Grow Smart Business


Search Articles

Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

8 Blogging Tools the Pros Love

October 18th, 2012 ::

HeartIf you’d like to take your blog to the next level, here are 8 tools the pros love – including some of my favorites!


This is the blogging platform of choice – it’s certainly my favorite! WordPress templates are free and fully customizable.  The content management system is very easy to use, and there are numerous plug-ins available (to improve SEO, add social media buttons, etc.)

Content Idea Generator

Created by SEO Gadget, this tool is actually a Google Doc.  Simply enter keywords into one column, and it will automatically find news and related stories from online sources as varied as Google News and Facebook.


I could definitely use this, as it lets you store interesting articles – and add notes – for reference later when you’re ready to write your blog posts.

Optin Skin

This plug-in lets you add an opt-in for your email list or special offer to the bottom of your blog posts.  It provides analytics so you can see which blog posts are generating most opt-ins.

Google Images

This is the tool I use for finding images for my blog posts, though some people use Flickr and Instagram.  Remember to always attribute your image or photo to the source!


If you want to better understand your audience and what kind of content they are looking for, PopSurvey lets you embed a survey right into your blog post.  Much more engaging than a link!


This is one of the coolest tools out there, in my humble opinion.  Storify lets you curate articles and opinions on any topic across social media, thus allowing you to add an extra dimension to your blog post in the form of a tweet or YouTube.


I love Basecamp.  I think it’s the best project collaboration tool out there, but if you want a free alternative to manage your blog team (employees, colleagues, guest bloggers), Trello is easy to use.  Of course, this is applicable to any small business that collaborates with others remotely, whether you’re blogging or not.

What other blogging tools do you use – and love?

Image courtesy of keepingyouwell.com

6 Tips for Creating a Successful Blog

October 10th, 2012 ::

BloggingSo, you’ve decided to finally start a blog – awesome! And congratulations! Blogging is fun, but it’s also a lot of work.  To make sure your hard work actually pays off, follow these 6 tips to ensure your blog is set up properly and ready to hit the big time:

1. Choose a niche subject

Do your research first to choose a subject that you are not only comfortable writing about on a regular basis, but that also has little or no competition online from other blogs.  A Google search will help with this. I recently did it for one of my own clients (a CPA), and confirmed that no one else is writing about her area of expertise.

2. Use a Web designer and developer

Unless you are one of the above or highly technical by nature, don’t try to put together your own blog or it could look unprofessional – or not function properly.  The investment in a professional will be worthwhile.  I have learned this the hard way.

3. Optimize your site

Turn to an SEO expert to ensure your site is thoroughly optimized for search.  In the meantime, do keyword research on Google to find the keywords and phrases most often searched for – and use them in the title and body of your posts.

4. Write engaging posts

Easier said than done, yes, but in general, an engaging post is:

  • short – 300 words
  • visual – include an image or video to emphasize your point
  • easy to read – write the way you talk
  • actionable – give your readers a specific tip on how to do something better
  • humorous – people like to be entertained

5. Publish several posts before launching

Once you launch and publicize your blog, people will skim your posts and scroll through several of them to get a good idea of what you write about.  Be sure you publish at least five, preferably more, posts to give potential readers a really good idea of what they can expect from your blog.

6. Categorize and tag your posts

You want your readers to easily find previous posts, and the best way to do so is to categorize them based on topic and tag them based on subjects covered.  So a post on the topic of “Facebook “could include the tags of “photos, videos, engagement, contests,” etc.  You get the idea!

Good luck!

Any other tips you’d like to share around setting up a blog?

Image courtesy of blog.hubspot.com

How to Move From Blogger to Book Author

August 20th, 2012 ::


If you blog regularly on one or two topics, chances are you have created enough material for a book – I sure have!  Organizing all of those blog posts into a book or three is a great way to easily move from online author to book author.  Here’s how to make that transition go even more smoothly:

Research topic marketability

If you already have a popular blog, then you know that the topics you write about have an audience, and, therefore, that a book on those topics will also have an audience.

If, however, your blog is still growing its audience, research the popularity of your topics based on the viability of other blogs and books.  Find a niche with little or no competition, and fill it.

Organize posts by subject

This is a bottom-up approach, in which you organize your already-published blog posts into a book.

Instead of writing your blog posts directly into WordPress, Blogger or Typepad, write them first in a Word document and save them in files organized by subject.  You can even break your files down into smaller files that are more focused.  For example, in your Social Media folder, you can have sub-folders on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn.  You can then create chapters or separate books from each sub-folder.

