How To Use Sulia For Blogging
I was so taken with Bottlenose, I went ahead and tried out another aggregate site. Sulia has a very attractive user interface as you can see from the screenshot of my account above.
Here’s how they describe what they do on their website:
We use a combination of editors and sophisticated algorithms to identify the best-regarded sources across thousands of topics. We then dynamically filter content from those sources, regardless of where it’s created (a blog, a social network, a media site, through Sulia’s publishing system, etc.), into high-quality, realtime “interest channels.” The result is streams of timely content from experts that is always on-topic, readable, and relevant.
Ease of Use
Simply link it to your Facebook or Twitter account and you are ready to start using it. It also has a handy bookmarklet, similar to Pinterest, which you pin to your bookmarks tool bar. Then simply click on it when you want to quickly post anything you find interesting directly to Sulia.
I love the interface and I really like that it aggregates sources from blogs, Facebook and Twitter. This is another example of how to stay up to date with the topics people are interested in so that you can write about it on your own blog. Are you tempted to try it?
How to Add Text To Your Photos For Pinterest – How To Use Picmonkey and Pinwords
It’s Friday Find It time again and we’re looking at how to label your pictures, particularly for use on pinterest. Una saw this labelled picture I had created for a blog post and wondered how I did it:
First of all – Why Label Pictures for Pinterest?
This picture was used as the first picture in a blog post about how to decorate a child’s nursery. If I had just pinned the picture without the text, others would have just presumed it was a picture of wall stickers – which of course it is. However, with the text, it carries the message that if the picture is clicked on in pinterest, the ‘pinnee’ will be brought to a blog post which contains many tips on decorating nurseries for young children.
People don’t just pin pretty pictures of cute dogs, inspiring interiors and pretty crockery on pinterest. They are also looking for information in the form of tutorials or tips – from how to attach crocheted granny squares to what exercises they should do to firm up their abdominal muscles. Colby Almond has called these instructographics and I think it’s the perfect description.
This labelled picture was created using pinwords which provides a few different fonts and is very easy to use. However, each picture has the Pinwords logo in the bottom righthand corner. It is free to use though.
1. Go to Pinwords
2. Upload a photo from your computer or use one of theirs. It is best to choose a photo that has some plain background so the text can be read more easily.
3. Choose from one of the text options from the six available at the moment. Set text from pinwords will appear. Click ‘continue’ to add your own text at the next stage.
4. Write your text into the box on the right, you’ll see it appearing as you type. With the cursor, move the text to the preferred placement against a plain background. Click Pin It and then just right click on the image to save it to a pictures folder on your computer.
5. And this is the finished result:
How to use Picmonkey to add Text to your Photos
1. Go to Picmonkey.com
2. Click edit photo at the left side and then upload your chosen photo. Choose a photo with some plain background so the text can be seen easily.
3. Click ‘P’ on the left side which produces the choice of fonts. Then click ‘add text’ at the top which will then appear superimposed on the photos. Type in your chosen text.
4. Highlight the various words to choose from a selection of fonts if you wish. You can also change the text colour, size, fade, bold or italics.
5. Then click save (at the top), name your photo and resize if necessary. Save to your chosen folder on your computer and this is the finished product.
Which is best? Picmonkey or Pinwords?
Pinwords is at its ‘early days’ stage and I’d imagine more functionality will be added soon. It is very easy to use. However, it doesn’t have as many choices available and the ‘pinwords’ text remains on your photo. For adding simple text, it is quicker to use than picmonkey.
Picmonkey offers so much besides adding text and is definitely worth checking out.
Outsourcing Your Social Media – What It Involves
“We do not have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is – HOW WELL WE DO IT”. – Erik Qualman.
It is swiftly becoming the situation that using social media is no longer a choice for businesses. Just because you may not use facebook or pinterest does not mean that your potential customers are not using them. It is now a case of HOW WELL you use social media.
How well social media works for your business depends on how well you use it though. Don’t expect it to be an overnight success – social media is about building relationships, growing trust, building the blocks of brand awareness. It is important that you measure your social media activities and results so you can evaluate, make changes, concentrate on what is working well, explore new methods. Social media is constantly changing too – this makes it interesting and exciting, however, for many business people who are already busy running their business, these changes can put them off, can make it seem too difficult and too time consuming.
I decided to write this post to offer a snapshot of what we at Write on Track can do for you, to get your business on track effectively with social media.
Outsourcing your Social Media:
You are busy doing what you do best – running your business. If social media is not something you are interested in or feel you have the time to dedicate to it, then outsourcing your social media can be the answer.
