SEO tips for your blog

Keyboard showing blog as a key

How to get your blog read

This is a guest post by Jack Knopfler of Cambridge Web Marketing Co

 
There are many reasons to start a blog for your business, such as increasing brand awareness; establishing oneself as a thought leader within your niche; improving your site’s SEO; or to gain a better understanding of your audience. However, while everyone has heard the popular adage “content is king” repeated ad infinitum, having a successful blog requires more than just good content. In order to appease your audience and the search engines that drive them to your site, optimising your blog for SEO purposes is absolutely crucial, particularly in the wake of Google’s continued algorithm changes.    Screen shot of categories and tags for SEO blog posts

Categories and tags

For excellent navigability, paying due diligence to the categories and tags of your blog is essential. While blogs were initially intended to be read chronologically, categories and tags enable users to jump to other posts based on thematic relevance, increasing the amount of time people spend on your site as a result. Categories and tags are similar in that they both help users to navigate your site, but they are also fundamentally different, and should be treated as such. Categories pertain to the broad grouping of post topics – these help users to determine what kind of content they are likely to find on your blog. On the other hand, tags pertain to the unique details of each post. While categories and tags don’t contribute to Google’s ranking of your site, anything that improves the visibility of your content and makes your site more accessible is a definite positive.

URL structure

The default URL slug created in WordPress when you upload a post is by no means ideal – usually its too long or inappropriately worded. Click on settings and then Permalinks within WordPress, this will allow you to alter the appearance of the post’s title in Google. Choosing a succinct URL slug is often the best policy – aim to remove prepositions and anything else that impacts readability. Remember, a URL doesn’t have to read like perfect english, it only needs to convey the meaning of the article clearly. For more information about WordPress URL structures, please check out this article.

Hyperlinks


For those without experience in SEO, the typical hyperlinking strategy is to try and gain as many inbound links from every source available. However, it’s easy to forget that internal links are important too. Internal links not only improve the navigability of your site (by helping users to find relevant content), but they are also great for indexing purposes, so try to include several relevant internal links every time you post an article. External links are also beneficial, since they not only provide people with relevant information which is beyond the scope of site, but they can also be a useful tool for generating inbound links which improve your site’s SEO. If you are responsible for driving traffic to external sites, they are likely to respond in kind by linking to you in the future.
Screen shot of how to add a blog post title for SEO

Meta description

When a URL appears in search engine result pages (SERPs), the meta description appears directly beneath. Thus, writing a succinct, captivating meta description is essential if you want to bring new traffic to your blog. In order create meta descriptions for your posts, you will need to download a free WordPress plugin known as Yoast. Once installed, it’s best to take your time while crafting the copy. Don’t concern yourself too much with keywords, instead think about the kind of copy that will encourage clickthroughs. If you can elicit curiosity, use persuasive language and provide a succinct summary of the content within, this is usually a winning formula. You only have 160 characters to make an impact, so make sure you make it count! Screen shot showing how a blog title looks on a search engine results page

Social media

Much speculation has arisen over the role that social media signals play in Google’s ranking algorithm. However, one thing that can be said with certainty is that the easier you make it for people to share your content, the more visible your site will become (providing your content is actually worth sharing, that is). By incorporating buttons for Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest. StumbleUpon, Tumblr and LinkedIn into your WordPress layout, you are dramatically improving the chances of your content going viral.

Screen shot of social sharing buttons on a blog post

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How to build a great network

Cartoon of Elevator Pitch by Martin Shovel
Cartoon by @MartinShovel

Why you should network for life, not just for business.

Business owners are taught to deliver elevator pitches, work the room and distribute business cards. This is why so many people have come to hate business networking. It’s false, impersonal and often very boring.

That’s a shame because life, not just business, is made easier when you have a great network, when you know who to call, who to ask, and who to rely on.

Having a great network is powerful, useful and fun.

Imagine you need a great chef to come to your home to cook for a special celebration. Imagine that you have a really important presentation to deliver and you want to get some expert coaching. Imagine that your recently graduated child is looking for an internship. You can probably find what you need on-line, but imagine being able to ask your network for personal recommendations and introductions. How satisfying, and potentially much more powerful, would that be?

This is why we all need to network for life, not just for business.

Of course, to do that you need to be a real person, not just a business. A person has likes, dislikes, interests and values and it is these that will attract other people.

Do you know that the most looked at page on any website is the “about us” page?