Write posts chapter by chapter

This is a top-down approach, in which you outline a book and then write blog posts to fill that book.  Break each chapter down into several 300-500 word blog posts, compiling each post into a Word document as you go.

As you write, be sure to use keywords or phrases that are searchable in both the header and body of the blog post, and publicize your blog posts via social media and even in your email signature.  You can also turn chapters into series to attract and keep readers – for example, start with a series of 5 posts on Facebook, then move to a series of 4 posts on Twitter, and so on.

Add new content

Once you have your book’s first draft compiled, add new content to spur sales and attract readers.  You’ll also want to add content that bridge gaps and provides a smooth transition between the points you are making within a chapter and from one chapter to the next.  This will ensure your book flows and reads well.

Now that you have a book ready to go, you can either self-publish it (I like lulu.com) or look for a publishing house.  If your blog is popular, with lots of unique visitors and page views, an established publisher might already know about you.  If not, go ahead and self-publish and join the ranks of published authors.

Image courtesy of janemount.com

How to Increase Sales With Your Blog

August 7th, 2012 ::


While blogs are often used to share industry or company information, build credibility, and create a community, they aren’t often thought of as a sales tool, when, in fact, they are a great way to generate leads and increase sales. Marcus Sheridan recently shared 4 clever ideas for using your blog as a sales tool in a fantastic article on Social Media Examiner.  Here are the takeaways from that article:

Success Stories

When you blog about your successful projects with clients or within your own business, don’t just toot your own horn. Share the important lessons you learned or tips on products, services, or trade secrets you used to achieve success.  By doing so, you will demonstrate your expertise in two ways – and inspire others to work with you.


Yes, a video is a great way to engage your audience and share information – and you know why?  Because people like to interact with other people, and video is the best way to do that virtually.  A short video in your blog is an effective way for your potential customers to get to know you and for you to build trust with them.

Call to Action

If a major change occurs within your industry – for example, a new law or regulation or revolutionary product – don’t just blog about it; offer to help your customers learn more about that impending change and successfully integrate it into their business operations.  You could offer a free consultation, webinar, or new service or product with a temporary discount.


People love to comparison shop, whether it’s for a car, an airline ticket or a plumber.  Take advantage of that natural tendency by writing blog posts that compare your product or service to others’.  When someone types in a search term comparing the two, your blog post should pop up in the search results.

Have you successfully used your blog to sell your product or service?  What works best for you?  Share your story below!

Image courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

5 Ways to Build Thought Leadership With Your Blog

July 16th, 2012 ::


Would you rather learn how to play soccer from David Beckham, or your 5-year-old’s soccer coach (who is actually an attorney)?

Would you rather learn how to cook from Jacques Pepin, or your 19-year-old cousin who just got a job at the local burger joint?

I could go on, but you get my point.

When you think of an expert, you think of someone who is ridiculously knowledgeable on a certain subject, someone whose depth of expertise is nearly unparalleled.  Building expertise on a subject via your blog takes time, but it is worth the effort.  Here’s how to get started:

1. Pull in experts

Instead of asking well-known bloggers or experts in your field to write a guest post (which probably won’t work unless you already have a relationship with them), look them up on Twitter and ask them for top tips or advice around a specific subject via a tweet.  Compile their answers into a blog post, complete with links back to their blogs or websites.  Chances are, they’ll share your blog post, which will boost your blog readership and your audience on social media.  Win-win!

2. Share insider information

The most valuable pieces of information you can share are the little tricks of the trade you have picked up during your career.  It could be an industry-wide best practice, little-known secret, or something you’ve developed yourself.  The more generous you are with your knowledge, the more knowledgeable you will appear.

3. Give detailed instructions

While it may be easier and faster to just give a high-level overview of how to do something, resist the temptation and dig deep.  Give super-detailed, step-by-step instructions – include screen shots, photos, or links to other sites – that will walk your readers through the process.

4. Publish case studies

Showing is always better than telling.  Turn your insider information into a case study by explaining how you have successfully used those tricks of the trade for your company and clients.  Be sure to include concrete results (for example, “sales increased by 25 percent”).

5. Be active in your industry

This actually goes beyond your blog, but by actively participating in your industry, you will gain visibility. There are several ways to do this:

  • Comment on other bloggers’ posts in your industry
  • Follow other bloggers and companies on social media – and interact with them
  • Guest blog for other bloggers
  • Curate social media content in blog posts
  • Conduct surveys and research and publish the results


What have you done to build thought leadership on your blog?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

Image courtesy of amnh.org

How to Use Tumblr for Online Marketing

June 1st, 2012 ::


With 20 billion posts and 50 million blogs, Tumblr is making its mark in the blogosphere. But a Tumblr blog is a different animal than, say, its WordPress or Blogger cousin. Instead of content chunks sprinkled with an image or two, the Tumblr blog consists mostly of links, images and video. In other words, the regular blogging rules do not apply to Tumblr (at least entirely), so you will need to study up on this platform to leverage it for your brand.

