Five True Gems of Blogging Advice

After yesterday’s post, Five Pieces of Blogging Advice I Wish You’d Stop Giving, Rogier Noort challenged me to come up with five “true gems” of blogging advice.

Oooh, now that’s a challenge. The problem is, there’s so much blogging advice out there (the first of which is always “write good content,” which inspired yesterday’s post to begin with), I was hard pressed to come up with five good ones that most people don’t know. But I accepted the challenge, so here we go.

1. Trick Out your Author Bio to Take Advantage of Google’s AuthorRank

I’ve written a lot about Google AuthorRank, and its growing importance. If you want to improve your search ranking, tie your blog’s bio to your Google+ account, and add your blog to the Contributes To of your profile.

Next, go to Google+ and upload a recent photo of you. Not you as a child. Not your child. Not your dog. Not you and your best friend. Not a picture of you at the beach, sunset at your back, from 100 yards away.

Your. Smiling. Face.

Then, whenever a blog post you wrote appears on a Google search, your face and name will appear next to your result, and people are more likely to trust it (i.e. click on it and read it).

2. SEO is Not Dead

The whole point of search engine optimization was to help Google understand what websites were about. If you wrote about Hungarian football, you would use that phrase in your title, a few times in your blog post, in your keyword tags, the meta description. And if you write about it frequently, you may even want a category with that phrase.

If you did this right, Google would assume that your site was an important one for Hungarian football. This made people do it more, because they saw it helped their pages show up higher on Google’s search results pages.

The problem, was people abused this so much, Google greatly lowered the value of the SEO efforts everyone was making. That’s what the Panda algorithm changes were all about. (Penguin was more about devaluing low-value backlinks.)

But that doesn’t mean you should stop doing SEO. It’s still valuable, it just doesn’t add to your SEO juice. Just quit thinking that you need to do it perfectly and efficiently to beat the competition.

Just remember, in order to find you, Google needs to understand what it is you do. If they understand what you do, AND you do all the other stuff right (i.e. have good time on site, low bounce rate, and high click-through rate), then Google will place you higher. But crappy content with great keyword placement will not rank higher.

Remember, you’re writing for two audiences: the reader and Google. The human reader is more important, but Google can make or break you.

3. Start Using Schemas

This is the new SEO. If you want to have a serious impact on your SEO, use schema tags like Address, City, Region (state), and postalCode (ZIP code). The reason is because Google (and Bing and Yahoo; Schemas is a joint venture among the three) is starting to recognize what lines of text mean.

Think of it this way, when I write my name — Erik Deckers — Google doesn’t know what it is. They just see an ‘E,’ an ‘r,’ an ‘i,’, and a ‘k,’ and so on. But, if I put the code around my name, then Google says “Oh, ‘Erik Deckers’ is the name of a real person. Whenever we see someone search for that name, we’re going to show the pages that tells us Erik is a real person.”

That code looks like this:

<span itemprop=”name”>Erik Deckers</span>

The same is true for addresses, especially when it comes to local searches on Google. Right now, if you do a search for our address — 5348 Tacoma Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220 — all Google sees is a string of letters and numbers, and they’ll look for the identical string on all websites and blogs.

But if I tag it with the schema code, like this:

<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>5348 Tacoma Ave.</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Indianapolis</span>
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>IN</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>46220</span>
</div>

then Google recognizes that as a real address, and they’ll pop it to the top of the search results, and show it on their Map.

If you still want to do SEO, then start using schemas. It’s a laborious process though, because most everything has to be done by hand. There are some plugins for it, but they’re not as effective as the actual hand coding. At the bottom of this post are some schema tags that were created by the SchemaFeed plugin, which unfortunately is no longer available.

Schema tags

4. Don’t Plumb the Depths of Your Knowledge in a Single Blog Post

That is, don’t explore everything you know about a single blog topic in one post. Break it up into little bitty, bite-sized chunks, and explore each tiny facet of the issue in an individual post.

For example, one of my keynote talks, Ten Secrets I Learned In 24 Years of Writing would make a great blog post. And to keep from boring the reader with a massive crush of words, I could write 2 – 4 sentences about each point. But that wouldn’t give me time to fully explain what each secret means, how you can apply it, or why it’s even important.

