It’s Like Christmas in September: Building Trust Through Blogging

It’s like Christmas morning here today – except it’s the kind of Christmas morning where all your presents are from sadistic narcissists.  When spending the holidays with sadistic narcissistic relatives, you don’t make any sudden moves, you make sure not to take your eyes off of your valuables (or relatives) and most importantly, you don’t have high expectations of what is contained within the packages addressed to you.

My first “present” to arrive today was an actual old fashioned CHAIN LETTER via snail mail! A real live CHAIN LETTER! I mean, I’d heard about chain letters when I was a kid but to actually receive one in my mail box at the end of my driveway – well I just never imagined it would happen to me!

I knew there was something fishy about the letter. It was addressed to my husband, but the return address was of someone I don’t know. Could it be that my husband has another family in Kansas? Perhaps he has a secret identity? As I began to open the mystery letter, a thought flashed through my mind- “Nobody sends anthrax through the mail anymore, do they?” I held my breath as I carefully opened the letter.

Turns out my husband isn’t a spy nor is he leading a double life.  So much for my drama fix for the day.  The envelope contained 4 pages sloppily stapled together.  It lead with, “I’m a retired attorney, so you can trust me.”

I haven’t laughed that hard in YEARS!

When I was able to stand upright again – I wiped the tears from my eyes and kept reading.  The gist of the letter is that you send $1 to each of the 6 names on the list with the request to “ADD ME TO YOUR LIST”.  By paying $1 to add your name to the list, it’s not illegal – according to the letter.  Why would he lie?  After all, he’s a trusted retired attorney!

They say laughter is the best medicine and I’m about to overdose!

It’s official.  The scammers are leaving the internet and going back to snail mail.  WHEW!  I knew if we all kept ignoring those spam emails that eventually they’d leave.  (By the way, the 30% of you who CLICK are encouraging them to stay!!!)

It wouldn’t be Christmas with just one present, so I then went to my email and got a message from a client.

“Is this legitimate and/or do you know anything about this?”

The attached email is typical.

Would you like to earn auto-pilot commissions every time you post to your blog? And at the same time use the Power of Twitter to drive massive amounts of traffic to your blog.

Notice the key elements in this pitch:

  • auto-pilot – aka get something for nothing
  • the power of Twitter – a “magic” program you’ve heard lots about but probably aren’t using
  • massive amounts of traffic- because all you need for your blog to succeed is massive traffic.

Why is it that every one of these programs begins with

“Here’s a no fail, no learning required, minimal time and effort on your part way to achieve massive traffic to your blog!”

Unfortunately, it’s human nature.

I told my client I’d check it out for her and I learned a lot.

First, I didn’t know that the Butterfly Marketing stuff was still being used.  The whole “OTO” thing is a thing of beauty.   It’s a great way to automate the “impending doom” close on the web.   However, when you’ve been burned before, you usually aren’t anxious to put your hand on the stove again.

Here’s the deal for those of you who don’t know the “system” behind Butterfly Marketing.

Offer an attractive free resource via a squeeze page.  (Squeeze page:  where there are only two options – sign up or leave.  You don’t let them “learn more” by surfing the site – they either want the freebie or they don’t.)

Then, when visitors sign up to receive the free resource, they are taken to a page that offers you a ONE TIME OFFER (OTO).  The page is programmed to display only once, so if they click away, they are “robbed” of the opportunity to purchase this amazing product/service.

In this case, they’re selling you a program to create WordPress plug ins even if you know nothing about coding.  You may not know PHP from CSS, but with this system you can create your own WordPress plug in.

Once the sucker – ahem, buyer has clicked away from that appealing offer, you offer another resource – again letting them know that this offer will go away just like the last one did.

“Aren’t you sorry you let the last one go?  If you’re smart, you’ll jump on this chance.”

They’re serious.  They want your money.  Buy something NOW!

If you’re a total tightwad, you’ll say no again because by now all you want is to get to the free resource you were promised.