This how-to guide for Tumblr will tell you everything you need to know to get started using Tumblr to market your business. From there, it will be up to you to keep calm and tumble on.

Generating Content

The first consideration when launching a new Tumblr presence is sourcing your content. Where will you get content to make your Tumblr blog effective?

If your company already creates media, through a blog or YouTube channel, you should have plenty of content just waiting to be repurposed. Take advantage of the content streams you have already, but be sure to break each post down to its simplest form. Tumblr posts are short and sweet, so save the in-depth posts for your regular blog.

You can also curate and aggregate content from around the Web, including from other Tumblr users. Just be sure to source everything appropriately.

The most successful Tumblrs make images the focus of their content. A few engaging images with links and concise copy sprinkled in will work nicely for this medium.

Planning for Success

Just like any other marketing tactic, you will need to make a plan for your Tumblr activities. Start by asking yourself who you’re trying to reach through Tumblr. Then, plan out exactly how this medium will help you accomplish that.

Your Tumblr goals may be more short-term or singularly focused than on your company’s main blog. For example, you may consider creating a Tumblr blog for a particular campaign, event or product launch. Decide how Tumblr can work for your own business’s needs.

It’s also a good idea to create an editorial schedule specifically for Tumblr so you can be sure to produce a good mix of content and keep yourself organized. Keep in mind that Tumblr is a place to promote a lifestyle, and not a place for shameless promotion. Your strategy should be to promote links, videos and images that will interest your audience.

Measuring Your Efforts

Unlike other media, there is no widely accepted set of benchmarks for establishing success on Tumblr right now. So, you’ll want to create a mix of qualitative and quantitative goals to meet.

Keeping track of metrics such as number of followers and re-blogs is a good start. You can also measure more subjective things like quality interactions with individual audience members. Your main goal is to become a valuable asset to the Tumblr community, which will take some time to accomplish.

Using Highlighted Posts

Tumblr’s monetization plan is still unclear, but the company recently unveiled highlighted posts at $1 each. These posts can help your company stand out on the Tumblr dashboard at a very reasonable price.

Maybe you’ll want to share a new product upgrade, promote an upcoming event, raise awareness for a cause, or simply share a great photo. Just don’t overdo it because, as with other social media platforms, you don’t want to come across as too sales-y.


Is your company on Tumblr? Share the innovative ways you are using this platform in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of knowyourmeme.com

Can Building a Blog Community With Unfinished Posts Really Work?

May 7th, 2012 ::


I’m always open to new ideas for getting more comments and building community on your blog. After all, a blog that is more engaging and share-worthy is a more effective blog.

But when I read a recent article suggesting bloggers leave their posts unfinished, I had to wonder – could this really work?

Why It Could Work

Writer Jeff Goins gets a lot of comments on his blog, so when he advised other bloggers to stop finishing their blog posts, I examined his reasons closely.

1.  Goins believes leaving posts unfinished makes readers feel important because they enjoy fulfilling the role of content co-creator. Readers enjoy being part of the process and feel a sense of purpose when they participate in your blog’s creation.

2.  He also believes inviting readers to finish posts builds community around your blog. Readers crave interaction, and they are not satisfied with blog posts that read like monologues. Goins suggests letting go of perfection, using a human tone, and showing your flaws.

3.  Goins believes unfinished blog posts are springboards that launch the comments bloggers crave. After a few readers break the ice with their thoughts to complete your post, other readers will feel encouraged to leave comments as well. In other words, unfinished blog posts help get the momentum going for commenting.

Why It May Not

These reasons theoretically make sense, but I can’t help but wonder if they’d have any traction in the real world. For example:

1.  Your readers likely look to you as a thought leader – a knowledgeable professional in your industry. Are they really looking to you to feel important, or do they expect you to provide them with helpful information on the topic you cover? Leaving blog posts unfinished could undermine the authority you’ve spent time building with your audience.

2.  Building community is important to any blogger, but what if that community takes a spammy turn? You risk losing the focus and trustworthiness of your blog when anyone can significantly change its content. If your blog cannot be counted on for relevant, verified content, readers make seek their information elsewhere.

3.  Numerous comments may make a blog look successful and engaging, but what if things don’t go according to plan? Readers may not always have the time or inclination to leave a comment, much less complete your blog posts for you. What if you end up with a blog full of empty articles? This plan could backfire, leaving your blog looking – well, unfinished – if you don’t get the comments and participation you expect.