What would make it better is to break it up and explore each secret further, and more in-depth, spending 400 – 500 words on a single secret — 600 words maximum, and that’s pushing it — finally resulting in ten separate blog posts.

That does two things for you: 1) It gives you something to write about for several days, and 2) it really establishes your credibility as someone who is very smart about that topic. After all, if you know enough to write 20 – 30 blog posts on a single topic in 3 months, you certainly must know a lot about it, right? (Just smile and nod.)

This blog post would have also benefited from a similar treatment. But I was challenged to write five true gems, and I’m über competitive.

So, you can write that overarching post, like this one, as sort of a preview, but then break it up into separate posts, one for each point, to expand on it, broaden your topic base, and make you look like an expert.

5. Use Videos to Increase Time on Site

One of the indicators Google uses to determine whether a blog post or web page is any good is to look at how long people will spend on the page. That’s also known as Time On Site.

We already know — because it’s one of those pieces of remedial blogging advice we hear over and over — that photos and videos will increase the click-through rate on a blog post (which is another signal for the new SEO). But did you ever consider that the proper use of video will increase your time on site?

If you embed a decent video that supports your point — create one yourself, if you can’t find one — people will watch it on your site, not YouTube/Vimeo. And the longer they watch the video, the longer they spend on your site. The longer they spend, the more Google values that page.

You can accomplish the same thing by having a few photos on your site, to give people something to look at for a few more seconds. The longer they spend, the more your Time On Site goes up.

That doesn’t mean you can just load junk videos and crappy photos in the hopes that you’re going to trick people into spending time on your page. Once they realize you have nothing to offer, they’ll never come back, and your misguided attempts at trickery will backfire badly.

 

Those are my five true gems of blogging advice. Thanks to Rogier Noort for challenging me to write them. Does anyone have any of their own blogging gems? Leave them in the comments.

How Writers Can Use QR Codes

What can writers do with QR codes? Do we even need them? When most writers still have that “I’m a writer, not a marketer” attitude, embracing something as 21st century as a smartphone, let alone a QR code, is going to be difficult.

But, if you’re trying to reach a particular kind of audience — let’s say a tech-savvy audience — or people who might not otherwise discover your work, a QR code could be a great way to market your work in some surprising and creative ways.

QR Code to my About.me page

QR Code to my About.me page

The whole point of a QR code is to reach a mobile audience. People who use their mobile phones to read articles and watch videos. People who use their tablets to read ebooks. Basically anyone not using a laptop or desktop computer, or reading paper-based articles and stories.

By tapping into the growing mobile market — and it’s growing fast — writers can get their words in front of a brand new audience, or at least an audience who can access your old work in new ways.

You can reach that mobile market in a few different ways, including emails, or making people tap long URLs into their web browser. But a QR code — that funny looking pixelated square — is something people can scan with their mobile phones to perform a certain action, like open a website or a video.

For writers, you can point a QR code at some of your work, and allow people to read it on their mobile phones. Here are a few places you can point them:

  • At one of your best articles or short stories: This should be the first place your QR codes should go. Point them at some of your best work, and then put the QR code on a business card or writer’s resume. Or if you’re at a conference, put it on a t-shirt. Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Best way to do this? Install WP-Touch on your WordPress.org blog, or use Blogger, Posterous, or WordPress.com for a mobile-ready blog. Warning: Do not just point a QR code at your main website. For one thing, it’s boring and unimaginative. Hopefully you’ve already got a short, and clever, domain name, so a QR code is wasted. But if you don’t have anywhere else to point it, at least make sure your site is mobile friendly. A site designed for a desktop is awful to negotiate with a mobile phone.
  • Your book page on Amazon.com: Have a book flyer or sales card? Put a QR code on it and let people scan it. They can make their purchase right on their mobile phone and have it shipped to their house or office.
  • A mobile-only video: If you have a book trailer, consider making one especially for mobile use, and maybe even specifically for QR users. Speak directly to the user — “Hi, thanks for scanning the QR code and checking out the video.” — and tell them what is so special about this particular video. (“I’m sharing three additional personal branding secrets you won’t find in the Branding Yourself book.”) Make sure the video works on your mobile phone too. Some videos can’t play on mobile phones, so make sure you choose the right format and size.
  • At your ebook: If you’ve got an ebook for sale, whether it’s on Amazon.com or another ecommerce page, write up a small card about the book, and put a QR code on it. People can read the ebook on their phone or tablet, especially if they’re using the Amazon Kindle app.
  • At a secret page on your website: One of the best uses I saw of a QR code was a friend who put it on a t-shirt that he wore to conferences. People who scanned the code were immediately taken to a hidden page on his website where they could find how to connect with him via Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., as well as some special information that wasn’t available on his regular website.