VIOLA!  You arrive.  It’s a pretty stark page though.  The most prominent feature of the page is that you are offered an opportunity to earn AFFILIATE COMMISSIONS if you’ll promote this program to your friends, family and website visitors. Just because you were too smart to buy doesn’t mean your chump friends and family won’t.

Oh, and there’s your promised freebie – a WordPress plug in that will automatically “tweet” your Twitter account.  I’ve got to confess, at this point, I’m worried about installing this on a blog I care about.  These people haven’t done ANYTHING to gain my trust.  Am I jeapordizing my blog AND my twitter account by using this?

We live in a world where it’s hard to TRUST anyone these days.  The other morning, I was listening to a local radio show where they were talking about a video they saw on YouTube.  The topic of discussion – was the video “real”.  Despite video evidence, they were still unsure whether or not this phenomemnon was true.

We live in a world where you can’t believe your eyes or your ears.  The Bejing Olympics was full of fakes – from fireworks to birth certificates.  If you live in the US, you’re being bombarded by political propaganda disguised as “news”.  What’s real?  What’s fake?  What can you trust?

One of the drums I pound frequently here is that your blog is a GREAT way to build trust with potential clients and customers.  It’s hard to “fake” your expertise over the course of a few hundred blog posts.

How do you use your blog to create trust with your readers?

Guest Post Guide

Because this blog is written for my clients, I’m going to start at the beginning.

What is a Guest Post?

gues post opportunityA guest post is simply a blog post written by someone who is NOT a regular contributor to a blog. The person writing the guest post doesn’t even have to have his or her own blog to write a guest post.

Usually, guest posts are written by people who want to introduce themselves to another blog’s audience. These guest posts are done with the hope of attracting new readers to the guest post author’s blog or website.

The blog that features the guest post also hopes to benefit as well. Usually, when a blogger lands a guest posting gig, they promote it on their own blog, including a link to the guest post. The guest post blog’s readers are then introduced to the blog where the guest post is published.

This is known as a win/win situation. Both blogs are introduced to new audiences and as a result, both win.

The blog featuring the guest post wins in another way. The blog which features the guest post also gains some valuable content which is the currency in which blogs trade.

Oh, and yet another “win” for the blog owner is a sweet, brief respite from posting duties on the blog.

Men with Pens has a GREAT informative series on Guest Posting. James openly shares that guest posting is one of the keys to the success of the Men with Pens blog. In Guest Posting: Finding the Motivation to Write, James Chartrand shares how the guest posts that you write should be the absolute BEST posts you can write. Instead of posting these “gems” on your blog, you post them on someone else’s blog. By posting these gems on someone else’s blog is how you build an audience.

In Dispelling the Myth that Guest Blogging HAS to Be Time-Consuming Charles writes:

Sure, there are other downsides of guest blogging. There are risks associated with it if you don’t fully understand your audience (although some would argue that controversy is far from a bad thing), but the benefits – visibility, enhanced reputation, high quality links, relationships – far outweigh the disadvantages.

In Landing a Guest Post Isn’t That Hard, James outlines the pros and the cons of guest posting. If you’re interested in guest posting – either for your blog or being a guest post contributor, read every installment of the Guest Posting Series.

Guest Post Case Study

James Duthie from Online Marketing Banter wrote two guest posts for the Tad’s SEO 2.0 blog. It’s a follow up to a naughtier previous guest post which I won’t name here because I just wrote a post “Sex Sells- but you already knew that” and I don’t want to even try to compete with Naomi over at Itty Biz for the title of sex marketing queen. (She has the title wrapped up and I hear she’s wearing the accompanying glittering crown and sash to all her public appearances.)

Anyhow, James promoted both of the guest posts on his own blog. The first guest post written by James resulted in Tad’s blog gaining over 100 subscribers overnight! (James also confesses that he saw a much smaller increase in his subscriber base.) The second guest post, The 7 ingredients of a wildly successful blog post, dissects the reasons why James thinks the first guest post was so successful.

Barriers to Guest Posting

Despite success stories like the one above, bloggers don’t seem to be hungry for guest posting opportunities. I think fear has a lot to do with that.