What do you think? Is leaving blog posts unfinished a smart way to generate comments and build community, or does it leave too much on the table, threatening the relevance of your blog?

Image courtesy of dstracywrites.blogspot.com

5 Must-Have Social Plug-Ins for Your Blog

April 30th, 2012 ::

Plug in socket

I love tools that make my busy blogging schedule easier, don’t you? If you are looking for simple plug-ins that encourage readers to share your blog content, look no further. These five social plug-ins will make your blog more share-worthy in no time.

1. and 2. Google-pleasing plug-ins

Pleasing Google should be at the top of every blogger’s to-do list because if you don’t appear in Google search results, new readers will have a harder time finding you.

The All in One SEO Pack lets you create your own custom title, description and keywords for each of your blog posts. Entering this information into the plug-in, which is located in your WordPress dashboard at the bottom of each post, helps search engines to index your content.

Inbound Writer is another useful plug-in that recommends keywords for you to focus on in your blog posts. The app analyzes your copy against websites you’ve pre-selected to determine which keywords are most relevant and will make your content more pleasing to Google. Inbound Writer even provides real-time analysis, showing you suggestions and an SEO score as you write.

2. Make Friends With Facebook

With 500 million users worldwide, it’s wise to make your blog as Facebook-friendly as possible. Since Facebook changes constantly, I recommend using Facebook’s own plug-ins to integrate with the social giant.

Try Facebook Social Plug-ins to allow your blog readers to Like and comment on your posts. These plug-ins require HTML to use, but Facebook provides step-by-step instructions for the less technical among us.

3. Be Pinterest-ing

Since Pinterest has become huge over the past year, it’s important to make your blog as visually appealing as possible, especially if you feature products in your posts. PhotoDropper lets you find creative commons images without the hassle of searching Flickr or Google Images.

PhotoDropper aggregates images and delivers them directly into your WordPress dashboard. Best of all, there’s no need to worry about licensing and attribution because the app makes sure you use and credit images correctly.

4. The Best All Around

If you want a plug-in that wrangles all your social sharing buttons into a tidy package, then you’ll want to try Digg Digg. You can decide which buttons to display as well as whether you want a top sidebar or a floating one. Digg Digg will display your buttons on each of your posts for easy sharing, along with the share count for each.


What other social plug-ins help make your blog more share-worthy? Why not share them with us, in the comments section below?

Image courtesy of clker.com

Survey Says: Inbound Marketing, Social Media, and Blogs Are Surpassing Traditional Channels

April 9th, 2012 ::

Inbound Marketing

In January, HubSpot surveyed almost 1,000 professionals about their businesses’ marketing strategies. Below are some of the findings, which drive home the fact that inbound marketing, social media, and blogs are the way to go.

Focus on Inbound Marketing

Businesses are tweaking their marketing strategies to focus more on inbound marketing, which involves pulling relevant prospects and customers towards a company and its products using blogging, content publishing, SEO and social media. These channels have the advantage of providing a low-cost alternative to pricier tactics like direct mail and purchased advertising. In fact, companies that focus on inbound marketing experience a cost per lead that is 61% lower than those of outbound-focused companies. Businesses are leveraging this advantage; of the companies surveyed, 89 percent are either maintaining or increasing their inbound marketing efforts.

Traditional Channels Slip

More traditional marketing channels – such as trade shows, direct mail, and telemarketing – are decreasing in value to businesses. HubSpot’s survey showed that 30 percentof respondents judged these channels as less important than newer ones. Not only are these channels becoming less influential in marketing strategies, but they also tend to be more costly than Internet-based forms of marketing.

The Rise of Social

Businesses are becoming more social – they are increasingly using blogs, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to get their message out and to engage with customers. Both the 2012 and the 2009 HubSpot surveys showed increased importance for these social platforms. Company blogs were most cited as the social channel that is “critical” or “important” in both 2012 and 2009. Facebook gained importance by a margin of 15 percent since 2009, and Twitter gained 15 percent. However, other social media channels have decreased in importance, including StumbleUpon and Digg.

The Importance of Blogs

As I mentioned, blogs are holding steady as the most important social media channel. In fact, 25 percent of survey respondents said their blog was “critical” to their business. Blogs offer tremendous SEO value, as fresh content and links are supplied through a steady stream of blogging. Blogs also allow companies to feature new products in detail, highlight upcoming events, and show a more personal side of the company to customers and prospects.