Outsourcing your Blogging – Let us write your blog posts
We love blogging! We both write a number of blogs (for ourselves and for clients) and I’m also the co-founder of Blog Awards Ireland. We can write your blog posts for you and the following list is what we tend to provide for clients (although they can be tailored specifically for your business):
- Average of 400 words per post
- Optimised by using highly searched keywords
- Photographs that are re-sized and named for SEO purposes (also for Pinterest)
- Call to action within the post
- Strong headlines
We can write blog posts for your business in a tone that suits your style, so you can concentrate on other aspects of your business. All we need to do is set up an initial meeting with you and then we’ll communicate with you on an occasional basis by email. We will monitor and evaluate periodically and discuss findings and any suggested changes with you.
It can be difficult to start writing a blog – often due to a lack of confidence, bloggers block, not quite sure how to structure it or how to include a call to action. These are common stumbling blocks that we can help you to overcome.
We can arrange for any of the following:
- Blogging training in a small group
- One-to-one training
- Help you set up your blog
- Monitor your blogging by providing feedback on drafts
Additional Social Media
We can also take care of your other social media for you or offer training in the following:
We can do as little or as much as you would like us too. We can assure you of confidentiality, our trustworthiness, our flexibility and our ability to work independently, compile data, undertake research, organise information and above all, write well in an appropriate style for your business.
You can see the various packages we offer too. Do contact us if you would like to enquire about any of our training or if you would like to outsource your social media to us.
We love talking about social media just as much as we enjoy writing blog posts and being active on all the social media platforms. We’ve both presented at various conferences and for networking groups. Do contact us if you would like to engage either of us as a speaker for an upcoming conference or a networking group.
You can read more about us here and check out some testimonials too.
Photo: Cearbhuil Studios
Find It Friday! Does site speed affect my Google ranking?
Welcome to Find It Friday in which we help you find the answers to your blogging questions.
This week’s question may seem a bit techie..but bear with us..it is an important element of how your blog ranks in Google and enhances your reader experience.
I noticed that my blog took a while to load when I opened it up to show a friend on his computer recently. He said that speed difference will affect my Google ranking. Is he right and if so, how fast should a page load and what can I do to make it load faster?
Yes, he is right. Google uses site speed (i.e. how quickly a website responds to web requests) as part of their search ranking algorithms.
Here is what Google has to say:
Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.
Blog expert, Heidi Cohen recommends that your pages should load in under two seconds and at most three. After checking the speed, determine which elements slow your page down. Google has a list of free tools that you can use to evaluate the speed of your site at code.google.com/speed.
Final word from Google…
While site speed is a new signal, it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. (However) We encourage you to start looking at your site’s speed (the tools above provide a great starting point) — not only to improve your ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.
Do you have a question on how to blog effectively?
Leave a comment below and we will be happy to help you find the answer.
Pinterest for your Business
Using Pinterest effectively for your business can be easy if you know what you are doing. The slides below include examples of pins for various businesses, pin etiquette, tips for creating great pins, ideas for shared boards and the advantages of using Pinterest for your own business.
Blogging Success Stories: Móna of Wise Words
I really enjoy seeing blogs blossom, especially blogs that have helped their owner create a successful business or help them in their career. Today I’m delighted to share the story of Móna Wise with you, a lady I met online when she was writing her first blog which was a personal family style blog. It has now metamorphosed into a blog/website and helped her to launch her first book and secure a job as a food columnist for the Irish Sunday Times.
1. Mona, I met you online via our mutual personal blogs some years ago, can you remember why you initially started blogging?
I started blogging when we moved our family from America to Switzerland in 2007. I was spending a lot of time emailing friends, back home in the US, with photos and little stories of what we were up to and how life in Europe was going. I started with Blogger and it was easy and free to get set up on – so I dove right in without really thinking about it. Straight away I got plenty of feedback from mostly friends and family. Note: Feedback does not mean comments. It took ages for me to engage readers to a point of ‘commenting’ on my blog.
2. Why did you change your blogging platform and can you explain how the blog changed and developed in theme/format/content too.
Blogger was easy and free but I was finding it difficult to leave comments on other ‘blogspot’ blogs at times (I believe this has improved now) so felt if I were going to try to engage an audience and get more readers interacting I needed to make the switch to something a little more reader-friendly.
I found WordPress.com (also free and very easy to set up) very sexy. It had very clean lines and once I uploaded a few photos it looked very professional.
