Articles by Mike Seidle

About Mike Seidle

Mike Seidle is one of the founders of Professional Blog Service and currently is Director of Development for DirectEmployers Association. Mike currently serves on Professional Blog Service's board of directors.

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Five Questions To Ask a Potential Ghost Blogger

Yesterday, we discussed the challenges of finding the right kind of ghost blogger to handle your blogging duties on your behalf, whether hiring a sweat shop, solo practitioner, or a professional blogging agency.

Assuming you’ve settled on the kind of person you want to hire, here are five questions you can ask any potential ghost writer or ghost blogger to quickly discover which bucket they fit in:

What country are your writers located in? 
If it’s not a country where your language is native, then you may have issues. Big issues. At the very least, you’ll spend some time editing and proofing each post, until you’re comfortable with the quality of content they’re providing.

How do you protect me from your writers plagiarizing someone else’s content? 
The right answer has three parts: First, they should have an editor check the writer’s work using Google and Copyscape to ensure your content isn’t lifted. Second, their writers should sign a no-plagiarism indemnification when they get hired (this way, the writer has financial skin in the game if they steal content). Finally, the blogger should register content with Copyscape to protect you from other’s plagiarizing. Please remember the biggest risk in blogging isn’t someone stealing your content. It’s getting sued for infringing on someone else’s copyright.

How do you make sure my posts are authentic? 
The answer you’re looking for is, “we don’t put words in your mouth, we put your ideas in writing.” To be honest and genuine, there needs to be a process that ensures that your ideas and your style of articulating ideas comes out in the final product. It’s important that the ideas and concepts be uniquely yours — but it’s okay to have a professional dress them up and put them on paper. Of course, you will need to be involved and at least read your blog before it is posted.

What happens when my contact goes on vacation? 
Do things stop when your social media person is out of town? What happens if a writer’s child gets sick? Success in social media requires discipline and planning, but there are times when you have to get things done and a one person show simply can’t hit deadlines. If you work with a solo practitioner, make sure you have either a backup, or have a second freelancer you work with to cover the gap.

How do I be sure my posts meet my quality standards? 
Here’s how it works: you have to be sure that what goes online complies with your legal department’s rules, is accurate, and you like it. The only way to ensure that happens is to make sure the work isn’t done at the last second. You need time to read, review and approve your blog posts. If you have a tough legal department or an “extraordinarily responsible” marketing compliance person, it’s likely your blog writing service will have to charge extra to deal with the cost of proofreading.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for everyone — maybe you’re willing to work with a writer’s schedule — there are a few things that you cannot and should not waver on: plagiarism and quality. Make sure the blogger(s) you hire can guarantee they won’t steal content from someone else, and that you’re happy with the work they’re doing.

The Challenges of Hiring a Ghost Blogger

Ghost writing is a tool. Hiring a ghost writer lets people who either don’t have the time to write or don’t have the talent to write communicate.

Without ghost writers, many people who have great ideas and insight would never blog.

It’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because the average blog post takes a non-professional 1 – 2 hours to write. If you think CEOs write every last one of their own blog posts, you are mistaken. They don’t write the letter in front of the annual report, they don’t write their speeches to shareholders, they don’t write their financial reports. Some of them don’t even write their own emails.

Would you really want a person who’s making $1,000 per hour spending 1 – 2 hours every day writing a single blog post instead of running the company? For that matter, if you’re making more than $35 per hour, do you really want to spend 2 hours every day writing blog articles?

If you bill or get paid more than $25/hour, writing a blog post may not be the best use of your time. The time you spend researching, writing, and editing is time you could spend billing and generating revenue.

