Blogs Can Have Split Personalities

Awhile back, I blogged about four distinct business roles that financial planner Stephanie Bogan says must be filled if a business is to succeed.
Finders are the "rainmakers" who develop new business.
Binders use their presentation skills to consummate the business with new clients.

Minders are relationship managers and provide client service.

Grinders take care of office and administrative tasks.

The point of the article Bogan wrote for Financial Planning Magazine was that the different roles represent different strengths, and not everyone can be strong in all those areas.
Then, just recently, I read a review of a book about Walt Disney that suggests that the great man was able to play three different roles in his business. 

"There were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the critic.  You never knew which one was coming into your meeting," said one of Disney’s animators.

Disney the Dreamer could visualize extraordinary scenarios, for films as well as business projects.

Disney the Realist made things happen.  "He had the ability to co-ordinate teams of diverse workings to bring his dreams to life."

Disney the Critic "subjected every piece of work to rigorous scrutiny."

As a professional ghost blogger, I work with different business owners who have different skill sets and different personalities.  Most entrepreneurs are aware that blogging is becoming an indispensable tool to market their business and to drive traffic to their websites.  In many cases, though, their efforts are devoted to being Finders and Binders, while their staff members’ time is devoted to being Minders and Grinders. That’s why they’ve enlisted me to be part of their marketing team, to bring the discipline and frequency of posting that win search engine rankings.

Our challenge is to utilize all the unique skill sets and reflect those in the company blog posts.  The beauty of blogging is that while today’s post can focus on the "dreamer" aspect of the business, expressing the passion of the business owner, tomorrow’s can focus on the "realist" aspect, offering a mini "how-to" course on getting the most out of the product or service.

Some companies use a combination plan, alternating blogs written their own team members with professionally ghostwritten posts. The blog reflects different aspects of the business and different personalities. Airflow Technologies, for example, has at least four or five different bloggers telling about Airflow’s indoor air quality product line and offering readers valuable tips on keeping their homes well-ventilated.
Think of a blog as nothing more than an ongoing conversation.  People drop into the group, stay awhile, then might move on, while others stop in to chat.  Whether you propose to do the blog writing by yourself, have your entire team participate, or collaborate with a professional ghost partner like me, the content in the blog posts will be a way of continually thinking through and reinventing your business brand.

Just as Walt Disney’s associates never knew which of his personalities might show up at a meeting, there’s just no limit on which aspects of your business show up in your company’s blog!


English Boots Can Keep Your Blog Standing Tall

In the dentist’s chair, waiting for an X-ray to be developed, I scanned the April issue of Travel and Leisure Magazine. Lucky on two fronts, I left the office with an all-clear, no-drilling-needed verdict from the dentist and a blogging idea from the magazine.

A blog-sized advertorial for rain boots began with a great opening line:
"Here in England where it rains, the waterproof Hunter Wellington has quietly served the nation since 1856 as a sort of rubbery second flag." (Those last three words alone vindicate all the emphasis I’ve been placing in my blogs on using powerful word tidbits to convey concepts.

"Our men braved the muds of the Great War in Hunters, and since 1977, the Royals have refused to tramp their estates in anything else." (Talk about skillful use of customer testimonials – you can’t get better than Buckingham Palace!) "Why? Because nothing fits or lasts like a Hunter." Using client testimonials and customer success stories in your blog and on your website builds credibility for your product or service.

In a way, your blog helps you stand tall, because your blog posts give "voice" to your business belief systems and goals. Too often, I find business owners who are so over-anxious to get on the blogging bandwagon, they don’t devote adequate thought to how blogging will fit into their overall marketing 

"If you had only a couple of sentences to describe why you’ve chosen to do what you do in the way you do it," I ask new business owner blogging clients, "what would those sentences be?"

Hunter Wellington spokesman Brian Maddox is all over that one.

"The fact is, any old wellie can keep your feet dry, as can a pair of plastic bags if you tie them right," he says, "but only a Hunter can make you grateful for the rain and for that and for those upon which it falls." (Can’t you just "hear" the sincerity of his belief?  Maddox is "all wet" and proud of it!)



Use Proof In Your Blogs To Build Belief

Posting blogs is how businesses take advantage of the main reason people use
the Web – to find stuff.

The idea behind blogging is that, rather than running traditional ads for your brand of hats, or vitamins, or travel, you provide lots of information on the history of hats, on why vitamins are good for you, and about exciting places to go on safari.  Consumers interested in your subject, but who never even knew your name, come to see you as a resource. When blog readers follow your “calls to action” by phoning your business, faxing in a request or an order, signing up for your newsletter, subscribing to your blog through an RSS feed, or by proceeding to your shopping cart to buy your product or service, you know your blog marketing strategy is working.

But there are millions of other blogs out there for searchers to find, so what is it that can transform yours into a powerhouse?  Fellow blogger Michel Fortin answers that question in one word: PROOF!  Fortin believes that, while some blogs miss the mark because of poor customer targeting or shoddy copy, most blogs miss their goal due to lack of proof.

People are skeptical, he explains, today more so than ever before.  That’s why you need to prove your case, says Fortin, not just tell it or sell it – prove it! If there’s reasonable doubt, you’re going to lose the sale. Your blog is there to make ‘em believe.

