Why you shouldn’t neglect your blog


All the excitement of creating or building a blog, the newness of it all, can be quite short lived. Many would-be writers avidly start their blog with great gusto and go through the settings and themes to get the ‘look’ they want, vowing to contribute posts regularly every week.

But the reality is different. My boss asked me to design a banner for one of her clients’ WordPress.com blog, and taking a quick look at the existing content I noticed that the style and subject matter were good, lively and readable, but he hadn’t posted since May. All that frenzied activity for the first month had quickly fizzled out, the enthusiasm had drained away, and a poor, neglected blog that appeared to have great potential languished before me on my computer screen.

This is the plight of so many blogs out there (the same is with Twitter accounts and other social networking profiles). A blog with no content might as well be a cheese sandwich! These self-editable websites are carefully designed to attract the search engines and their spiders, and thrive on consistently produced new material stuffed full of keywords and links that are so appetising to the internet bots who constantly roam looking for something to index. To forgot to regularly update them is as sad and unthinkable as getting a new puppy and then forgetting to look after him properly!

The adage “blogs are not just for Christmas, they are for life” may be scary, but this needn’t be so. If you are as diligent and full of enthusiasm as you need to be to make your business a success, then you need to do some sort of social networking activity, and a blog is an easy (and it is easy) example.  If you can’t write well, hire someone who can – there are lots of good ghost-bloggers out there who will do a good job. Even so, I’m sure whatever you write will be suitable towards promoting your business the way you want to. After all, who else knows your business better than you?

That is what the blog’s content should contain – all about you and your business.  Don’t submit irrelevant material like you find on Twitter, instead write about what you know. You must be a fountain of information and expertise about your industry, so why not share it with your existing and potential customers? Use your blog as somewhere you could record everything you think is important for your customers to know, a point of reference that can be fed into your social networking accounts, back-up links to affirm your points of view, a place to hold your latest revelations, fantastic ideas for the future, past successes with great clients, scintillating information that your clients would really benefit from…

So don’t neglect your poor old blog!  He needs visiting, reassuring, feeding – remember, he’s hungry for your knowledge!

How to perform a marketing follow-on


Last year I responded to my husband’s request for a metal watering can for his birthday.  That’s OK, it’s easy to go to Google, type in ‘metal watering cans’ and choose a website from the links that came up.

Having been thoroughly annoyed by all the inadequate links, including the sponsored ones in the shaded areas of the search engine page, I eventually found a website that provided exactly what I needed. Their concisely written pay-per-click advert directed me straight to a landing webpage that offered three metal watering cans. I didn’t have to wade through irrelevant pages, such as the website’s index page, to find out exactly what I wanted.

They made it perfectly easy to choose the one that fitted my requirements and to pay through an efficient shopping cart system. With the confirmation of my purchase I also received tracking information of my watering can’s delivery progress, which arrived before the time specified, and resulted in a happy husband on his birthday.

Having achieved my objective, I thought that would be that. But I should have known that a company that was so adept in compiling Google Adword campaigns that resulted in a successful sale and delivery to satisfied customers, they wouldn’t stop there. I have just received a nicely designed catalogue full of all the tempting gardening products they have on offer, just in time for Christmas.

As a marketer I immediately recognised the value of this exercise. Why stop with just one transaction? Their shopping card system gathered all the information they needed, my address, and they used this data to send their perfectly timed catalogue to me. They also thoughtfully didn’t send it for the Christmas immediately after my purchase, gauging that holding back would show respect and consideration.

Businesses who are marketing orientated work on furthering customer relationships. Any data gathered from transactions should be carefully used to promote the rest of your product range as unobtrusively as possible. This can be accomplished through a regular newsletter, a seasonal catalogue, an informative blog, participating on the kind of social networking sites the target market is most likely to populate, including offline networking groups, in fact anywhere where your customer will be ‘hanging out’ and your business can communicate with them in an effective manner that corresponds with their lifestyle.

And encouraging this relationship marketing goes with added value, incentives, special offers, improved customer service, recognising their needs and providing relevant solutions – making the customer the most important element of your business to create customer loyalty and continued purchasing prowess.


“Not all bounces are bad”


This title is derived from a quote from Cat Young of Solve the Web, who kindly came to the Appletree offices last week to give us a quick tour of Google Analytics. And it was her statement “not all bounces are bad” that stuck the most in my mind.

Let me explain what a bounce is.  It is the action of website visitors who don’t continue further from their entrance page to another page on the website, resulting in leaving the website altogether. This action is recorded as a bounce by Google Analytics, and there is a general consensus that bounces are not a good thing.

But visitors have many reasons for looking at a website. The fact that they leave the website immediately from the same page, sometimes within a few seconds, doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong one. Obviously if Google Analytics shows they spent 0 seconds on the site, it was probably more likely to be an errant visit, but consider how long does it take to look up a telephone number, check on an email address, or find out the URL of a blog? This is particularly relevant if all this information is immediately available on the entrance (or landing) page.

