Should You Publish on LinkedIn, Medium, and Other Publishing Sites?

Marketers seem to suffer from the Shiny Object syndrome more than most. They’re distracted by the newest, shiniest toy dangled in front of them. Seriously, my dog gets less distracted when I jangle my keys.

Content marketers are just as bad. I’ve seen people jump on Medium, LinkedIn, Ello, This, Inc, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the Huffington Post, only to jump back off weeks later.

They’re all looking for that elusive publisher, that one tool, that will solve all of their marketing and publishing problems.

If I publish on LinkedIn, people will read my stuff.

If I publish on Ello, people will buy from me.

If I publish on Medium, I’ll be a star.

Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful ThingsHere’s the secret none of those publishers will share: they’re not doing anything special.

They don’t do anything more than any other publisher is doing.

Oh sure, Medium created an app for people who like to think deep thoughts over soy lattes, while LinkedIn is reaching a huge business audience because Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuk publish there. But Medium is not the message.

These are still just publishers. They don’t have Magical Publishing Fairy Dust that makes people read your work. You do.

Don’t Build on Rented Land

For years, I’ve said you need your own place to be the central hub of your social media and personal branding. You need some place to send people, some place that is yours and yours alone. Some place that you control, aren’t at anyone’s mercy, and aren’t subjected to the fickle winds of the market.

That’s your blog.

That’s not a spot on Blogger or WordPress.com. (I had a client blog get shut down years ago without warning, because Blogger didn’t like our outbound links. Two years’ of content, gone in an instant.)

That’s not your Facebook business page. (Facebook pleaded with everyone to launch a business page, only to shut down their reach unless you pay up.)

That’s not This.cm. (They shut completely down on July 31.)

That’s not LinkedIn, Medium, or Ello. (Read the previous three paragraphs.)

It’s your blog on your server with your version of WordPress. (Or, God help you, Joomla or Drupal.)

You have no control of your content when it’s on someone else’s site. You can’t stop them from deleting your content, limiting its reach, or shutting down completely.

But if it’s on your blog, you’re in control. It’s your site, it’s your content, and you get to say what you want.

If you still want to use those other sites, go ahead. Just post to your blog first, wait a day or two, and then post to those other sites.

That’s because you want your content to get all the Google juice. If it’s published first, Google will see it as the canonical material. If it’s not first, Google won’t even notice it.

It’ll be like me at my high school dances all over again.

(Secondary publishing: the high school band nerd of content marketing.)

But, even that won’t sprinkle the Magical Publishing Fairy Dust on it.

IT’S STILL ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK!

Social media is the thing that separates average writers with huge networks from great writers with small networks.

If you don’t push your content on social media, people won’t see it. If you don’t promote your work, no one will read it. If you don’t tell people, they won’t care!

Regardless of where you publish, you need to tell as many people you can about your work. They don’t care where you’re published, they just want to see it.

Social media, not some hyped-up blogging software, is your Magical Publishing Fairy Dust.

Do you want to be widely read on LinkedIn? Share your LinkedIn posts on Twitter and Facebook a few times a day. People aren’t always on Twitter or Facebook when you post your messages the first time.

Want your Medium post to reach a larger audience of like-minded readers? Follow your favorite authors, leave smart, personalized comments, and share their work. They’ll check you out, and if they like what you’ve done, they’ll share your work in return.

We’ve been saying this since 2007, when we first started telling people how to reach a wider audience. And it hasn’t changed. The tools may have changed, but the techniques have not. People will read your stuff if you a) have something worth reading, and b) tell them about it.

Bottom line: I’m not saying don’t publish on LinkedIn, Medium, or other places. Publish there second, publish on your blog first. Don’t give up final control of your work to someone else’s so-called magic.

Photo credit: Sophie Anderson, Take the Fair Face of Woman (Wikimedia Commons, painting, public domain)

Content, not SEO, Should Rule Owned Media (Guest Post)

Sean Sullivan is a digital marketer in Indianapolis, specializing in content marketing and analytics. He’s also a good friend. Sean is publishing guest posts in several places, and I’m going to start contributing to his site. This is his latest submission.

Writing should be storytelling. The Internet should throw papers on your door step every morning. Writers should expect their paper articles read. Since the Internet, content overload diminishes what the public can see. Readers want information now. And businesses scramble to publish where readers are.

