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Blogging with WordPress

I only entered the blogosphere in late 2005 after realizing that I was missing out on an important part of the whole “online communication” genre. As I had been busy managing forums, web sites, and writing articles, I soon realized that I could firm up my two niches – aviation and article writing – by blogging on these topics regularly. With that in mind, I soon launched a pair of blogs and I am very happy with my decision. I selected WordPress as I believe that they offer one of the best blogging communities out there. Are you a blogger? If not, why not?

My decision to go with WordPress and not with one of the other big blogging entities such as Blogger, had everything to do with my having complete control over the site. Since I host with Powweb, I discovered that my web hosting company offers over thirty different software downloads for its members. WordPress and a few other blogging entities are represented, but I selected WordPress due to the recommendation of a friend.

Within two or three minutes of my download, I had WordPress up and running. In less than thirty minutes, I had the layout I wanted, although I kept the traditional template in place as I knew I wanted to work on my content first and on the design later. Next, I updated the links on my two related sites to reflect a “Blog” tab. In addition, I picked a few places within each site to announce the new blogs and I emailed everyone on my members list to inform them of my entrance into the world of blogs.

If you select WordPress as your blogging platform, you will soon discover that Version 2.0 was recently released. Because I am new to blogging, I haven’t yet updated from my downloaded version, 1.5. I want to first make certain that WordPress has worked out any kinks that may be in the updated version. In addition, not all the plug-ins you can use [there are plenty of them] with 1.5 are compatible with 2.0 just yet. Most are, but some still are not.

Beyond the update issues, I enjoy using the administrative “dashboard” which allows me to create each blog. Because I include pictures with one of my blogs, Jet Movements, I also have to make certain that the HTML I use to put each picture in its place [alignment] is exact. WordPress allows for you to do that.

In addition, I like the fact that WordPress allows administrators to schedule their entries. You can blog today, but schedule your submission to appear online at an appointed time several days away. Since much of my writing inspiration comes in bunches, I often will tackle several days worth of entries at once and spread them out over the coming week. If I want to later change the timing of an entry or squeeze in a separate one, I can do that too.

WordPress is current with today’s web standards and looks much cleaner and professional than some of its competitors. You can change the template over to one that is in the WordPress arsenal or design a template yourself and upload it to your site instead.

Yes, WordPress is designed to be set up through your own web host, but if you do not have a web site, you can get a free account through Web Press and they will host it for you.

Although WordPress is an “open source” community, meaning it is derived from and driven by volunteers, they have an active forum and many helpful links to assist you with building and maintaining your own blog.

Obviously, I am a very satisfied WordPress customer. You can be a satisfied blogger too whether you select WordPress through your web host or host your blog directly with them.

 

Business Blog Web Design Mistakes

With more companies adopting blogs, we’re starting to see what works and what doesn’t work from a design perspective. As a cue from Jakob Nielsen’s article on the topic, here are thing problems I often find.

Bad headlines. They’re frustrating. Some bloggers like to get creative… but creativity can affect search engine keyword opportunities. The important thing is that readers have a hint of what the post is about.

Links. Readers like to know where links take them and most of us rely on the status bar, but sometimes that doesn’t help. Some experts say to use “click here” to help those who are newer to the Web and others say that’s wrong, wrong, wrong. It just depends on the content. When linking, try to pick the best words that give readers an idea of what to expect.

Calendars as the only way to navigate a blog and impossible to find archives or older entries are big problems. I almost always resort to search when I want to find postings no longer on the home page. Unfortunately, some blogs don’t have search. That’s why I put “archive” links in my sidebar in both meryl’s notes and meryl’s notes features. As my site goes through redesign, I’m making sure the archives are accessible especially in the features section. I found some old entries from 2001 that are still relevant today.

Bloggers must be regular. No bathroom jokes here, please. 🙂 When a blog looks abandoned for a month… your audience is gone. They’ll take you off their feed reader and blogroll. If you plan not to do it again or take a long sabbatical… prepare to start over again when you return.

Keep the boss in mind even if your the head honcho. Always blog with a boss in mind. Will your boss (current and future) be offended by your posting? Not only do people get fired for their blogs, but also they could cost job offers. It wouldn’t surprise me if managers are Googling applicants while going through the interview process.

Junky URLs. Nielsen says having a typepad.com or blogspot.com equates to having a yahoo.com or aol.com email address. Some of the bigwigs use Blogspot or Typepad URLs. Guess what? I never remember their URLs. I have to rely on Google. So this makes sense, BUT I wouldn’t call it unprofessional.

