Companies need to blog more than ever before

Blogging is increasingly being used by businesses who feel restricted by other social media platforms. Even so, most businesses still do not blog.

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Blogging has been with us for 18 years. Even so, the vast majority of businesses do not blog. A recent study of the Fortune 500, for instance, showed that only 42% of these significant companies had a blog. Mostly, they are high-tech firms producing blogs. Traditional sectors don’t appear to have taken up blogging, in spite of its long-term existence online.

Meanwhile, almost every company is using LinkedIn – 98% according to the Fortune study. The vast majority of companies also have Facebook pages, Tweet regularly and upload videos to YouTube.

But you have to ask, why?

Consider a Facebook page. No matter what you do with it, it still looks like a Facebook page. Apart from an image at the top, every Facebook page looks like every other Facebook page. The branding is Facebook’s.

The same is true for YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other social network you consider. When you upload any item to social media, you accept that the presentation and the brand image conveyed will be that of the owner of the network – not you.

It would seem, therefore, that even significant businesses on the Fortune 500 have collectively said, “It’s OK for our brand to be diminished, for our web presence to use your fonts and colours, not ours, and for people to think about your brand, rather than ours when they visit our content on your network.”

Businesses have given up control of their brands and put the control of their image in the hands of people they do not even know.

Meanwhile, blogging allows a firm complete and total control. As the owner of a blog you can decide how it looks and ensure it follows brand guidelines. You can decide what to include and how to promote it and what order in which it will be presented. Unlike social networks, bloggers get to decide exactly how the world perceives them.

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None of this is news, of course. Back in 2005, Business Week magazine said that “blogging was no longer an elective, but a pre-requisite”. In other words, if you didn’t blog your company would face an uncertain future. Equally, for a decade now, the inbound marketing company, HubSpot, has been producing data which demonstrates that blogging is the “number one” element in generating leads and online sales. Without blogging, companies appear to be making life much tougher for themselves on the Internet.

However, in spite of all the evidence that demonstrates the clear benefits of blogging for business, the majority of companies still don’t do it. And even those who do blog, most of them are only occasional users.

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[et_pb_counter _builder_version=”3.0.89″ percent=”21″ use_background_color_gradient=”off” background_color_gradient_start=”#2b87da” background_color_gradient_end=”#29c4a9″ background_color_gradient_type=”linear” background_color_gradient_direction=”180deg” background_color_gradient_direction_radial=”center” background_color_gradient_start_position=”0%” background_color_gradient_end_position=”100%” background_color_gradient_overlays_image=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”on” background_size=”cover” background_position=”center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_blend=”normal” allow_player_pause=”off”] Companies that blogged in 2015 [/et_pb_counter][et_pb_counter _builder_version=”3.0.89″ percent=”42″ use_background_color_gradient=”off” background_color_gradient_start=”#2b87da” background_color_gradient_end=”#29c4a9″ background_color_gradient_type=”linear” background_color_gradient_direction=”180deg” background_color_gradient_direction_radial=”center” background_color_gradient_start_position=”0%” background_color_gradient_end_position=”100%” background_color_gradient_overlays_image=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”on” background_size=”cover” background_position=”center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_blend=”normal” allow_player_pause=”off”] Companies that blog in 2017 [/et_pb_counter][et_pb_counter _builder_version=”3.0.89″ percent=”100″ use_background_color_gradient=”off” background_color_gradient_start=”#2b87da” background_color_gradient_end=”#29c4a9″ background_color_gradient_type=”linear” background_color_gradient_direction=”180deg” background_color_gradient_direction_radial=”center” background_color_gradient_start_position=”0%” background_color_gradient_end_position=”100%” background_color_gradient_overlays_image=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”on” background_size=”cover” background_position=”center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_blend=”normal” allow_player_pause=”off”] Companies that should blog in 2018 [/et_pb_counter]

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In fact, until recently blogging went into decline for companies. The proportion of companies with blogs fell to just 21% in 2015, but now that has doubled to 42%. In the space of two years, business blogging has doubled.