Old News

Marketing is not an instant solution. Marketing takes a lot of trial and error. Companies need a balanced media approach. This would include owned, paid, shared, and earned media strategies. Since you can’t control earned media, and paid media gets expensive, let’s focus on owned media.

What is owned media?

Owned media includes content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). As the publishing company/entrepreneur, you “own” these medias forms because it’s your website and your content. Many industry experts are saying SEO is in the past, and content marketing is the future. That is not true. All media forms are important, and SEO sometimes means not doing certain things as much as it means using certain tricks. (SEO is not dead yet.)

For the last 15+ years, Google still makes the rules. And you have to follow those rules. Google created the sandbox. And we all have to play nicely. Or we get put in time out. Here are a few ways to play.

View Google Traffic as a Bonus, Not the End Goal. SEO has taken such a beating, and it’s such hard, ongoing work, that it’s not an effective long-term strategy any more. Don’t play old SEO tricks either, because Google will drop the ban hammer on your site. Instead, figure out how to build on online business by connecting with people. Look at Google traffic from inbound marketing as a bonus. You can build your business on SEO, but it can be hard if you don’t have the time to dedicate to always changing and adapting to Google’s new algorithms.

SEO Depends on Content. SSEO is a competition between people finding the best tactics and using them better than anyone else. Content has the potential to go viral and be shared by people who like it, but monkeying with SEO might prevent it from going viral, because Google can penalize your efforts. SEO can help, but your best content — your “hero” content — takes a whole lot more work to create than the actual SEO. It’s your hero content that people want to share and talk about, and that will always be more powerful than traditional SEO.

For Converge Street, I get much better organic traffic when writing about a name or a concept, but that doesn’t help SEO. Writing more quality content and sharing that with my networks is what wins traffic.

Editorial Writing and Tracking. Write in a news/editorial style while linking credible outbound links — link to help with editorial content, not because SEO says you need X number of links. Track results to expand your focus — check page views and time on site. Figure out who likes your writing (i.e. who reads and shares the most) — count social shares, social networks, and even regular sharers. This way you know what people and search engines like. Then, give them more of what they want.

Having good content and using SEO does’t mean readers will flock to your website. Those are just two legs of the three-legged stool. Understanding the different media channels will definitely help. Know where your audience is, write the things they want, and share it on the places where they’re found.

SEO impacts inbound marketing but it’s not main the reason people come to your website. SEO, analytics, and social media lands your paper on people’s doorstep. But good content compels them to pick it up and read.

Photo Credit: @Doug88888 via Compfight cc

5 Ways to Protect Your Blog Against Hackers

Every couple of days, I get an email from my blog alerting me that the zombie hackers are at it again. They’re trying to break into my WordPress blog so they can infect it or steal any financial or personal information they find.

But I’ve taken a few steps to limit their access, and if you’ve got a blog, WordPress or otherwise, you should take these five steps to protect yourself from hackers.

1. Change the Admin Account

Raise the PortcullisThe default username on all new blogs is “Admin,” which most people never change. That’s what the hackers attacking my blog seem to go after the most. To protect against that, you can do one of two things:

  1. Delete the Admin account. WAIT!! Don’t go do it yet. First, make sure you set up a new admin-level account under a different name. Use a variation of your name instead. Once you do that, then delete the admin account. The hackers’ automated system will keep trying to break into “admin,” even though it’s no longer there.
  2. Change Admin’s role to subscriber-level. Again, you’ll want to have your own admin account first, but by changing the role to that of a subscriber, even if someone gets in, they won’t have the power to add any code or change anything. The best, most thorough option is deleting the Admin account completely.

“Test” is another name I’m seeing a lot of in my email alerts, so don’t set up an admin account with that name.

2. Change your Password

Hopefully you’re no longer doing things like using “password” or your dog’s name as your password. But even if you’re using variations like “p@ssword” or “#enry,” those won’t work either. The hackers are on to our little tricks of substituting @’s for A’s, and so on.

Instead, pick longer multi-word password phrases like “ILeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco” or “ILikeNewYorkInJuneHowAboutYou.” Even though these don’t use the unique symbols we were told to use a few years ago, they’re almost too long to be easily cracked. Another option is to just mash a bunch of keys at random and then store the password in a password vault on your laptop.

3. Delete Subscribers (WordPress)

One trick you can do to reduce comment spam is to only allow subscribers to leave comments. In order to do that, the spammers will have to subscribe to a blog before they leave a spam-laden comment. And since it’s easy to automate, that’s exactly what they do.