Business blogging has many benefits and problems. Companies tread carefully when entering this new world. It’s wise to have policies on the approval process and what can and can’t be said. Like anything else in a business, blogs need to be evaluated to determine whether or not they fit the business’ model.

How to Write Effective Copy for Your Company’s Blog

Weblogs, more commonly known as blogs, are spreading feverishly across the Internet. According to Robyn Aber of Cisco Systems Inc., about four million blogs populate the Web. Though most private individuals maintain blogs, many companies are beginning to launch company blogs to communicate and interact with their clients, customers, and the public.

How can you create a company blog that outshines and outlasts every other blog? And how do you hypnotize readers to keep coming back? This article provides tips to write effective, attention-arresting blog copy and shows how you can develop reader and customer loyalty.

1. WRITE CONVERSATIONALLY.

The most engaging blogs speak to their audience in a casual and conversational tone. A big benefit of a blog is its ability to speak to readers in a way that is personal, candid and straightforward. Write your blog the same way you’d speak to your audience, face to face. The personal element is almost always what attracts people and keeps them coming back to your blog.

Amy Joyce of the Washington Post says, “Web logs—or blogs—started as a way to talk about new technologies, vent about life and interact in a no-holds-barred forum. Since blogs became the next big thing, an increasing number of companies have come to see them as the next great public relations vehicle—a way for executives to show their casual, interactive side. But, of course, the executives do nothing of the sort. Their attempts at hip, guerrilla-style blogging are often pained—and painful.”

To avoid this pitfall, simply be yourself. The best blogs reveal the interests, opinions, and personality of the writer. Your perspective, personal and professional, is unique in all the world. Let it shine through, and your blog will automatically be one-of-a-kind. An interesting blog will bring back customers again and again and will generate priceless interest in your company.

2. TELL STORIES.

Readers want to know things they already don’t know about your company. They want to know what the products, services, people, challenges, and innovations in your organization are really like. If you give them a glimpse of the inner workings, express your opinions boldly, and tell engaging stories, you will foster reader interest and loyalty. In a biography, both interviews and quotations usually are the most intriguing parts. Think of your company blog as a business biography. Personalize it with your unique thoughts and perspective.

3. MAKE IT PERSONAL.

Write about what you know. Draw from your expertise to inform the public about the finer points of your business. Detailing development ideas, setbacks, successes, and reactions reveals the human element and engages the reader. It’s fine to talk about new products and innovations, but blogs devoted mostly to marketing and promotion are the most boring and least popular of company blogs. Make these topics more appealing to readers by framing such announcements with personal impressions and insights. Customers want to feel a kinship with the brand. Letting them in on the details of your business will make them feel part of your company culture and increase the chances of their lifetime loyalty.

4. UPDATE FREQUENTLY.

Once you have established a good reader base, offer new insights regularly to reward surfers for coming back. Not only does this provide more information and exposure, but it also reflects that your company is active and on top of things. Link to current articles from other sources to keep readers abreast of developments in your sector. A rarely-updated blog feels stale and tired. This is not the reputation you want your company to have!

5. ADHERE TO COMPANY RULES.

You are personally responsible for whatever material you publish on your company blog. Respect the confidentiality of your organization and employees. Though you may express disagreements or concerns, do not make personal attacks or use the blog to air petty complaints. Do not reveal proprietary information; and avoid discussing revenue, share price, or other financial statistics. Observe copyright law, and quote sources as you would in any other document. Make sure what you write in the company blog reflects the company’s goals. Keep in mind the ultimate goal of most company blogs is to increase visibility and promote the exchange of information. While most companies allow and encourage blogging on company time, you should avoid letting your writing time interfere with your regular workload.

6. WRITE GRAMMATICALLY.

Finally, make sure that what you write is grammatical. Your blog entries reflect your company, and you want to give the best possible impression of the organization and its personnel. The Internet is rife with bad English. Though blogs tend to be relaxed in tone, it is no more appropriate to ignore standard English than it is to wear flip-flops and swimming trunks on casual Friday.

A company blog is an excellent tool for promotion, communication, and information. The tips outlined here will help elevate your blog and generate traffic and interest. Good luck, and welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!

Tales From the Blogosphere

I entered the blogosphere fairly late in the game. More than three years after starting and managing several busy forums and web sites, I dabbled with blogging through regular entries to one of my aviation web sites. Within weeks I got tired of the discipline – not of writing – but of ftp’ing everything to the web. I gave up as I decided blogging wasn’t for me.

Fortunately, I didn’t stay away as I saw a challenge, and an opportunity, in front of me. Having blogged on other people’s sites, I felt that if I could blog there, I could blog anywhere, including on my own blogs. Taking a look at my options, I decided to download WordPress and I now run two blogs from two separate web sites.