People want to know WHO they’re doing business with, what you stand for and why they should choose you over your competitors. Nine times out of ten, people make a buying decision based on how much they like the person doing the selling.

Even on-line when they haven’t met you, a buyer’s decisions will be made on the story that you tell, and, most powerfully of all, on recommendations from their friends. They will seek out shared connections and ask about you.

Trying to get everyone to like you is doomed to failure. You’ll come across as so bland no-one will pay you any attention at all, so standing up for the things you believe in, being authentic, genuine and transparent are all pre-requisites for building a great network. You should be proud to repel the people who don’t share your values.

AudiencesThis is how we create trust.

Do you know that only 14% of customers trust brands but 78% of people trust their friends? (Source Oxford Research)

How do you find all these wonderful people you can trust?

It’s estimated that almost everyone can sustain a stable social relationship with about 150 people (Dunbar’s number).

If you are standing in a circle of 150 people, each one of those people is also standing in a circle of 150 people. That means that in just one step you potentially have 22,500  chances to find the exact person you need.

Treat every person as if they were standing in their own acre of diamonds.

It’s one thing to know someone, it’s another to get introduced WARMLY to the people you need.

How do you do that?

How do you make sure people remember you warmly and want to introduce you to their trusted friends?

I’ll tell you how. 

Charm will always score over an elevator pitch.

  • Spend more time being interested in other people than you do trying to get them interested in you.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Ask good questions, but not just about their business.
  • Don’t let the first words out of your mouth be “What do you do?”
  • Do a little small talk, establish connections, use your social skills.

Just because you’re at a business event doesn’t mean you should ditch your manners.

Ask people how they found out about the event and that way you’ll find out who they know or which networks they’re connected to and then you’re on the way to establishing shared connections.

Demonstrating that you have something in common with someone else makes them more likely to like you and listen to you. Salespeople deliberately fake little similarities in order to create rapport and connect with their prospects. And it works.

If you don’t know what someone is talking about, ask them to explain and be a great listener.

If you’re the one doing the talking, remember the rules of not being boring. Answer questions succinctly and ask questions of your own. This is a getting to know you exercise, not a chance to tell your life story.

How to short-cut the process:

Combine on-line and off-line networking.

If you’re going to spend two hours at a networking event the maximum number of people you can have a real conversation with will be about a dozen.

Spending ten minutes on-line before the event, checking out and connecting with people who are going to be there, will short-cut and enhance the process, break the ice and give you an immediate point of connection. No need to ask the dreaded “what do you do?” question. You’ll already know and you’ll also know who they’re connected to and what you have in common so all barriers to having a meaningful conversation will be gone.

Similarly, spending ten minutes on-line after the event, not just connecting with, but introducing people you met who could be useful to each other, will establish you as someone worth knowing.

Share your network at every opportunity.

Actively make connections between people who can help each other – not for some bullshit “paying it forward” or “what goes around comes around” reason but just because you can, because you treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.

When you network on-line, talk to people as though they were in the same room as you.

Don’t be a jerk.

You’d never dream of bursting into a room and shouting “Hey, I build great websites. Come and buy one”, so don’t do it on-line. You can’t sell to people who neither want nor need what you’re selling so it’s essential to spend time finding out if you can help them with a problem before offering a solution. However, just because they don’t need what you’re selling doesn’t mean that you can’t connect them with someone from your network who might.

The rule about networking on-line is to be useful, interesting or entertaining.

In a similar way to physical networking, its being personal on-line that builds your network. No-one connects with a logo or a business account (unless they already know the person behind it which kind of defeats the object). All the same rules apply to both physical and on-line networking – make a good first impression, have a great smile, good eye contact, and share things that people can identify and connect with.

Your photo is crucial and will be the first and most powerful impression you make; sharing your love of basset hounds, wild camping or blues music gives people the chance to connect. Showing your values in the things that you share is a signal that you know what you stand for and allows people to decide if they want to join your tribe or not. 

Say hello to @MartinShovel who drew that great cartoon of the elevator pitch.

Martin Shovel
Martin Shovel, Speechwriter, blogger on language and communication, cartoonist, animator, enemy of pseudoscience and humbug of all flavours!

Twitter is one of the best on-line networks for having conversations and connecting with people you don’t already know. Try it.

Use on-line networks as a telephone, not a megaphone and you’ll build a great network.

