if you are continually giving them information, whereas the page that had huge success with pictures was putting up stunning photographs on a daily basis. Their fans were accustomed to oooh and aaaah and share.
Then, I shared a picture of a simple but very effective little playhouse in under the stairs and the comments and shares just took off. 87 people shared it, it received 42 comments and 359 people liked it with a total of 7,000 people seeing it as a result of the shares. Remember I only had 1550 fans. 1,087 views were by organic means and 6,674 views were viral (as a result of the shares).
As a result of the shares and increased interaction, my fan numbers increased by about 60 over the course of the week. I’m not saying that all of the new fans were as a result of this picture but as numbers had been static for some time, I’d argue the majority of them were.
The number of ‘people talking about it’ stayed at the 450 mark for over a week and then slowly reduced to 115.
I just checked the source of the ‘playhouse’ and their page has just over 4,000 likes with an incredible 54,000 people talking about it!!
I have just posted another picture (of a wooden creel becoming a bookcase) that is proving popular with shares, likes and comments so do have a look and see if my ‘talking about it’ number is increasing as a result. At the time of writing, 764 people have seen it (which is almost 50% of my fan base which is good considering some experts calculate that your updates are seen by only 16% of your fans), 536 of those being organic and 236 being viral.
The more people that share, like and comment means that your page gets much more exposure which results in more fans. If you interact with those comments, it demonstrates that you provide good customer service. If you are providing interesting content, it shows your personality and that of your business.
Having said all that, it is not as easy as it sounds. I recently put up a couple of images on the Write on Track facebook page with no success whatsoever, partly because they weren’t clever enough to be worthy of sharing and partly because people aren’t accustomed to sharing photos from our page, it mostly being used for sharing links to interesting articles.
My advice to you though, is to keep trying it occasionally. Sharing an interesting or funny photograph with your fans (that is related to your subject area if possible and ensure it isn’t inappropriate for your business) will show your personality and will lead to more fans as well as engagement. Create something that is funny and original and share it with your likers.
Have you any ‘tried and tested’ methods of increasing your facebook fans? We’d love to hear them.
Many thanks to Sue of Quirki Stuff who asked us how she could display a ‘Before and After’ photograph of one of their painted items of furniture on facebook.
First of all, if you wish to incorporate 2 or 3 before and after photographs into a collage or display a wide photograph in order to give it more presence on Facebook, you need to be aware of the dimensions that Facebook allows for these photos. Highlighted and ‘Milestone’ photographs have dimensions of 843 x 403. If the photo is not this size, it will be ‘stretched’ to fit so may not appear as you had hoped.
To create a collage, a handy free tool is Pic Monkey. Simply opt for the ‘create a collage’ option and decide which layout you would like.
You can choose to upload photos from your computer and all the photos you wish to use will stack in the box on the left side. You can then move them to the collage one at a time or all at once. It is easy to change them from one box to another too. You will notice in the photographs below that the cabinet cannot be seen in its entirety, hence the boxes need to be enlarged.
Place the cursor on the outer edges of the collage and pull them outwards to enlarge the photograph. You can see the total size of the photograph at the bottom and as you can see, it is larger than the required 843 x 403 for Facebook requirements.
By manipulating the outer edges of the collage again, it is possible to reduce the total size of the image to 843 x 403, the desired dimensions. This can be a bit finicky so don’t worry if it isn’t exact, it just means that Facebook will either stretch or hide a tiny bit of the photo.
Then, simply name the photograph and save it to the desired location on your computer.
Next, you need to upload the photograph to facebook. Do check out our previous post on how to upload a photograph to facebook if you don’t know how to do this.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the collage had been cut to 403 x 403 so part of it is obscured. By clicking on the little star (highlight button) on the top right to the photograph, this changes it to 843 x 403 and gives it more prominence across the page – perfect for showing off a ‘before/after’ transformation.
Marie and I offer training session in groups and as one to ones so if you feel that you really need to get to grips with facebook or any of the other social meda and would like some help, do get in touch.
Next up – how to create a long, tall, skinny photograph for Pinterest.
In our second ‘Facebook for Beginners’ series of posts, we are going to look at how to upload a photograph onto your facebook business page.
Instead of writing a status update, click on ‘Photo/Video’ and a drop box will open up. For now, in order to upload a photo from your computer, click the ‘upload photo/video’ button. (We’ll cover the photo album in another post).
Write in the text that you would like to put with the photograph, click ‘choose file’ and choose a photograph from your computer.
Once you see the name of the photograph, you can click ‘post’ and the photo will be published.
The measurements for ‘ordinary photos’ in terms of the space that Facebook allows is 403 x 403. If your photos are larger than this, they may not be positioned as you would like. If you wish to reposition the photograph so that a particular product or person is visible and central in the photograph, simply click the ‘pencil’ button on the top right (it will show when you hover the cursor over it), click on ‘reposition photo’ and move the photo around until you are happy with its position and then click ‘save’.