However I don’t require commenters to subscribe (more on that in a moment). I let Akismet catch a lot of the comment spam, and let the real humans leave real comments. Instead, I moderate comments, and check over all the comments Akismet let pass before I publish them, because Akismet is 99% accurate. I just have to monitor the other 1% myself.

But even though I don’t require comments, spammers still subscribe to my blog, and I’ll have a couple thousand every few weeks or so. I go through and delete them whenever I have a few free minutes.

Now, the danger is a real commenter may have actually subscribed, and I will — completely unintentionally and accidentally, because I’m not reviewing every single subscriber first — delete them and their comment. This is why I don’t require commenters to subscribe. Otherwise I’d have no comments at all. (So, if you’re a real person and you want to leave a comment, DON’T SUBSCRIBE!)

Delete Subscribers window

Note: If you do this, make sure you click the Subscriber link each time you delete a batch. Otherwise you might actually delete yourself or another admin. Also, set the number of records that show on one page to about 350. That’s about as many as you can delete without causing an error.

4. Install Limit Login Attempts Plugin (WordPress)

Limit Login Attempts (LLA) is a great plugin for any WordPress owner. It limits the number of times an IP address can try to log in unsuccessfully before they’re locked out. It lets you set how many unsuccessful attempts you’ll allow before the IP address is locked out, and how long the lockout lasts. Then, if a specific number of lockouts are reached, the IP address is blocked for a specific amount of time.

For example, I have mine set to 3 unsuccessful attempts lead to a 24 hour lockout. 4 lockouts lead to a 96 hour block. I’ve also set LLA to email me after there are 4 lockouts. Most of these attempts have synced up over the past several months, so I get a new round of emails every 4 days (today was the day, which made me decide to write this post).

5. Install WP-Ban Plugin (WordPress)

If you do find an IP address that’s managed to guess your user name, or see one that continues to try to log in a few dozen times, it may only be a matter of time before they get in. (If nothing else, the one that’s tried a few dozen times is a bot that just keeps knocking on the door, coming back whenever it can to see if they’re unlocked). To fight this, I installed the WP-Ban plugin on my WordPress blog, as well as those of my clients, and I use it to block IP addresses that are most persistent.

Unfortunately, it’s a Sisyphean task, since the IP addresses are constantly changing. I always block the IP addresses that manage to figure out my user name, and I block the ones that have been hit with a 96 hour lockout more than 3 times. I can find that out by looking at the IP addresses that were blocked by the LLA plugin, because it shows the user name they tried and the number of attempts. There are a couple of IP addresses that have seen the Ban message 1,811 and 1,421 times, so it is worth it to ban them.

Blog security is an ongoing issue. For every hack they find, we find a solution. For every solution we find, they find a workaround. This day, these are the five things I rely on to prevent hacking into my blog. What other solutions do you use? Do you have any tricks? What about for non-WordPress blogs? Leave a comment and let me know what works well for you.

(Hat tip to good friend Lorraine Ball and Roundpeg for originally writing about this topic in April.)

Photo credit: Dark Dwarf (Flickr, Creative Commons)

“Write Good Content” is a Stupid Strategy

It doesn’t matter which article on “Five Pieces of Blogging Advice You Need RIGHT NOW” you read, including mine, they all have the same tired cliché:

Write good content

I’ve decided that this is a stupid strategy.

In fact, it should not be a strategy at all.

This is the foundation of what you do, the very essence of your success. Your raison d’être, which is French for “reason for existence.”

To call “write good content” a strategy means that the default position, the strategy you would have done is to write bad content.

That’s like telling people that one of the five keys to being successful in life is “don’t kill people.” We’ve pretty much got that one nailed down, and we understand it. Which is why you never see it addressed in Emily Post or Ann Landers.

Writing good content — hell, creating good anything — needs to be our default position. It shouldn’t be a happy accident that comes after years and years of practice, or being inspired after slipping in the shower and hitting your head and having a vision of the flux capacitor.

Let’s stop telling people to create good anything. They want to. People really and truly want to do a good job. They don’t intentionally want to suck at anything, so telling them to do a good job is more like, as Douglas Adams once said, exercising our lips. If we don’t do it, “(our) brains start working.”

No one tells Albert Pujols “get a hit.” No one tells a bull fighter “don’t get gored.” Telling someone to write good content is like telling a football team to go out and win, rather than just going out to play.