I am thrilled with each blog’s success and have no plans of giving up on what I am doing. In fact, I am mulling over starting a couple of more blogs as I see the value of this type of medium online.

So, how are my site’s doing? Very well according to my sites’ statistics. No, there isn’t much activity as far as comments go, but my information is getting read and the blogs are bringing additional traffic to both sites. Let’s just say that the traffic increases alone have been enough to keep me going, but other factors weigh in including:

Blurbs – There are times when a full length article just doesn’t cut it, but a blurb [pithy paragraph] does. Blogs are great for showcasing tidbits of information and allowing bloggers to link to the full article if more information is desired.

Links – On my Jet Movements blog, I added over 200 aviation related links recently. Within days, traffic to my site increased and the first page rankings came back from Google. Less than six weeks after starting, the traffic to this particular blog has been great.

Showcase – My second blog, The Article Writer, has helped me communicate better to my customers. Now, my customers can read about my writing style, my comments on raising SEO, book reviews, and more. This blog has given a “human touch” to an otherwise good, but too-business-like web site.

Idea Farm – Some of my blogs have turned into articles as I have taken a short, concise work and expanded on what I wrote through an article. Saves me time, too, as all I have to do is add a couple of extra paragraphs and my article is usually done.

Yes, blogging is a great way to communicate for business folks as well as teens. Some have thought that blogging was a fad, but I must say that it isn’t and it is certainly here to stay. Have you started your blog yet?

The Blog Factor: Everything you need to know to start blogging – today!

So what is this “blog factor”? Well, what a few thought was a novel idea some years ago has now morphed into something no one expected. There are currently nine million blogs out there with 40,000 new ones being added everyday. Some are informative and some are just downright a waste of your time. And while we hear a lot about blogging these days, what is blogging *really*? Blogging in its simplest term is like an online journal but much, much more powerful. Blogs (short for Web log) is a place where surfers can get up to the minute information on a topic or voyeur into someone’s life. Some blogs are nothing more than a daily glimpse into someone’s life, while others are so sophisticated, it’s hard to tell them apart from an online news service.

Why Blogs Matter

Google, the #1 search engine on the net, loves blogs. So much so that if you do it right Google will spider the heck out of your site. What does it mean to “spider”? Well spidering is when Google, or the like, searches your site’s content to establish ranking, and the more content you have (i.e. fresh content) the more Google will do its magic and push your site up the search engine. Another reason blogs matter is that they are interactive and, if you blog on your book’s topic, it will help to further your expert status on a particular issue. When we plan “Virtual Tours” for our authors, we include as many blogs as we can into a tour. Why? Because if you can get into a good blog that’s seeing a lot of traffic, you can really start to gain some exposure for your book.

What Would You Talk About?

This is the question we get asked most often. “If I start a blog, what on earth would I talk about?” Well if your book is non-fiction it’s pretty easy to figure out what your topic would be, but if your book is fiction it could get a bit tricky – but not impossible. An author I work with has a series of books starring one character – a private detective. I recommended that he “blog” this character, meaning that the character (not the author) would have the blog. It could be the character’s diary or adventures and stories – a glimpse into the life of a private detective. This would give the reader (and fans of this character) a reason to return to the blog for an update on this ongoing adventure or story.

In another instance, I work with an author who wrote a fiction book about right and wrong with a new age/spirituality spin. I advised him to blog on issues related to that – right and wrong in our society and his own personal “spin” on these issues. Some of his blogs might be controversial but that’s okay, you want to create your own “voice,” your own take on a certain issue and if that opinion is controversial, all the better for exposure and for getting people to interact on your blog. Getting readers to respond to your posts is a great way to gain interest and momentum for your blog and (more importantly) getting people to talk about it will grow your blog like nothing else!

How to Start a Blog

Starting a blog is super easy. All you have to do is register at a blog site (like http://www.blogger.com) and get started. It’s that easy. The blog service will link to your site; you’ll need to ask your Webmaster to add a button to your home page so people can find your blog.

How to Blog Effectively

The best bloggers know that the more you add to your blog, the more traffic you’ll drive there. Some bloggers I know post daily, sometimes even multiple times a day while others post weekly. How much you post will probably depend on how much time you have to dedicate to this. The challenge will be that if you want to keep driving people to your blog, you’ll want fresh content. This doesn’t mean you have to create this all yourself, in fact you can invite people onto your blog and interview them, or you can just post a one paragraph “thought” on your topic. It doesn’t have to be complicated or long, it just has to be fresh. Also be innovative, as we discussed earlier, be different with your blog, have fun with it. It might seem complicated at first but once you get the hang of it, you’ll quickly become a blog expert!