More tips on facebook photos coming up in the next blog post. If you have any questions, do leave them in the comment box.
Do you want your website to be referenced on the first page of google? Do you want people to be able to find your online presence easily and quickly?
Why blog? Why spend time writing blog posts? How will a blog benefit my business? To what extent will a blog help my business?
If you have a website, you want people to be able to find it easily and ideally, you’d like it to be on the first page of google. However, unless you are prepared to pay for google advertisements, your website will not necessarily feature on the first page throughout good website optimisation alone. An effective blog is invaluable in improving your SEO to the extent of achieving the top of page one.
When I started blogging in early 2008, there were two blogs that I became aware of very quickly. Why? Because everyone (in related fields) was talking about their success, they were Irish success stories in blogging, they were featured in the traditional media of magazines and newspapers and because they were written by people with lovely personalities that shone through their blogs. They were also on the first page of google for related searches. One was Homebug, an interior design based blog who listed my blog in her ‘favourite blog’ section, sending me traffic (usually about 10-20 visits per day and valuable SEO juice. (Homebug ended about two years ago hence I can’t link to it).
The other is Murphy’s Icecream, the blog was started in 2006 and blog posts include their pride in Kerry, what’s going on in their shops in Kerry and Dublin, icecream recipes, videos and all things Irish-related. Apart from strengthening their brand and reinforcing their quality product, their blog means that when I think of Dingle, I think of Murphy’s icecream and I know I’m not the only person who wants to taste their icecream because of their blog.
If you search for ‘icecream’ in google.ie, their blog at Icecream Ireland is at the top of the page and their website at Murphy’s Icecream is number 4. Kieran Murphy is an enthusiastic blogger with a passion for his product and it shows. As a result, his business ranks extremely highly for a popular keyword.
If your business focuses on different varieties of a single product, e.g. T-shirts, wallpaper, vacuum cleaners, mortgage advice – whatever it may be, the challenge is there to try to get to the first page of google but it is a challenge that can be achieved.
How will your blog achieve a position on the first page of google?
Google likes regularly updated content and it likes seeing 2 or 3 main keywords being used throughout a blog post, especially in the first and last paragraphs, in the tags and in the category headings. (Yes, Google has become personified!)
Read our post on how to use the google keyword research tool to ensure you know you are using the right keywords and how to use them appropriately.
Getting to the first page of google will, of course, depend on the competition for the keywords you want to use. You can find out what the competition is by going to google search and typing in the keyword you want to use in quotation marks and then you will see how many other posts or websites are using that keyword.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, “buy wallpaper online” is a keyphrase that I have used to optimise my Garrendenny Lane blog and website and as you can see above, it appears in 511,000 searches. Hence, I’m pleased that it usually turns up around the middle of the first page for that search term. Your success will depend on the competition but it is still possible to reach that top spot on google organically (through search rather than having to pay for it) via your blog.
Hence, you really need to establish your main keywords, ensure your website is optimised for those keywords and use them properly in your blog posts.
The Value of Backlinks
Another advantage of blogging is that people will link to good blog posts from their website or blog and if they do so using the keyword within the backlink / hyperlink, all the better.
Coincidentally, that happened to this blog yesterday. I am an advocate of using twitter at conferences for a number of reasons and have devoted some posts to the subject. I wrote another post on the topic the other day and referenced my inspiration as @TeecycleTim , author of an article in a Toastmasters magazine that came through my door a few days ago. Having tweeted him to acknowledge my source (and including it in the blog post), he retweeted it, and one of his followers, Herbert Lowe, saw it and devoted a whole post to my various blog posts on tweeting at conferences, using valuable keywords in each backlink. What the results will be remains to be seen but it all adds to valuable SEO juice.
Having a website that is not updated frequently is almost like a rowing boat without oars, it will float around without reaching any destination and may not be found by its target audience. Having an effective blog will pay dividends and remember, you can monitor the results too (more on monitoring your social media usage coming up soon).
If you would like help to create and maintain an effective blog for your website, do get in touch with Marie or I.
True or False? WordPress is only for blogs
False. While WordPress may be primarily known as a blogging platform, you can use it to create a website too. We used it to create a simple design for our Write On Track website, and while we chose to incorporate a blog into the design, the fact is that you can create a stand-alone website with no blog if you prefer (although we always recommend incorporating a blog for fresh content and SEO).
Contact us to find out more about how we can help you create a simple, easy to manage website using WordPress.
Today’s blogging tip is to remember that your potential customers are not telepathic, they need to be asked/told what you want them to do. At the end of each business blog post, you must make a simple request – be it to follow you on twitter, become a fan on facebook, leave a comment or direct them to where they might purchase the product you have written about.
Back in February, Lorna wrote a post outlining the pros and cons of two of the most popular blogging platforms – WordPress and Blogger. Today, we bring you an infographic with some interesting statistics, comparing some of the leading blog platforms out there.
NB: WordPress DOES have a preview button, an oversight on this infographic.