The challenge is that hiring a ghost writer is tough because there are no real professional standards in the business. There is also no clear definition of “professional ghost writing.” Our professional experience has taught us that ghost writers and ghost bloggers generally fit into five buckets:

  • Cheap and Dangerous copywriting sweat shops typically charge $10 or less per post and usually promise keyword rich copy. The challenge is these writers rarely are paid enough to do original work (after overhead, they have $3 – $5 left to actually pay the writer). As a result shortcuts are the rule. Dangerous shortcuts like stealing content from other websites, using non-native writers, skimping on editing, and failing to do any fact checking can come back to haunt you later.
  • Solo Practitioners are often very good at what they do, except during their day job’s regular working hours, while on vacation, some weekends, or when life gets a little busy. The challenge with a solo practitioner is simply making sure they have time to meet your deadlines, can work with your legal department and are highly responsible. You’ll also need to make sure you have time for doing more editing on your own, as solo practitioners rarely have an editor. Solo practitioners can be a great value if you want to manage them. If you can find a solo practitioner who does this as a regular job, hang on to them. They’re worth what you’re paying them.
  • Social Media “Experts should generally be avoided. The general rule of thumb, at least according to Malcolm Gladwell, is you’re considered a top performer (an “outlier”) if you have 10,000 years of experience, and you’re considered “good” if you have 8,000. The problem is, a lot of social media tools like Twitter aren’t even 10,000 hours old, so it’s hard to become an expert in a field like this. Plus there are too many social media tools to truly become proficient at. You can have a passing knowledge about a lot of them, but a passing knowledge doesn’t make anyone an expert either.
  • Ad and Marketing Agencies are usually a good source for writers, but this isn’t their core business. They do ad campaigns, marketing campaigns, and online marketing. But they also have higher overhead, because you’re paying for people who typically don’t work on your project or technology.
  • Professional Blogging Agencies usually cost a little more, but have advantages, especially for businesses and high profile clients. Professional ghost writers should have a solid editorial process, access to a diverse stable of writers, provide safeguards against copyright infringement, have no issues with deadlines and can accommodate your compliance department.

When you’re looking for a ghost blogger, pay careful attention to your budget, your blog requirements, and whether you have any special requirements you need to meet, like passing posts through your legal department. Then see if you can work with a solo practitioner, a blogging agency, or whether you want to cheap out and risk it all with a sweat shop.

Is Your Blog Credible?

Credibility is crucial in marketing. Even more so in blogging.  Recently, I asked for the collective wisdom of LinkedIn to get an answer to a simple question:

What makes a blog credible?

There were many very insightful answers, but one answer stood out:

“The people who follow the blog…” — Jan Simpson (If you don’t know Jan, she’s famous for quickly getting to the point)

Why? Because everything you do when blogging is focused on your audience. If you focus on your following, you’ll find that it’s easy to answer questions about content subjects, quality, frequency of posting and design.  It’s also easy to figure out what you need to do to attract more followers.  Your blog’s audience is the sum total off everything, and takes into account nearly every other factor sited by other people who shared their insight.  Your audience is really the outcome of all the little things you do right.  Factors like:

  • Content quality
  • Reputation
  • Frequency of posting
  • References and Credentials
  • Relevance
  • Design

So, the question is, how often do you think about who is following your blog?  Do you know what they like? How about how often they visit? Are you sure your blog is easy enough for them to navigate? Is your about the author text compelling and reassuring?

Hmm.  Better look at mine.

Two Rules for Marketing

In marketing there are only really two rules:

    1. Do something (legal).
    2. Do it better next time.

      Since only about 20% of companies have a blog, the vast majority of companies are breaking rule one.  Of the 20% that do have a blog, rule 2 is a problem, probably because it’s hard to get posts online with a full business schedule.  One key to getting long term ROI from your blog is to focus on continuous improvement.  Here are a few places you can look to improve:

      Repeat Visitors: Is the number of repeat visitors going up or is it stuck?  Repeat visits are key to building traffic, and with traffic comes leads and sales.

      Engagement: What percentage of your visitors make a comment, email you or share an article? Are they just reading or are they participating?

      Links: How often are your articles referenced by other bloggers and mentioned on social networks and forums?  Links are critical to getting traffic and higher rank on Google because they show your site is a trusted authority.

      Quality: What grade would an English professor give your posts? Are you getting straight A’s or not?

      Conversions: Are you consistently getting leads from every article you post? Is that number trending up or down?

      Topic Effectiveness: Look at how well your blog performs based on the topic you write about.  Eliminate under performers.

      What do you think the most important metrics are to help drive continuous improvement on your blog?