The nice thing about QR codes is that you can point them anywhere you want. When you want to change pages, just edit the QR code. No need to create a new one or get rid of anything with the old code on it. Just go to the place where you created it, change the destination URL and you’re set.

You can put your code just about anywhere it can effectively be scanned, and point it anywhere that makes sense. On your business cards pointing to your book pages. T-shirts to your About.me page. Book covers to mobile videos. Anywhere you can think of, you can point it. Just don’t point it at your regular website, or put it on a highway billboard.

Watch Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) talk about QR codes and how they should and should not be used.

Scott Stratten Smacks Down Realtors Who Misuse Social Media

Scott Stratten is pleading with Realtors to stop misusing QR codes, social media, and even advertising claims. He’s having a go at Canadian Realtors, but the message applies to American ones as well.

Here’s the gist of his complaint:

  • QR codes are for mobile phones. Don’t point a QR code at a desktop website. Create a mobile-friendly website. If you can’t do that, don’t use a QR code.
  • Don’t just put Facebook and Twitter logos on your advertising. Tell us where to actually find you on Facebook and Twitter. Make it easy for your clients to find you.
  • Don’t treat your Twitter feed like a listing service. If you’re not engaging buyers and sellers, then you’re not going to get any benefit out of social media at all.

Coming up this week, I’ll have a post about five ways Realtors can properly use social media.

15 Social Media Tactics to Promote Your Upcoming Theatrical Show

We just finished the 10-day festival of independent theatre and weirdness known as the Indianapolis Fringe Theatre Festival, and I had a chance to see a few shows, including a couple of old favorites.

I also had a chance to talk social media — because I’m an annoying geek that way — with a couple performers, and decided to write a blog post based on what I told a couple of them.

Didi Panache and Wayburn Sassy of the Screw You Revue

Didi Panache and Wayburn Sassy of the Screw You Revue

This post is written for any musician or performer, especially the independent theatrical types who depend on ticket sales to make their living. For some of these performers, they bounce from festival to festival and make a good portion of their income from their take. Some even use one festival to pay for the next one.

This is a strategy they can use to improve their take next year.

What You’ll Need

  • A laptop computer
  • A digital camera with video capabilities. If not, your laptop’s camera will do.
  • A Twitter account.
  • A blog (WordPress.com or Blogger.com are great free platforms, as is Posterous.com and Tumblr.com)
  • A YouTube account.
  • A Facebook page. (This is different from a personal profile. You want an Artist’s page.)

What You’ll Do

These are in a general chronological order, but not in a do-one-then-the-next lockstep order. I’m using the Indianapolis Fringe (#IndyFringe) as an example, but this will work for any concert, performance, show, or festival.

 

  • First, make sure your Twitter bio includes a line about the name of your show, or your most famous character’s name. If you only performed in one festival, put the name of that in the bio too. “You may have seen me at the #IndyFringe Festival!” You can always change your bio, especially as you move from festival to festival, or follow specific groups of people.
  • Start following people on Twitter. People will follow you back, especially once they see that you’re a performer at the festival they went to, and even moreso if they were at your show. To find people who were at the festival, do these steps:

 

  • Go to FollowBlast.com and do a search for #indyfringe, and follow anyone using that term. Keep in mind that these hashtags only work for about 30 minutes, so it’s actually a good idea to access this site while you’ve got some downtime at next year’s show.
  • Build a hashtag archive at TwapperKeeper.com. I’m still trying this out, but I’m hoping it will collect old hashtags, unlike FollowBlast.com. However, it only goes back 7 – 10 days, and back for 1,500 tweets. It will then go forward and continue to save tweets. You should set this up before your next festival starts. Work in conjunction with the festival organizers, because they may want to use your archive as well. Also, before you start, search to see if anyone else set up an archive before you so you don’t duplicate efforts.
  • Go to search.twitter.com as another way to search for #hashtags. Put in #indyfringe and see what you can find. Search results are somewhat limited, but you may be able to find older tweets that FollowBlast and Twapper Keeper couldn’t, especially if you’re seeing this now, and are scrambling to recover those old tweets.
  • If all else fails, try Topsy. It’s not 100% accurate, but it gives you more than you might get if you’re looking for a festival that ended three weeks ago.

