Monday, September 10, 2012

Create a Great Blog

Create a Great Blog . by Sandy Penny and others

I saw this great blog post today by Rachelle Gardener, 13 Simple Tips for a Better Blog

Focus first on improving the content of your blog rather than any fancy strategies for increasing traffic. The better your content, the more your blog readership will naturally grow.
Make sure every post contains a single main idea. It can be supported by related ideas, but do not ramble. One idea.
Keep your posts brief. As little as 300 words can make a good blog post. Try not to go over 500 words, occasionally 600 but don’t do longer posts too often.

Those were Rachelle's first 3 tips. For more, go to her blog, but first, read on for my 8 top tips to create a great blog. 
Decide why you're writing the blog first.
Are you just sharing? Do you want to monetize it and make some money?
Are you trying to get out important information?
Are you building your name and reputation in the marketplace?
The answers to these questions will change the approach to the content and change the layout you choose for your blog. 

Target your audience carefully. If you write for too broad an audience, it will water down your appeal and do little to establish you as an expert.

Only choose a subject you will want to continue to write about for a long time. If your subject is too narrow, broaden it a bit to allow you to explore more facets. 

Write several posts at one time and divide them into small chunks you can publish as a series. A series will bring readers back to the blog more often if it's a popular subject. And you get to write when you're feeling it, and if you're not, just grab something you wrote previously and post it to keep the flow going. 

When possible, tie your subject to a current event that people are searching already. Just be sure that the content is relevant to the current event, or it will just make the reader frustrated. 

Monetize your site for your own benefit. Become an Amazon (or other site) affiliate and post links to products that you truly like and recommend and share them with your community of readers who are likely to enjoy some of the same things and will appreciate your recommendations. If readers can rely on you to only share good products and services, they will look to you for future advice. Build that trust. Don't waste this opportunity for semi-passive income.  

Share your blog on Facebook and link it to your Twitter account, so every time you post on your FB account, it auto posts to Twitter. You get double the publicity for half the effort.  

Make sure your blog is smart phone friendly. This is the wave of the future, and now is the right time to ride that wave. Blogger offers a variety of templates that are flexible for the user, depending on how they're looking at the site. Websites need to consider this now as well.

... To be continued another day. Thanks for reading. Later, my friends.

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Sandy Penny is a senior marketing writer with more than 30 years experience in Fortune 500 companies. She now devotes her time to helping small heart-centered businesses launch online and market their products and services on the web. She teaches Yola sitebuilder to non-techie business owners.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

6 Great Indie Book Marketing Tips

Indie Book Marketing Tips

by Sandy Penny, writer, editor, intuitive marketing consultant

As I've been working with a self-published book author to market her book, I've been learning a lot about indie marketing.

1. You may be snubbed by the bookstores who only want name brand authors/publishers.

If this happens, you'll have to get creative and find other places to start your book signing tour. Is there something in your book that relates to a product, a location or a shop or restaurant? If so, contact that establishment and schedule a book signing event that will help their business as well as yours.

With Dawn Ireland's mystery novel, Hot Chocolate, I started with chocolate shops in the area where the book takes place. And, I contact the event's managers for the bookstores in the neighborhood where the story takes place. In every instance, I looked for why someone would be interested in the book and approached from that direction.

2. While looking around on the Internet for mystery book sites and membership groups, I found that many of them were excluding self-published authors as well. What's up with that? Don't they know the wave of the future is self-publishing? Don't they see the opportunity to affiliate with online marketers and get paid for the book sales?

When I recognized that a void existed in indie mystery book marketing sites, I created one. I built a site, monetized it with Amazon links, and enlisted authors, readers and bloggers from linked-in, Twitter and Facebook to provide me with recommendations for books they love, books they've written and mystery blogs they write. This cut down the time it would take me to find them all. It also allowed me to fulfill one of my missions, to help other authors get published while building a platform for my future work. It also gave me new resources with whom to share Dawn's book. You should at least have a blog for your book that shares insider info on the book, or just snippets from the book and links back to the sales page. People love the backstory.

3. Set up talks at local venues. Again, find organizations that might have something to do with something in your book. If your hero belongs to the country club, schedule a talk/book signing at the country club. If your hero is a teacher, speak at the local teacher's organization. Step back from your book and look at it from a marketing viewpoint. Who would be interested in the subject you've written about? Then, go in that direction. It does not have to be a traditional book signing. Go for something interesting that will draw more people. In the instance of Hot Chocolate, what could be more fun than an evening of chocolate and murder?

4. Find festivals and seminars that are good companions for your book's subject matter. Get a booth, or volunteer as a speaker on a subject related to the book or the research you did or something that fits their criteria. Then, you can sell/sign books after the talk while you discuss subjects you're already interested in.

5. Make up beautiful bookmarks with your book buying link or book blog link and distribute them to local bookstores, especially those that are heavily selling your genre. Even if your book is not in their store, they won't be able to resist a beautiful bookmark. Instruct them to give one to every purchaser. That way, those who already bought your genre books will see your book link. You can buy cheap ones through Vistaprint online. Or print and cut your own if you're so inclined. There are so many beautiful royalty free images online these days.

6. For digital readers: if you have people who do most of their reading on a digital devices, offer to send them a signed card that is imprinted with the book cover and personally signed by you when they download the book. This sets up a more personal connection with your readers and increases the chance of their purchasing your subsequent work. Everybody likes to feel like they know a celebrity.