Monika Mundell put out a call for people to guest post on her blog The Writers Manifesto a while back and only got a few responses. I suspect the reason is that many of her readers are afraid their content can’t stand toe to toe with Monika’s incredible content. Fear of rejection is a powerful inhibitor on both sides of the equation.

One the blog owner’s side, there is the fear of how the content will “fit” into the blog’s overall content. When you get contacted by someone who wants to do a guest post, some fears that come to mind are:

  • Will this content fit into my blog?
  • Will this content cause me to lose readers for my blog?
  • What if this content offends my blog readers?

Of course, fear of rejection on the side of the potential guest post writer is also high, and the fears above are echoed on the potential guest writer’s side as well.

Strategies for Guest Posting Success

Guest posting is a form of marketing your blog. You should view guest posts in the same manner as you would submitting an article for publication in a magazine.

First, be sure your blog and the blog for which you’d like to guest post are a good “fit”. For example, if yours is a blog on diet and exercise, then a guest post from an RD or an MD would be a good fit. A guest post from a marketing expert on a diet and exercise blog would not be a good fit.

Next, subscribe to the blog’s feed and watch the posts. For example, this would be an exceptionally bad time to contact the Men with Pens blog with your guest post on guest posting because that series is wrapping up over there.

If you have an idea for your own series, pitch it to the blog’s owner. That’s what Joshua Clanton did over at Daily Blog Tips. His series of Star Trek Blogging concluded with Star Trek Blogging: The Borg Way

and landed
As a blog owner, here’s what I’d like to see from prospective guest bloggers.

  • A synopsis of who your current blog readers are.
  • An idea of what this blog post could offer my readers.
  • The actual blog post you’d like to feature on my site.

If you’re looking to test the waters of guest posting, check out Blogging Web 2.0 where you can get your feet wet in the guest posting waters under the watchful eye of Monika Mundell and Terry Didcott.

What is Alexa? It’s a Website Traffic Spy Tool

One of the GREAT things about being involved in a “social networking site” such as Biznik is that people can communicate PRIVATELY with you.

I recently got a question privately there from someone who visited my blog and read my post Business Success Isn’t Determined by Your Alexa Rank. A well respected marketing expert, he wasn’t familiar with the Alexa tool and asked me to blog about it. Since I’m all about educating my clients and other readers, here we go.

What is Alexa?

Alexa is a product developed by Amazon (yes, the internet book selling giant and internet retailing pioneer). It’s a way to “spy” on the traffic of other competing websites.

increasing site trafficAlexa “ranks” websites in order based upon traffic from 1 to 24+Million. (I’ve seen TWO sites in the past 2 weeks that were in the 24 Million range.)

The last time I looked, Yahoo was #1, Google was #2 and YouTube was #4 according to Alexa.

If your Alexa ranking is above 1Million, you can congratulate yourself. You’re in the top 5% when it comes to rating traffic of the 24+ Million sites indexed by Alexa.

With that said, Alexa doesn’t get real interested in your website until your site breaks into the top 100,000. Once you break into the top 100,000, you can see your daily reach, rank and page views.

A Brief History on Alexa

The way Alexa used to collect the information it needed was via a plug in for MSIE (Microsoft Internet Explorer), Window’s internet browsing software. The plug in installed a toolbar in the user’s browser. While it offered a way for users to “spy” on the traffic of other websites, it also provided a way for Alexa to TRACK toolbar users movements on the web.

If you think about it, it makes sense that the only people who really CARE about what kind of traffic other websites are getting tend to be part of the techno-geek crowd. Very few sales training professionals CARE about the web traffic of any particular website. On the other hand, people who create websites are PASSIONATELY interested in the traffic ranking for a site. As a natural progression of events, in the early days the Alexa tool bar was used almost exclusively by web professionals or devoted web amateurs.

increasing site trafficAs the web has grown, so have the number of “non-tech” users. Many of these “non-tech” users didn’t have the Alexa toolbar installed in either MSIE or any other browser. As a result, the results of Alexa’s ranking became rather “skewed” statistically. Sites targeted towards technical users tended to do much better than websites that dealt with non-techy matters such as organic foods.