 

  • Check out the festival organizer’s Twitter page and follow everyone they follow (not everyone who follows them). If they have been good Twitter stewards, they have vetted the people they’re following. Those people will include other performers, supporters, festival-goers, and other people in the industry or festival business. (This last group could be a good connection to getting into other festivals!) Do this with any festivals you plan on going to next year as well.
  • Use Twellow.com and Twellowhood.com as a way to find other people who are in the cities where you’ll be next year.
  • Why You’ll Do It

    Okay so far? You’ve built your Twitter list for a very important reason: Promoting stuff! You’re going to promote next year’s show through videos, your blog, and even email newsletters. Here’s how.

    Zan Aufderheide of Welcome to Zanland

    Zan Aufderheide of Welcome to Zanland

    • Now you need your camera. Start shooting some short videos. Update us on what you’re doing, where you’ll be, thoughts on stuff you did this year. Treat it like a diary. If you’re an actor playing a part, do it in character, especially if that character is going to be back at the festivals next year. Shoot the videos in character, or tell some jokes, or give people a preview of what you’ve been working on. Shoot some rehearsals, some special messages to individuals, or perform a new song.
    • Post those on YouTube.com (make them public), and make sure you fill out all the details, like Title, Description, etc. (all this stuff is indexed by Google, which makes your videos found more easily by people searching for you or the festival).
    • Share these videos on Twitter and your Facebook page, and post them to your blog (do the same with any photos you take). This will accomplish a lot of pre-show promo before you ever set foot in the city. And if you can get people buzzing about the show before you start, you’ll be selling out more shows.

    You can get a Flip camera for as low as $170 now, and if you think that’s still high, use the money you were going to spend on fancy-schmancy postcards and spend it on the camera instead. The postcards are immediately dated once the festival ends, and you can’t reuse them. The video camera will pay for itself with all the videos you shoot and the postcards you don’t buy.

    Finally, there are a few things you want to do next year, to get ready for the next off-season.

      • Build a mailing list of all your attendees. Send around a clipboard before your show begins, or have them sign up before they leave. Ask people for their HOME email, not their work email — especially if your show is laden with profanities and cross-dressers. Guard this with your life. Promise to never, ever spam them. Use it only for newsletters and occasional social media communication.
      • Load that list into a Gmail account (here’s why you should use Gmail), and then either use the Rapportive.com Gmail plugin, or upload the email list to Gist.com, to start finding where your list members can be found on the different social media networks. Follow them on Twitter, and connect with them on Facebook.
      • Send out an occasional newsletter — no more than once a month — and email it to them. Let them know what you’re working on for next year so they get excited about your upcoming visit. Give them an opportunity to unsubscribe, but try to give them useful information so they won’t want to.
      • Use your video camera to shoot post-show testimonials and get them up on your blog as soon as a show ends. Tweet the new blog posts to your Twitter network during the show, so you can continue to remind people you’re there and you’ve got an awesome show. Ask your Twitter network to retweet your show information, so they can help you spread the word.

    There is so much more you can do with social media. Believe it or not, this is just scratching the surface of what can be done. But while it seems overwhelming, keep in mind two things:

        1. This will get easier as you do it more often.
        2. It beats the hell out of busking and handing out postcards in 90 degree heat.

    Photo credit: Erik Deckers

 

Video Book Review – Get Seen, by Steve Garfield

I recently read Steve Garfield’s Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business (New Rules Social Media Series) (affiliate link) because of my growing interest in video, especially as it relates to citizen journalism and crisis communication.

Get Seen is a great book for this, since Steve pretty much made a name for himself as being “that guy” when it comes to video blogging, scoring an interview with Congressman Duncan Hunter — scooping CNN in the process — and Jimmy Fallon, getting a press pass to a Barack Obama rally, and having videos appear on BBC and CNN. He’s got the knowledge and experience to tell you everything you need to know about creating fast videos with a small camera and your laptop.