Here are four great reasons to network for life, not just for business:

  1. You’ll build an outstanding brand. By becoming a contact point and sharing your network you represent knowledge, opportunity, selflessness and intimacy. You are not just a smart contact; you are fun, interesting, and valuable.
  2. You’ll get access to people’s attention. A sure fire way to get heard above the clutter and information overload and be heard is when people know it will be to their advantage. Asking for ideas and opinions from your network and spreading those ideas produces advocates.
  3. You’ll harness the power of positive presumption. Your contacts will presume that your arguments hold water, that your recommendations are solid, and that your referrals are valuable. They’ll presume that you have their best interests at heart. This is a powerful advantage. Trust is an essential component in building meaningful relationships.
  4. You’ll receive exceptional feedback. When you offer people knowledge and contacts, they will be eager to give you helpful feedback. They’ll tell you which contacts were helpful and which weren’t. They’ll tell you which ideas worked out well and which didn’t. They’ll keep talking to you. And you’ll keep learning from them.  

“You can have anything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want”. Zig Ziglar

The only way to build a great network is to share it. Keep giving it away and it will keep coming back to you, more powerful, more useful and more fun that you can imagine.

I’d love to hear your networking experiences – tell me about them in the comments!

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More customers isn’t always the answer

Free Hugs v Luxury HugsGetting new customers is the most expensive way to grow your business.

Seven times more expensive than keeping the ones you’ve got, according to many sources.
Before setting off to find more customers, think about doing these things instead:

  • Add value to what you sell; do it better, quicker or more quirkily than anyone else (never cheaper).
  • Make your customers feel special; celebrate their anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions (use a CRM to keep track).
  • Sell them more things; solve more problems or create more delight for them. Do they know about everything you offer?
  • Sell them things more often; offer great deals for repeat business that you don’t have to work hard for, so long as it’s still profitable.
  • Put up your prices (most good customers buy on value not price).
  • Make it easy for new customers to find YOU. Are you easy to find on-line?
  • If they visit your website, is it easy for them to work out if you’re the perfect supplier for them? Do you have great testimonials that make them want what your other customers get?
  • Do you tell your story well? The most visited page on a website is the “About” page. People want to know who they’re buying from, what your values are and what they’ve got in common with you. (Even one tenuous link like a shared birthday, school, pet or taste in music makes a sale more likely.)

All of these steps cost a lot less than finding new customers and can make a big difference to your profits. Try them!

Ann Hawkins can help you grow your business and achieve the breakthrough results your hard work deserves. To find out more, simply click here!

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Why passion isn’t enough

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Success in business is not about passion.

Of course it’s great if you love what you do.

Of course it’s great if you work for a purpose other than to make money.

These are bonuses.

What makes a business work is the boring stuff  you need to do before you start.

Does anyone want to buy what you produce, for the price you can produce it – that includes making a profit?

How long will it be before the profits come in?

Do you have enough money to invest in the business until the profits kick in?

Don’t be sucked in by sentimental, simplistic statements like “Do what you love and the money will follow”.

It’s just not true.

Start a business without doing the basics and you’ll end up with broken dreams and a pile a debt.

Get the basics right then proceed with passion and the results will be very different.

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Ann Hawkins is a business growth specialist who will help you to make more profit, keep you accountable for your success and introduce you to a support network of your peers. Ann is the author of New Business: Next Steps, founder of The Inspired Group, founding presenter of The Business Hub radio show and owner of The Social Media Show. If you’d like to talk to Ann about how to work smart, not hard, call her on 07711 705038

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You can’t change in isolation

Adam Hawkins wearing raybans Sometimes we want to change and others don’t want us to.

Sometimes others want us to change and we don’t want to.

Whatever the reason – we can’t change in isolation.

As soon as we make changes others have to change to accommodate the new version of “us”.

So before you consider making changes, make sure the people around you know about it otherwise you could find you have more obstacles to overcome than you bargained for – and maybe the thing you need to change first is the people you hang out with.

(To get new posts delivered to your in box as they’re published, add your name to my subscriber list)

Ann Hawkins is a business growth specialist who will help you to make more profit, keep you accountable for your success and introduce you to a support network of your peers. Ann is the author of New Business: Next Steps, founder of The Inspired Group, founding presenter of The Business Hub radio show and owner of The Social Media Show. If you’d like to talk to Ann about how to work smart, not hard, call her on 07711 705038

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