Meanwhile, new Web 2.0 businesses are popping up left and right. With the explosive growth of blogs has come advertising management services which will allow you to sign up and place ads on your blog via their network. Since ads are sold based on the number of impressions, many of these networks rely heavily upon the Alexa ranking of a website to determine traffic. (Log files can be altered, but Alexa is an unbiased third party.) Also, bloggers are popping up who aren’t blogging about the latest Tech Toy who are developing quite a following. These popular “non-tech” blogs were crying “foul” when it came to Alexa’s method of collecting data.

Recent Changes in Alexa

Back in April, Alexa responded, either to these cries or to the increased competition they were facing. (Compete.com comes quickly to mind.) Alexa changed the way it gathers data for its rankings to try to reflect what was happening in Web 2.0, where it’s not only geeks who roam the web for hours on end. ( Read more here Alexa’s New Ranking System Hurts Some and Helps Some.)

If you go to Alexa, you too can install this tool bar in your web browser. When you do, you’ll be contributing to Alexa’s data collection efforts. In other words, you can spy but you’ll also be spied upon.

blogs as money making marketing toolsThere’s actually a plugin for WordPress which will display your current Alexa ranking in your blog if you want the world to see. (Personally, I’m waiting to break into the top 100,000 to activate that one.)

If you don’t want to install the toolbar, you can always go to the Alexa.com site and type in the URL you want to check.

The most important thing to remember with Alexa is:

a) It’s an estimated traffic count

b) It’s a NUMBER and nothing more.

There are people whose blogs were ranked in the Alexa top 100K who have shut down their blogs and gone on to get real jobs because they weren’t making money from the traffic they had. On the other hand, I recently wrote about a business who is RAKING in the dough whose website is ranked in the 24 Million range.

For me, checking Alexa rankings could be called an addiction. I have a similar addiction to Diet Coke and coffee. (Caffeine FREE Diet Coke… I’m trying to be in “balance” because I drink a pot or two of coffee every morning. Screw moderation, I’m seeking “balance”.)

It’s only recently that I’ve come to recognize NEITHER my drinking habits or my Alexa checking behavior is productive. So before you install the Alexa tool bar in your browser, proceed with caution!

The Real Cost of Free and Low-Cost Services

Surely Joe Hage had his tongue firmly in cheek when he wrote the title for his blog post of OMG! It was so easy to set up a blog site!

Joe starts with

I started this article as I was learning how to set up a blog, to share it with you here. It seemed like an intimidating effort but it was SO EASY BECAUSE a GoDaddy.com representative stayed on the phone with me for 63 minutes and took me step-by-step through it.

Joe spent over an HOUR on the PHONE to set up a Godaddy blog site for his kids. I’m stunned!!!

I’ve followed Joe on the social networking site Biznik and I’d have to put Joe’s hourly rate in the $225 an hour plus club.  He’s a Wharton MBA whose list of clients is impressive.  His skill at quickly seeing how to make a marketing positioning statement which is tightly targeted AND easily understood literally blows me away.  (A skill he demonstrates on Biznik with surprising regularity.  The man obviously never sleeps!)

I guess what I’m getting at is that Joe’s time is extremely valuable which means that was one very expensive  and extensive blog set up session.

I will confess here that I have absolutely NO experience with Godaddy blog hosting services. My experience with Godaddy HOSTING services on behalf of website clients has not made me willing to brace for the challenge of trying to tame their blog option. Joe’s post only clarified that for me.

In contrast, I set up a blog for my son last night. He’s wanting to earn some income and his passion is video games. So I picked up the domain name Best Video Game Cheats and in the course of an hour, I was able to

  • research effective keywords for a domain name with Wordze.
    (I hesitate to share this resource because it’s just so good and I’m afraid that if everyone starts using it that it won’t be as good. That’s what seemed to happen to WordTracker, a former favorite keyword research tool of mine.)
  • register a domain name (NOT with Godaddy… though I do have names hosted there that are awaiting development)
  • customize the Revolution Theme by Brian Gardner including choosing a cover image using Istockphoto
  • Add adsense code to the themes so my 18 year old high school senior can earn gas money while doing all it takes to be one of the 13  2009 POTENTIAL TOP TREASURE COAST RECRUITS.