      Research Desk: Twitter Spam

      Twitter Spam has been a topic of fevered discussion for at least the past year, from a number of different writers and social media gurus.

      Before we get into the details, it’s important to note that the team at Twitter does a lot to cut back on spam. In fact, the most vile kind of tweetspams containing links to malicious code are actively discovered and removed by the twitter staff.

      What’s left is:
      Behavioral Spam – tweets that are annoying because they are part of a behavioral pattern. The best example is the dreaded direct message with a link to a get rich quick scheme. Behavioral spams annoy because of how the message is sent. A new kind of behavioral spam –– paid tweets –– are beginning to show up in the stream.

      Content Spam – tweets that are pushed out you really, really could live with out. Links to pornography, affiliate marketing tweets and so on. Content spam on twitter is annoying because of what the tweet says or links to.

      It’s also important to understand a couple of things about Twitter:

      1. The most effective way to gain followers on Twitter is celebrity. If you aren’t on the A list, then your best bet to get lots of followers is refollowing (which yields 200-400 new followers per day even with the current daily follow caps) and participating in the conversation.  Twitterazis – Don’t get upset.Refollowing is one of the most cited forms of Twitter Spam, and while it’s effective, it’s generally frowned upon.
      2. Twitter is a conversational social network. People join and engage to be a part of the conversation. Since Twitter does not set the rules on what the conversation is about like a discussion forum, nearly anything goes.
      3. Twitter makes it easy to follow and stop following people, so silencing a spammer is pretty easy until you’re following so many people you can’t track them all. This is a problem because 200-300 users is probably too many.

      Blogs are the Center of the Universe

      I love social media experts. There’s one born exactly every 0.017 seconds, and they all have great opinions that prove Dirty Harry’s second most famous quote right. One piece of advice they like to give is:

      “You should not blog, at least not right away.”

      Take it from a social media practitioner (I’m not a “social media expert” that is a title for an “interactive user” who has hung out a shingle), blogs are important. In fact, blogs are the center of the social media universe. Why?

      Blogs are the root source of content for nearly everything.

      If you plan on doing anything meaningful in social media, you have to have a landing point. Preferably one you can measure and is engaging. Often times you need a place to break a story.  Other times you need somewhere you can bring together ideas.  Blogs are perfect for this.

      Best Practices… AREN’T

      Recently, I read a book called “Be Unreasonable” which made a point that resonated with me. The author, Paul Lemberg, decries the age old reliance on “best practices” and convinced me, as the title of this post states, that best practices… aren’t.

      How’s that?

      Think about it… “Best Practice is an idea that asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc.” (from Wiktionary)

      Best practices for any given business are assumed to work in other similar businesses. While this may be true (or not) the danger is, once best practices are adopted, innovation stops, testing takes a back seat, and “ant mentality” begins.

      As we all know, ants like to follow each other. We always assume that the ant at the front of the line knows where he is going. However, as I was catching a dose of NPR the other day I heard scientists had stumbled upon an entire colony of ants who were following each other in one giant circle. In a matter of days the entire ant colony starves to death.

      It occurred to me that relying on so called best practices can lead a company in a similar situation.

      Not only can you get caught erroneously following another company’s lead, but relying on a set of best practices might “trick” you into permanently following your old semi-successful (or unsuccessful) self… all the while thinking you are on your way to the top.

      Instead of Best Practices

      No, I am not about to give you a set of best practices for avoiding best practices. Rather, I’ll tell you what works for us.

      We test new ideas, track returns and keep the operating manual light.

      For example, the world of social marketing is full of well intentioned purists who think a Facebook profile set up solely for the purpose of marketing is an outrageous social faux pas, or at the very least… NOT Best Practice. Personally, I think we will begin to see more and more successful “engineered” Facebook marketing campaigns that are entertaining or compelling enough to be acceptable to the general audience. If we relied on conventional best practices, we would not test our intuition, and, miss out on a great innovative success story for a client.

      Bottom line is… If you have joined the bandwagon that is social marketing, don’t let ANYONE strap you down to a set of guidelines or a list of tasks. There are no rules that are hard and fast correct for every person. Learn from what’s worked for others but create your own path.