How about you? Has your businesses shifted its marketing efforts to more social channels such as Facebook and Twitter? Are you giving your blog the time and attention it deserves?

Image courtesy of creative design agency Arrae

10 Reasons Why Google Hates Your Blog

March 19th, 2012 ::

Why Google hates your blog

It may sound harsh, but it is possible that Google hates your blog. I know, I know – it’s hard to hear. But you can do something about it by eliminating the problem areas keeping your blog and Google from being friends. Here, in no particular order, are ten reasons why Google has a beef with your blog.

1.  You aren’t using your readers’ keywords.

So you’ve taken the time to come up with keywords for your blog and are sprinkling them into your posts so they read seamlessly. That is a great start, but what if your readers aren’t using the same keywords as you?

Good SEO requires an understanding of what people search for when they look for content such as yours. To hone in on the best keywords, put yourself in your readers’ shoes and ask, “If someone were searching for content like mine, which search terms would they type into Google? Those are your new keywords. Using the same words and phrases your readers use will help them find you in a Google search and increase your blog’s traffic.

2.  Your blog headlines don’t include your main keyword.

Precise, strategic marketing requires following SEO guidelines that deliver results. Good SEO practice involves placing keywords in your blog posts’ headlines (h1 text) and subheadings (h2 text) because these areas are weighted more than regular text. Be sure not to overlook these prime areas when placing keywords – doing so means missed SEO opportunities.

3.  You don’t link to older blog posts.

To help your readers discover other great content you’ve produced, you should always create links between your blog posts. If your blog is focused on a subject area, such as social media marketing, you will likely refer to information from your previous posts on a regular basis. Use this opportunity to reference this information with a link back to your older post, which will keep readers on your blog site longer. Google loves links, so try to include keywords in the copy that links back to older posts, to get the full SEO benefit.

4.  You aren’t linking to other bloggers.

Even though this tip may seem contradictory to the last one, you can get some SEO benefit from sending your readers to other blogs. Google likes to see bloggers sharing high-quality content with their audiences, even when that content was produced by another writer. Your readers will appreciate it too because occasionally sending them to other, helpful blog posts will add value to their own reading experience. To do this, consider writing a “best of” list post or simply incorporating a blogroll into your sidebar.

5.  You aren’t using enough bullet lists in your posts.

If you want Google to love your blog, use bullet lists. While they don’t have quite the effect on SEO as headlines, subheadings and links, bullet lists are more important to Google than regular text. Another plus for using bullet lists is that they help readers absorb your content more effectively. Use these lists to break up long passages of text, and don’t forget to use keywords. Placing them in first couple of words in each bullet works best.

6.  You aren’t using social media to promote your blog.

In its quest to provide valuable and relevant search results, Google is using social recommendations to decide whether your content is worthy. When people mention and link to your blog on social media, Google takes notice. Build a community around your blog using social media, and be active to get the comments going.

7.  You don’t use share buttons on your blog. 

To facilitate the previous tip, include share buttons on each and every post you write. Make it easy for readers to share your content with their own social networks by encouraging tweets and likes. Not only does Google like to see social recommendations on your own social media platforms, but it also likes to see your content being shared by everyone else. Besides increased Google love, you’ll also gain a larger audience for your blog.

8.  You confuse Google with too many topics.

I think it’s great to have a lot of different passions, but Google does not agree – at least from an SEO point of view. The best blogs are tightly focused on one main subject area. If your blog is too scattered, Google will not understand how to categorize it. And, if Google can’t decipher it, chances are it won’t get found. Your readers will appreciate your focus, too, because they know your blog will consistently provide valuable information on the topic they care most about.

9.  You don’t encourage comments.

Inviting your blog readers to leave comments creates a community around your blog posts. This sense of community is valuable for branding and enriching your blog, and it has SEO benefits, too. Comments add on to the content you’ve already created and give your blog a freshness that Google loves. An active commenting section also shows Google that your posts are still relevant to readers, long after they’ve been published. So get the conversation going with a question or simply an invitation to share after each post.

10.  Your blog is riddled with broken links.

Google hates broken links because they give the impression that you aren’t maintaining your blog. Broken links also create hiccups as Google is crawling your blog posts, because the crawlers keep running into dead ends. Simply put, broken links are bad for SEO, so check for them regularly to keep Google from getting frustrated.


After reading this list of ten reasons Google may hate your blog, you may be thinking that Google is very particular and perhaps bit persnickety. Just remember that good SEO practice is usually good practice for your readers, too. Making the changes above will help you and your blog be loved by readers and Google alike.

What other tips can you offer to keep the Google love flowing?

Image courtesy of creative design agency Arrae