Apparently it doesn’t matter how long a visitor spends on that page, 1 second or 1 hour, if they leave the website without venturing to another page it is classified as a bounce. This also means that ‘squeeze pages’ (specially formulated landing pages) for email campaigns and other internet marketing activities are destined to only show up as bounces on Google Analytics. These webpages are especially designed not to contain irrelevant links to elsewhere in case they distract the visitor’s concentration to its purpose. Their main function is to create a conversion: get the visitor to buy something, sign up to an event, or download a file.

Therefore you can see why bounces aren’t all bad, sometimes they are inevitable. If your website is purely for reference purposes, a source of relevant information about your company or your industry, and your webpages are beautifully designed to provide that information easily, effectively and immediately, your extremely grateful visitor will only reward you with a bounce.

Here’s something for you to think about: how do I stop visitors from bouncing? How do I rearrange my navigation on the landing page (which might not necessarily be the index page) to encourage visitors to venture further into the website? What added value to I provide my visitors to encourage this? Would they be adequately satisfied for being diverted from becoming bounces? Are all bounces bad anyway?


Why it’s important how your blog looks


I read a lot of blogs, and this means I get to see a lot of blog designs.

Usually I’m tempted to go to these blogs because the headline or permalink, which entices me through clever wording and a subject matter that interests me. But on arrival, I am influenced terribly by how the blog looks, and not necessarily by the content it contains.

What puts me off? First, a dark background, with white or very pale text. If books are printed on white pages, why should blogs and websites be any different? I find it very difficult to focus on light words on an oppressive surface, especially if it is extremely busy.

Added to this, sometimes the text is extremely small. (There again, if the text is too big, it can look amateurish.) Not everyone is gifted with 20/20 vision, so why should there be the need to cram everything into a small space? If there is a lot to read, maybe serialising your blogs into smaller chunks is easier for your readers, and gives them an excuse to return to read the remainder.

Clear navigation is paramount, with page links obviously presented to encourage visitors to venture further into the site. If a visitor has to hunt for any aspect or feature of your blog or website, then, in my opinion, the designer has failed. Themes that have the sidebar as a footer are totally missing the point, as if readers are going to pan down deliberately to find out the blog’s additional material and links.

One particular blog I visited yesterday had all the borders of the blog in orange dots! The header or banner had spaced-out text with no image, whereas all imagery were countless numbers of affiliated and other advertising. The sidebars were wide, whereas the main column for the posts was extraordinarily narrow, so that the post was drawn out and therefore very difficult to read. The colour scheme seemed an afterthought, if there was one, and the layout prevented reading rather than encouraged it.

Of course, what I think is a good blog theme is purely subjective, as everybody has a different idea of what works and what looks nice. Many people like black to play an integral part of their blog’s design, narrow blogs are obviously different and draw attention to themselves, blocked in backgrounds seem to be more interesting than boring white ones, large and irrelevant imagery seem to be attractive and a total disregard for colour doesn’t matter at all.

So what are your opinions on blog theme designs?


How links benefit blogs


Blogs thrive on links. In fact, blogs are full of links, contained mostly in the content of the sidebars, both internal (navigation around the blog) and external (destination exits or entry from referral sites). You can tell which are links on this blog because they are underlined and your cursor changes when you mouse over them.

Think of links as doors or portals for gaining access to elsewhere. You can see this is how search engine spiders travel through, to and from blogs and websites, and humans can too. Because links are interactive, they both allow access and attract activity to and within the blog. The power of links are such that connections with the right kind of high-ranking website or blog can boost your rankings in the search engines, tags (keywords) interact with what is up-to-date within the search engines, categories aid archiving as well as search engine optimisation, and each post’s permalink is used with subscriptions to search engine readers, and RSS feeds to social networking sites, blogs and other resources.

A blog’s links come in many guises: the blog’s domain name, the post’s headline which becomes a permalink, contextual links (keyphrases linked to relevant destinations) within posts, the tags (keywords) and categories (topics) after the post, comments (links to the commenters), the blogroll or list of links to recommended websites, and RSS feeding your new material to a subscribed audience.

  • Your blog’s URL, domain name or web address is a link. People are divided whether keywords should be part of your URL or whether it should just reflect your branding, be rememberable and easy to spell. This is the main form of access to your blog.
  • Each post’s headline automatically becomes a permalink, leading to the post’s individual page and URL. This is where keywords become important for search engine optimisation, as well as using marketing psychology to make the reader click on it and read the post.
  • When using links within your post, creating them as ‘contextual’ is much more effective. Contextual links are when a phrase within the post is highlighted to become a link, and the relevance of the destination is paramount to increase success.
  • After you’ve completed writing your post, carefully select relevant tags (keywords) and categories (topics) to boost your search engine optimisation. If you have a .org blog with the All-in-one-SEO plugin, don’t forget to fill in the extra SEO fields to aid promotion of your post.
  • You should encourage comments to your blog, as they are also considered new material by the search engines as well as the links they generate. And you could increase traffic to your blog by commenting sympathetically and appropriately on other blogs within your niche.
  • The blogroll is a list of links to important, relevant and recommended websites and other resources. If you can arrange a reciprocal link, then that will not only boost your search engine rankings, but increase your audience too.
  • And of course, RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, works totally on links. RSS creates a subscription service to deliver new posts to email in-boxes and search engine readers as soon as they’re published. It also feeds your posts as a permalink to social networking sites, each with the post’s title and link back to your blog.