OK, that's enough for now. Keep writing, keep publishing and keep sending me your new mystery book links, your favorite mystery recommendations, and your favorite mystery blogs:

Click the book cover to get your FREE copy from Amazon. 
It's a big help to those who want to self-publish.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pre-Website Questions to Ask

In a Linked-In discussion about websites, Michael published this list of questions to ask yourself or a client before creating a site plan or proposal. Loved them, wanted to share them.
by Michael Parish
  • What are the key reasons for creating/revamping your website?
  • What goals do you have for the site?
  • What products/services do you offer?
  • What benefits do your customers gain from these?
  • Who is your target audience (or if applicable, audiences)?
  • What do you know about them (demograhics and psychographics)?
  • What methods of selling do you employ?
  • What other marketing material do you have available?
  • What web pages do you envisage on your site?
  • Are there other sites you'd like to link to? (And why?)
  • What other sites do you like (and why)? (Doesn't have to be in your industry)
  • What can you tell me about your brand, i.e. how do you want to be portrayed online/what tone of voice and style, etc?
  • Who are your main competitors and what are their web addresses?
  • Are you aware of the keywords or phrases favored by search engines?
  • What mandatory content do you require?
  • Is there anything else you'd like?

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Getting Started as a Freelancer

by Sandy Penny . . .

I belong to several writing groups on Linked-in and find it to be a good place to network, learn from other writers, and hone my skills.

Recently, a new freelancer asked how to get started in freelancing. There were a lot of good answers, and here’s mine.

Read a lot of the writing that is being done in the market you're interested in working with, so you get a feel for the tone they want.

Apply online for some contract work with a good resume that accents your knowledge, skills and abilities. Create a portfolio of writing, even if you have to write it for yourself to show your skills and style. Check the Linked-in job postings.

Especially in the technical field, there is a tendency to want industry experience and knowledge more than writing experience, but you do have to be a good writer, have good grammar, and be able to proof your work.

Create a nice clean, easy to navigate website with a domain name and content and keywords that are searchable in your type of clientele. For instance, Sites and Writes is my newest one for freelancing.

Blog all the time and find new sites to post your work, especially industry publications.

Center yourself in what you really want to do and visualize it happening.

Combine all these practices, and there's a lot of work out there to be found. It should be a writer's market right now with all the ever changing content required for the web, so accept that it can really happen and act as if it already has.

Onward and upward.

(I've been a freelancer since 1993, and I haven't starved to death yet.) Once you get a gig, give them more than they expect, and they'll come back and recommend you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blogging Your Heart Centered Business to Success

"Dialogue Creates Community" by Sandy Penny

It has long been known in the marketing community that keeping in touch with current and potential clients is the path to future and multiple sales to loyal customers who appreciate the time, effort and thought you give them.

I began blogging before it was even called blogging. I have offered an email and online newsletter since I built my first online business. That business helped companies target, concept, create, write, template and maintain customer, vendor and employee newsletters (formerly Penny Pincher Newsletters). So, I have the experience that will help you use your blog to build a better business that will generate more sales.

Blogging Tools: I recommend using (a Google owned site) for your blog because it's free, offers many sophisticated business building tools, you can monetize it, and it's easy to learn. I'm a big fan of easy and free. They also upgrade regularly to keep up with changes that users request, and they're not likely to disappear anytime soon. That can be a problem with web/blog companies.

Serving Your Clients: In this age of information overwhelm, customers want to be able to rely on trusted vendors to keep them abreast of industry changes, innovations, inventions, new products and services and interesting news that targets their needs. You can do this for your clients with a blog or online newsletter.

Commitment: The thing about a blog is that it takes a commitment, once you launch it, to continue providing information on a regular basis. If you fall down on that commitment, you will waste the time investment you made when you built it because it will be like starting all over again. People get in the habit of receiving information to which they have subscribed, and if it doesn't come for a while, they quit paying attention to it. Attention spans are short on the web, and readers are fickle. It might also land in their spam folder. Be sure you're ready to commit.

Frequency: It's better to provide a small amount of information on a more frequent basis than to provide a lot of information on a less frequent basis. You'll keep your name in front of your clients, and online readers like instant gratification. They don't want to have to search through a bunch of extraneous material to find what they signed up for. The popular trend right now is to make readers wade through multiple sales pitches before giving them what they want. I personally feel that's a bad idea, and in the long run, people will tire of that strategy and choose vendors who provide easy to navigate sites with readily available professional information on their topics of interest.

Focus: Your client will be viewing your website or blog with the question, "What's in it for me?" foremost in their mind, so you should always anticipate, ask and answer questions for them. What's in it for my client? What void can I fill? What question can I answer? How can I make my client's life easier? What benefit does my client get from using me? Why should my client spend time reading the information I'm posting?

Write your blog and website from this perspective and you'll inspire clients to stay on your site longer and come back more often when they have a question you may be able to answer. And, ask for feedback and suggestions, and then use that information to improve your blog or website. You client will feel heard and appreciated.

The biggest challenge on the internet is to distinguish yourself from the world wide herd and identify yourself as someone who truly wants to meet a client's needs by sharing your strengths, products and services. You're a valuable expert to those who know less than you. Be the little red schoolhouse and teach them what you know as you stay ahead of the curve and continue to be the one they look to for help in navigating this gigantic, confusing marketplace. They'll thank you with their business and dollars.

Until next time: keep talking, dialogue builds community.

Oh, and by the way, is there any subject you'd particularly like me to discuss, any questions you'd like answered about online business, website building, blogging or marketing? I'd love to hear from you.


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