So for those who keep on telling us to “write good content,” I have a few words for you:

Bad Idea: Companies Quit Blogging to Go With Facebook

The number of companies that maintain blogs dropped by nearly 25% from 2010 to 2011.

That’s not a very smart move.

But it’s a growing trend. According to an article in USA Today, more companies quit blogging, go with Facebook instead, the percentage of companies on Inc. magazine’s fastest growing 500 dropped from 50% in 2010 to 37% in 2011. And only 23% of Fortune 500 companies had a blog in 2011.

Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, the UMass Dartmouth professor who wrote the report, and world-class social media academic, told USA Today that blogging may not be the panacea that businesses thought it would be.

“Blogging requires more investment. You need content regularly. And you need to think about the risk of blogging, accepting comments, liability issues, defamation,” she said.

The problem is, the companies are taking their energy and efforts to Facebook instead. That’s not a dumb strategy. After all, at 800 million+ users, you have to fish where the fish are. And there’s a whole lot of fish on Facebook. [Read more…]

Attorneys Should Have Their Own Blog Content, Not Syndicated Content

Attorneys need to approach the use of syndicated blog content with care. Many times, syndicated posts are written as a one-size-fits-all approach, and you can make tweaks and changes as needed. But what if you don’t have time, or don’t know how, to make the changes? What problems could you see if you relied on syndicated content?

Here are three reasons we think attorneys should have their own blogs with their own content, instead of relying on syndicated content.

1. Syndicated content does not perform well in search.

If you buy a copy-and-paste content service, chances are it’s not going to be picked up by the search engines. That’s because Google has a “no duplicate content” rule they follow, meaning they don’t want to see a lot of websites using the same content over and over.

You may hear this described as the duplicate content penalty, but it’s not a penalty. Rather, Google just does not index the content. The Google bots see it and say, “we already saw this back at another website, so we’ll ignore this one.”

One of the primary reasons to have a blog is to rank high on the search engines, and it doesn’t make sense to pay for syndicated content if it’s not going to help you rank in the first place.

(That’s not to say that all content syndicates do this. The better ones don’t. The cheaper ones, not so much.)

2. You can localize your content.

Google is paying a lot more attention to local search, because they’re delivering local search results to their users. Check it out. Go to Google, and do a search for “Italian restaurant.” The results you’ll see will be for the city where you perform the search. That’s because Google can see where you are, and it wants to deliver the results you’ll be most interested in. If you’re in St. Louis, Google assumes you don’t care about Italian restaurants in Jacksonville, Florida, so they deliver the results you’re most likely to be interested in.

To that end, it’s more helpful to write localized articles about your areas of specialty and include your city or geographic practice area in things like the headline and body copy, so Google will know where they should have you listed.

  • Five Things to Look For In An Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorney
  • When Does a Startup Need a Chicago Intellectual Property Attorney?
  • Should I Hire a Florida Attorney to Plan My Estate?

You need to do this so when a potential client does a search online for an attorney, they find your page. Google is not going to return the best-optimized pages around the country. It’s going to show them the results from the pages in their city and/or state. If your site is properly optimized, clients will find you, not your competition.

3. Your Content Can Fit Your Readers’ Style

Syndicated blog content is written one way, and it may not be your style. But, you paid for it, so you might as well use it, right?

Wrong.

If you’re paying for it, you’re presenting your image in a style that doesn’t quite fit with you, or more importantly, may not appeal to your readers.

It’s important that you communicate with your readers in the way they want to be communicated with. And since you know your clients the best, you can best dictate the kinds of topics they want to read, the style, language, and even readability of the posts. You should even be able to decide the best keywords to write about that week or month.

Since you know your readers best, you need to create content that they will find and read, which will ultimately lead to them calling you when they need you.

Whether you write your own blog posts 2 – 3 times a week, or work with a ghost blogging service (which we recommend, given your hourly billing rates; otherwise, blogging will end up being your lowest priority), you need to have content that is geared toward your style, your geographic region, your clients, and can help you win search for your niche and your keywords.

Four Ways You Can Earn Money as a Blogger

So you’ve been blogging for several years, or at least several months, and you want to start seeing a little cash for your efforts. I was recently talking about making money with blogs on a blogging forum, and shared this answer. I thought it was worth expanding on and resharing here, since it’s a question I’m frequently asked when I give talks about blogging.

1) Sell ads.