Admittedly, I’ve got everything set up to plug and play when it comes to setting up WordPress blogs but it certainly wasn’t “easy” the first few times I did it.  (There’s more to a WordPress blog installation than simply clicking “install” in Fantastico.  Plug ins, which are what make WordPress ROCK, vary in their ease of use, effectiveness and compatibility with other plug-ins.)

Now, admittedly, you will have an outlay of cash to have me set up your WordPress self hosted blog.  In Joe’s case, this was a blog he was setting up for his children, so I can see not wanting to launch a super charged self hosted WordPress blog with all the bells and whistles which will make it a contender for top rankings in the search engines.

However, I learned a valuable lesson via a posting in a forum long ago (the source and link are long forgotten but the message remains) which stated,

“You can always earn more money- you can never earn more time.  Money is easily replaced.  Time isn’t.”

That has caused me to click the “buy” button more than once over the past few years.  Can it save me time?  Then it’s probably worth my money.

Lots of people waste valuable time and energy trying to figure out how to get something for nothing. There are tons of free and low cost website development tools  which feature complicated and non-intuitive navigation through a labyrinth like maze that consume hours if not days of valuable time.  That valuable time was invested on behalf of a less than stellar end product.  I’ve not only gone down that trail personally, I’ve also worked with more than a few clients who later said, “Wow!  I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time getting to you.”

I get the need to bootstrap.  I get the need to conserve cash.  But sometimes, you’ve got to spend money so you can make money.

I applaud Joe.  I never would have called and hung in for over an hour trying to set up a blog on Godaddy.  I’d have gone to WordPress.com and set one up in like 5 minutes and then used URL forwarding for the domain name.  Not the most SEO method, but then again… if that was my goal, I would NEVER use a Godaddy blog in the first place.

Am I missing something?  Are Godaddy blogs the next big thing is search engine friendliness and ease of use?  Or are they just cheap and readily available?

The Power of the Blog

I love blogs… WordPress self hosted blogs in particular. Like any great love affair, there are ups and downs.

The down side…Wordpress has announced version 2.6 is released today. UGH! I’m currently installing 2.6 on my “test” blog EZ Marketing Tool. I’ll soon know what works and what doesn’t in WordPress 2.6. The frequent updates are a downer for me because I not only have to bring my blogs up to speed but also roughly 100 other blogs as well.

On the up side though, there are several blogging stories out there to make the minor inconvenience of frequent updates seem minor in comparison.

Isn’t that the way a great love affair works? Sure there’s a pinch of G&A (grief and aggravation), but that pinch of G&A just adds a level of texture and flavor to the 101 things that are great about the relationship. (I’ll have been been married for 24 years this December 1, so my G&A thresh hold is obviously very, very high!)

Micheal Martine begins the singing the praises of blogging hit parade with his post How I Brought My Business Back from the Dead with Blogging.

I’m quote Ben Yoskotiz so often, I don’t have to check on how to spell his name lately (grin). Yet, here he is again with his story of how he was Quoted in The New York Times – The Power of Blogging.

To that I’ll add the story of my own client.  Janet Simpson is an AMAZING woman who has truly “been there, done that.”   She’s a lifestyle coach who survived a car crash against the odds.  Her tale of survival is documented in Junkyard Janet.  About six months ago, Janet decided to convert her static website Nourish Your Life to a self hosted WordPress blog. This week, film crews are visiting Janet at her home to document her tale of survival against the odds.

One of the things that fuels my love affair with blogs is how search engine friendly they can be.  Ben found that an article he posted over a year ago was the source of his claim to fame in the NY Times article.  The title of the post probably matched the exact search terms the NY Times reporter was using to find information.

Janet’s blog includes this line on her about pager which probably included the keywords A&E researchers were using to find stories for their series:

Life took an unexpected turn when a car accident/miracle changed everything.

What story do you have to share?   Share your story here.