I started really working on the photos then too. I had been to a few food blogger workshops, and had seen a lot of blogs with terrible food shots, and it taught me a lot on ‘what not to do’ so I made a conscious decision to only share a photo that I really LOVED. So, I suppose, because I changed ‘how’ I was blogging, that might have also changed ‘who’ I attracted as readers too. Photos draw people in and (hopefully) the stories engage them and the recipes keep them coming back for more.
3. Did the blog help in the writing and sales of your book and in getting your job as a columnist?
If you want to write a book – then I recommend start by writing a blog. Blogging is great exercise for those typing fingers. And on days when you can’t write … you will always be able to blog. It is so important to keep your fingers moving.
The blog is still the primary vehicle for book sales. We track our traffic incoming and outgoing so can see ‘how’ people find us and then if they link to Kennys.ie or Amazon to buy the book. The (very) nice thing about self-publishing is that you have a lot more control over book sales data so you can see who is buying your book.
I am sure the blog also helped me get my job as a columist. These days, employers (if they are smart) study your digital footprint before they even consider interviewing you in person. How often do you Google yourself? Are you happy with the results you find? If you maintain a clean Facebook profile (personal page included) and write a blog that has a professional look and feel to it, then you already have your foot in the door.
I have another social media platform to thank for my job too. Someone at The Sunday Times (who I was not friends with) saw something they ‘liked’ on my (very) personal Facebook page and they contacted me directly. I was not looking for this dream job. I still feel like I am dreaming actually.
4. Do you think your blog has changed significantly in the last few months since the book was published?
Somewhat but probably just because I have been so busy. I have not had a lot of time to just ‘blog’. I am INUNDATED with stuff PR companies keep sending me and do not even have time to run a giveaway – which I love to do – especially when I get something cool to share with my readers. Once the kids go back to school I will be back on the regular blogging bandwagon and I am looking forward to that.
Oh – and I am not sure if this is related to the book or The Sunday Times but there has been a very slow and steady increase in my email subscribers. I get five or seven new subscribers per week and this makes me very happy.
5. Do you have any tips for business bloggers?
Yes. Please let me know ‘who’ is behind the company blog. I hate faceless business bloggers. I know that employees change and you need to keep the business name as the ‘blogging persona’ but I like people. I like to see a smiley face and know who is behind the words or the tweets. Otherwise I find it very hard to trust – and if I can’t trust your business then it is very difficult for me to buy something from you.
Also, if you – as a business owner – want to have a blog but do not feel confident enough to write it, have a little inter-office competition and see if any of your employees would enjoy blogging as part of their job function. Same goes for Facebook and Twitter. I know so many business owners that keep stating they do not have time to engage in social media and I think that they are missing out on a huge HUGE opportunity to drive traffic to their online (or physical) site. Chances are if you find an employee that likes Facebook or Twitter they will enjoy blogging too.
6. Is a related-community important to a blogger in your opinion? ie is it important to be part of a community or niche?
I think, just like in real life, a blogger needs to have friends. You need to find (and meet up with) other bloggers to connect with. My readers, many blogging in other areas of expertise, are all ‘blog readers’ and cooks or bakers. I get more emails from people about recipes and cooking challenges they might have and questions for the chef than I do about anything else. I see a steady increase in the way people engage online on my blog when I read back over the comments. I try to respond to every comment and now see that a lot of my readers, people who have never met each other, are starting to respond to each other – on my blog. Oh – how I love that. It is like they are all sitting in my kitchen having a chat and I am making tea for everyone. Community is very important – but no, it is not important to only be part of a niche blogging community. The world is a big and wonderful place – we should see other people. Lots of them.
7. Do you think that bloggers should use other social media to spread the word about their blog and drive traffic to it?
Online engagement can be a lot of fun. Just do not take your eye off the prize. I find that a fifty-minute work hour and ten minutes of online engagement on FB and Twitter works fantastically well. Facebook readers tend to be way more visual so upload photos a couple of times a week to keep them hooked and when tweeting, share interesting links and RT and share other bloggers’ blog posts.
I think that all depends on what a blogger’s goal might be. If you are trying to generate revenue from adds on your blog then sure – drive all the traffic you can there. If you are trying to sell a book, like me, then yes – definitely have a strategic plan in place in how to get more traffic to your blog.
If you are blogging for business then it is important that you reveal a bit of ‘yourself’ to your readers – who in turn will become your customers. I spend A LOT of time on the internet and trust me, when I am looking to buy a new product or hire someone the very first place I look is my Twitter stream/Facebook page/blog comments to see if I already know anyone that might offer the service I am looking for. I am a consumer after all.