Put a Google AdWords feed on your blog. As you write content, Google will examine your content and put up ads that seems to fit what you’ve written. Then, as people show up to read what you’ve written — presumably because they’re interested in the topic — they’re more likely to click an ad, because they’re interested in a product or service about that topic.Spray painted dollar sign on street

Upside: Very passive. You don’t have to do anything extra to your blog. Set the code, and then you’re done. Just get traffic and hope they click. However, you’re always in readership gain mode, which you should already be doing. But if you’re depending on this for your income, you need to focus on getting readers more frequently.

Downside:It feels a little slimy, if you don’t want to commercialize your site. It turns your blog into a billboard. And depending on the kind of blog you have, it may not work, or it may just clash with the theme and topic of your blog. If your blog is for your business, ads will probably not work. And why would you want to damage your credibility for the sake of a few bucks in Google Ad revenue?

2) Become an affiliate marketer.

This is where you open, say, an Amazon affiliate account and link to a few books that you really enjoy. When someone clicks a link that you provide (with your affiliate account embedded in the link), you make a little money if that person orders the book. The more people who buy your affiliate product, the more money you make. You could even become a book and product reviewer. Whenever you link to that book or product, you embed your affiliate link and see if you can get people to buy the product based on your review.

You can be one of two kinds of AMs — the sell everything everywhere kind, or the kind who wins a really big audience of loyal followers who will buy anything you suggest. The former kind are usually messing around with every type of affiliate product they can find, the latter are in constant network growth mode (see #1).

Upside: Better return than ad sales. Decent rate of return, especially as you load more products onto your affiliate site and get a bigger audience.

Downside: Affiliate marketing can be hard work, and often requires you to take on several products with several websites if you want to make a lot of money (if you want to be the first kind), or work your ass off to become a rockstar with thousands and thousands of groupies. You may also open yourself up to spam tactics if you want to be one of the big-dollar affiliate marketers.

3) Become a product or service reviewer.

I need to preface this by saying you should never, ever charge a company to review their product. That’s not ethical. You’re a citizen journalist, you have a media outlet. If you charge money, then you’re writing an advertisement, not a review. However, you are completely free to accept a product or service in exchange for reviewing it.

Let’s say you’re a parenting blogger, and you want to start reviewing products. You could review baby products, toddler toys, and children’s books. Or you could take a techy turn, and review technology products and services that might be of interest to other parenting bloggers (i.e. video cameras, blog platforms, blogging conferences), which in turn helps you become a better blogger and reach an even bigger audience.

Or you could become a family blogger, which opens up other avenues, like trying out new family-friendly restaurants or vacation spots. (I do some travel blogging for my state’s office of tourism, so I get to take some trips around Indiana once in a while, but my stories always have a family angle.)

Upside: Free stuff!

Downside: No money. You do this to earn perks and benefits that you might not otherwise get, which can stretch your family’s budget, but this is a tough way to earn a living. On the upside, it could lead to other opportunities later on. I know someone who started writing a travel blog, and is now a professional travel writer who gets flown to far-off locales and gets paid to describe his experience. You also have to disclose any kinds of financial gifts or payments you received, according to the FTC’s blogging rules.

4) Become a freelancer.

Professional Blog Service is a corporate blogging services company. We write regular blog posts for corporate clients who want to have a corporate web presence. We’re ghost writers, basically. And even though our company is an agency, I know several freelancers who are ghost bloggers on their own, without being an “official” agency. We’ve even (gladly, willingly) helped a couple of our freelancers get started and become our competition.

Good writers can earn anywhere from $500 – $1,000 per month for a single client. Get 4 – 5 clients, and you’re earning a decent salary. You can work from anywhere, work your own hours, and get to hone your writing skills constantly.

Upside: This is going to be the best, most consistent way you’re going to make money as a blogger. You’re not building readership and are not in reader generation mode. You just write. However, it’s a real job with real responsibilities and work hours. You don’t get to take a “I don’t feel like doing anything today” day.

Downside:It’s hard work. It’s also not on your own blog. No one will ever know what you’re doing, because you’re a ghost, and you’re supposed to keep your involvement quiet. You will also do a lot of writing, which can cause burnout. There are days I’m so tired of writing that I slam my laptop lid down a little harder than necessary and just sit in front of the TV. And if you love writing, you may start to not love it if you’re not careful.

Bloggers, how do you make money doing what you do? Are you a full-time blogger? Or are you just earning a little extra cash on the side? Any methods or ideas you’d be willing to share? And newbie bloggers, are there any questions you have?

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds (Flickr)