If you have a hankering to do video, Steve’s book can be a little bad for you, because he talks about all the different cameras he’s been using for the last several years, making you want at least a couple of the cameras he’s got. I’m going to stick with my little Flip camera right now (I’m part of 12 Stars Media’s You Do Video program), but now I’ve already started looking at some new options to include lights and an external mic jack.

So check out the video, check out the book, and see if you can start adding video to your business or personal blog.

Five Reasons to Use Posterous as a Social Media Distribution Point

I’ve been enjoying playing with Posterous for about a year now, and while I don’t recommend it for everyone, it can be a great tool for some people. You should consider using Posterous if you are a:

  • Beginning blogger
  • Social media specialist
  • Mobile blogger
  • Crisis communicator

Posterous is an email submission blog. You send your post as an email to your own Posterous.com address, treat the subject line as the headline, and any attachments you send are incorporated into the post itself. It’s not pretty at times, but if you need something fast, this is it. Plus, you can go in and edit stuff to make it look better later.

Posterous.com Screenshot

My Posterous.com blog

I’ve often said, “Using a blog interface is a lot like sending an email.” Now, thanks to Posterous, it really is sending an email.

Here are five reasons to use Posterous as a blog platform and social media distribution point:

  1. It’s ideal for mobile phone users. If you’re constantly on the go, and want to blog about the things you see, Posterous allows you to upload photos or videos to your site, along with any accompanying text. Posterous takes advantage of the overall computing power of today’s mobile phones. When I need to demonstrate Posterous during a talk, a few minutes before I go on, I’ll snap a picture of the gathering audience on my mobile phone, attach it to an email, and type in a couple of lines. Before my talk begins, I tell the audience, “I’m going to hit send on this email right now. You’ll see why it’s important in 10 minutes.” Then, when I get to that point in my talk, I show them my Posterous page, which has the picture of them. If you’re a crisis communicator or a mobile blogger, this is an ideal tool for communicating with the public on the fly.
  2. Posterous will automatically send videos and photos to other sites. I have tied my Flickr, Picasa, and YouTube accounts to my Posterous account; it also sends videos to Vimeo. Whenever I take photos or videos, and send them to Posterous, they are automatically uploaded to the appropriate networks. I don’t have to upload them first, and then download the embed code. The downside for anyone who is concerned about search engine optimization is that your digital properties are on Posterous, not on YouTube or Flickr, so you lose any search engine juice that would normally come from a well-optimized video or photo that links to your site. There are workarounds for this, but they take some extra time after your post has been uploaded. If you’re a social media specialist, you’ll love this feature.
  3. Posterous will automatically repopulate content to other blog platforms. You can tell Posterous to re-send your content on to your WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, TypePad, LiveJournal, Xanga, or Tumblr site. Publish a post on Posterous, republish it on your “official” blog. Yes, there are plugins and apps that let you email your posts in to these platforms, but they won’t necessarily upload your video and photos to YouTube and Flickr. Again, crisis communicators or mobile bloggers who need to get information out to several networks will love this feature.
  4. Tell Posterous NOT to post to certain networks. The default setting for Posterous is to repost everything to every network you want it to (i.e. email my post to post@posterous.com. But what if you have a photo you don’t want to send to Flickr, or you don’t want a post to show up on your WordPress blog? By using a specific email address — for example facebook+youtube+blog+twitter@posterous.com — I can tell Posterous to post to my different properties, but leave out a specific network. In this example, I’m leaving out Flickr.
  5. Posterous can automatically notify Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, etc. about new blog posts. Tie your Posterous blog into your different social networks, and notify your followers when a new post is up.

Promote Your Book with Video and Social Media Marketing

I was talking to another writer this past weekend, and he told me he was writing a book with a very famous NASCAR driver, but that they had only just started.

“It’s really just him telling a bunch of stories,” said the writer. “And man, can he tell stories.”

A book like this is perfect for video promotion and social media marketing, before it’s even published. In many cases, a book is available for pre-ordering, especially on Amazon. Here’s one idea you can use to promote the book using your subject and his great stories:

    Set up a blog with the domain name of the driver and book, like “www.RickyBobbyBook.com.”

  1. Get a Flip video camera and record all of your interview sessions.
  2. Edit the different stories into separate video clips.
  3. Post the stories, one per week, on the blog. Include the call to action, “You can read more stories like this in the upcoming book. Pre-order it on Amazon.com now” with a link to the order page.