I hope you enjoyed reading our interview with Móna Wise, author of The Chef and I, blogger at Wise Words and columnist with the Sunday Times. It just shows that from little blogs, great things can grow.
If you are looking for a lovely recipe book, complete with the most interesting, intriguing, funny and heartfelt memoir, then do buy a copy of The Chef and I too.
Find It Friday – How To Get More Followers On Pinterest
This is a question that I’m being asked frequently during training sessions and being asked ‘How can I get more followers on pinterest’ in a tweet the other evening, I decided to devote the topic to a post as the answer is a lot longer than 140 characters!
How To Get More Followers On Pinterest:
- Follow Me: Add the ‘follow me on pinterest’ button to the sidebar of your blog or on your website.
- Email: You could add it to the signature of your emails too.
- Facebook connections: If you log in with facebook, pinterest flags your account to those friends already on pinterest so most will start to follow you immediately.
- Facebook & Twitter: Sync your pinterest account with your twitter and facebook accounts (bear in mind, you can only sync it to your personal facebook account, not a business page) but don’t overdo the pinning to twitter or facebook. Little and often!
- Personality & Great Pins: Before you start following lots of people that you don’t know, spend some time setting up some boards and some great pins which others might be interested in repinning and which show your personality. Think about what your potential customers are interested in e.g. if you are selling vacuum cleaners that are great for getting rid of pet hair, then create a board for cute dogs. If you are selling kitchen sinks, pinning pictures of amazing kitchens in different styles should attract those planning a new kitchen.
- Good Quality Pictures: Always pin pictures with a wow quality – be they your own or other images. Poor photography just won’t be repinned nor will it impress.
- Keywords: Think about how you name your boards – using keywords if possible. The same goes for your pins and descriptors. Look at the most popular pins on repinly and see how they are named.
- Boards – Remember to re-arrange your boards. Move seasonal ones to the bottom of the page e.g. Easter and vary other boards around every now and then too. Do Not have Christmas boards at the top of your page in February (yes, I’ve seen plenty of them).
- Follow other people. The easiest way to follow people with similar interests is to look at the top right hand corner on the profile of someone you are following and you’ll see the accounts they have pinned from. The follow button is right beside their name and avatar.
- Look at Ratio: If you want most of the people to follow you back, choose those who have an almost equal number of ‘following’ as they have ‘followers’. Don’t expect someone with thousands of followers who is only following 60 people to follow you back.
- Comment on other pins and use the @username if you want to bring someone else’s attention to that pin. People will respond to comments (and follow back) but I’ve noticed not that many people are commenting on pins.
- Hashtags: You can use hashtags in your description (but don’t overdo it – apply the same rules as to twitter as a tweet or description filled with hashtags makes many people want to reach for the ‘unfollow’ button)
- Pay: You can buy Pinterest followers but I always think that the followers will come if the content is good.
- Pin regularly, some say anything between 5-30 pins a day is recommended. I’d suggest little and often. I don’t like going to my pinterest page and seeing it full of the same type of pins from one user. You can schedule pinning now on pingraphy (still in beta phase though and like pinerly, it doesn’t display the name of the website you pinned from. It doesn’t offer GMT as a time zone yet either)
- 80:20 rule: Pin some of your own content but also pin from other sources too, rather than just repinning all the other content. Be original! Aim to have about 20% of your own content within your pins.
- Pinning buddies: No harm setting up a pinning relationship with a friend whereby you pin some content from their website and they pin from yours (if that fits in with your boards). Then, both of you get double exposure.
- Use Pinerly: Having signed up to pinerly, I was invited to submit my details and am now listed there as a ‘suggested follow’. However, I haven’t noticed an influx of followers from it as yet.
- Shared boards: Creating and becoming members of shared boards and pinning to them means that you and your pins get more exposure (and more followers). I pinned a number of ‘pinterest blog posts’ to a shared ‘Pinterest Day’ board yesterday and received more followers immediately.
Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are hugely popular pinterest accounts so do give it some time. Pinterest is one way to increase your brand awareness and then, to build on sales. Like all the social media platforms, it takes time and good content.
If you have any questions or comments regarding your own pinterest account, do share them in the comment box.
Are you on Pinterest? Do connect with me there.
15 Questions To Ask Before You Publish Your Next Blog Post
Here’s a brilliant infographic from ProBlogger which neatly outlines the questions you should be asking before you hit publish on your next blog post. We recommend you print it out or keep it on your desktop and refer to it each time you finish a blog post to keep you right on track with your blogging.
Click this link to view a larger version of this infographic.
10 Lessons from 5 Years of Blogging
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.