There are several kinds of proof you can use:

Factual proof:  Offer statistics about the problem your product or service helps solve

Reverse proof: Compare your product or service with others that are on the market.

Credentializing proof: Tell about your years of experience, degrees, newpaper articles you’ve written or that have been written about you. 

Evidential proof: Clinical trial results, testimonials.

Often in these blog posts, I’ve discussed the fact that frequency is one of the criteria search engines use for ranking blogs and websites. Most blog mavens advise a minimum of three posts a week, with more being even better. It’s interesting that Michel Fortin himself posts blogs just once a week, explaining that “consistency is more important than frequency.”

One aspect of blogging on which Fortin never compromises is conversion. He’s alluding not to religion, but to converting blog readers into believers. 

Lesson for today: Only blog believers become website buyers.




Fast Food For Blogs?

“Good”, or “good enough”?  That’s one of the big debates in business blogging circles these days. As a professional ghost blogger, I’m always reading what other bloggers have to say, and just the other day, I found two blogs representing the two extremes of business blogging strategy.

Computer programmer Robert Plank calls himself a fast food copywriter.  That means, he says, he can write sales copy “that’s good enough”, and he can do it quickly and consistently.

When you go to a fast food restaurant, you go there to save time and money, Plank points out. You get your food in a matter of minutes. The food doesn’t have to be healthy, nor is it necessarily unhealthy, either.  It just has to be fast, and taste the same every time.

I must confess that, before coming upon Plank’s blog, I’d never thought of my blog posts in terms of restaurant menu items. I would hope every blog post I create conjures up an image of a maitre d’ and linen rather than one of golden arches! To be sure, Plank writes sales letters for clients, not blogs. Anyway, Plank’s big on seven word sentences and the “copywriting equivalent of a McDonald’s fast food worker…and NOT an artsy fartsy gourmet cook.”

Representing the total opposite end of the business copywriting thought spectrum was a blog by Roman Jelinek (writing a guest post on David Risley’s blog) Jelinek shares his view that few but quality posts are better than frequent and rushed posts.  He recalls the 19th century scientists Gregor Mendel who collected data and studied results for seven years before publishing the paper that led him to be recognized as the father of modern genetics.

Before you make a post, says Jelinek, do research, looking in odd places for sources to which most people don’t have access. Make connections in your blog post.  Show your readers something they don’t see every day. Time spent preparing will be returned to you in blog readership, and in driving business to your website, is the implication).

So where do I stand in all this?  I agree with David Risley when he says “If you take forever to write your posts, you will probably not see the rewards for your time.” Fact is, search engines reward frequency and recency of blog posting, so one very high quality blog post each month or even each week simply isn’t going to even “place” from an SEO standpoint.

I’m probably closer to Jelinek’s corner of the ring, though. Blog posts are out there, and stay out there, representing your business. Blog posts do need to be well-researched, they do need to make unusual connections to create interest and to keep readers coming back – you definitely want to aim for quality. After a couple of years and thousands of blog posts on behalf of different business clients, I can tell you, quality beats fast food – forks down!



Stuffing’s For Sofas, Not Blogs!

Keywords are key in blogging, that’s for SEO sure! Searchers use words and phrases to hook up with you – IF you’ve used those in your blog post title and in your text.

As is true of any tool, there are right and wrong ways to use keywords and phrases.  Basically, "good" means natural and reasonable. Basically, "bad" means stuff ‘n nonsense! Overstuffed sofas might be comfortable to sit in, but keyword-overstuffed blogs are extraordinarily uncomfortable to read.

First, think "high".  The keywords and phrases need to appear in the title and then as early (high up on the page) as possible.  Shel Holtz and Ted Demopoulos, authors of Blogging For Business, offer the example of a company promoting vegetarian dog food.  Three of the key phrases the owners set out to use are:

           Premium dog food
           Vegetarian dog food
           Healthy dog food

Good use of key phrases:
"So you want what’s best for your dog.  You feed him premium dog food.  You take him to the vet regularly, take him for walks, and play with him often.  Have you every thought about feeding him vegetarian dog food?  Sure, you buy a "name brand" dog food, but how good is it, really? Feeding your dog vegetarian dog food is one of the healthiest things you can do."

(Notice this is five sentences, and the key phrases occur three times, in each case as a very natural part of the sentence.)

Bad use of key phrases:
"Vegetarian dog food is among the best premium dog food around.  Vegetarian dog food and dog treats are the best premium dog food around.  All informed dog owners must feed their dogs vegetarian dog food.  Have you ever thought about feeding your dog premium dog food, which is vegetarian dog food?"

(Here you have four sentences, with seven key phrases "stuffed" in!)
Nobody can be comfortable with this over-stuffed blog post, because, as Demopoulos and Holtz explain, the keyword density is UNNATURAL!

Chris Baggott, CEO of Compendium Blogware, points out that search engines determine relevance (and therefore assign higher rankings) based on the ratio of keywords found on a web page as compared with the words used in the search.

Keywords and phrases are your blogging tools.  Use them, don’t abuse them!