Why?

Well, gradually firms are realising that social media presents them with no control. Apart from lacking any real branding, the delivery of social media messages is at the behest of the algorithms of the networks. Companies don’t like that, for good reason.

Furthermore, it would seem that more companies are realising that social media messages are meaningless without something substantial behind them. One of the founders of Twitter, Biz Stone, said in an interview in 2013 that “without longer-form, deeper-dive, more relevant conversation, I don’t think social media would have anything to be social or media about.” In other words, if your Tweets, your Facebook posts and your Pinterest pins don’t lead back to longer articles and blog posts, you may as well have not bothered.

What the recent research on the Fortune 500 reveals is that social media is treated experimentally by companies, often without any real evidence to support the notion of starting using them. There appears to be a vague notion that if you are on Snapchat, for instance, you’ll be able to reach the younger generations. That forgets they don’t want to hear from you as a business.

As businesses try and fail at one social network after another social network they appear to come back to blogging. It’s safe. It’s in your control. It works.

If you want more business, all the evidence points to blogging as a key. Equally, if you want more social media traction, blogging is what you need to promote. Furthermore, given that business blogging has doubled in the past two years, if you don’t blog now, your business will disappear behind the noise created by your competitors who do write blogs.

Blogging is more important than ever before.

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Why you need to be more accurate on your website

You need to be more accurate on your website, rather than emphasise expertise. Only people with low knowledge value expertise more than accuracy.

Be more accurate on your website - make time for factsAlmost everywhere you look for business advice these days you will find people telling you that you need to demonstrate you are an expert. However, new research suggests that it is better to focus on being more accurate on your website, with expertise being much less important to credibility.

The study looked at diet websites. It found that only people with a little amount of knowledge on a diet topic valued apparent expertise over the accuracy of information. The researchers found that regarding website credibility, it was the accuracy of information that was more important than obvious expertise. Also, when people knew even a little about the topic, it was this that determined whether the site was deemed expert.

What this study implies is that whatever we publish on the Internet, our readers and viewers are subconsciously testing us. If the information we provide is correct and accurate, then regardless of our expertise our website gains more credibility. However, if we focus on promoting ourselves as experts, at the expense of always being accurate, our website credibility can go down. The only people who will not be affected by the lack of accuracy are those who know nothing about the topic of your website. And unless you are aiming at complete novices in your field, then this is an issue.

How to be more accurate on your website

To focus on being more accurate on your website, you need to prioritise accuracy over demonstrating expertise. People will believe you more if you are accurate.

So, here are steps to take to ensure that your website is accurate.

Read information carefully. Avoid skim reading. Instead, make sure you read the source information thoroughly, making notes if necessary. Do not just quickly look at something else online and think “that will be good to use”.

Check the information source. What is the credibility and trustworthiness of the source itself? If it is from a refereed journal, the reliability of the information is likely to be high. Similarly, if it is from a professional media organisation, it will have already been “fact checked” before publication. But if your source of material is from an unknown blogger, perhaps you need to think more carefully and investigate further.

Triangulate your information. If one person says something, it might or might not be true. However, if several different sources are saying the same thing, then the information is likely to be more reliable. If you have a “lead” for something to write about on your website, check to see if other people are saying the same things.

Review what you have written. Once you have written your material check things within it. Make sure any facts mentioned are accurate, checking with reliable sources. Make sure that all links work too. Don’t just write something, spell check it and then assume it is all OK. If possible, get someone else to check your content before it is published.

Making sure what you have written is accurate sounds obvious to do. However, many websites appear to focus on showing they are experts in their field and in doing so can neglect accuracy. You will be trusted as an expert more if you focus less on that and more on the accuracy of your content.

When is the best time of day to write a blog?

Writing blog posts is an essential component of online marketing. But what is the best time of day to write a post?

Blogging has to be fitted in within your daily schedule. You can use excellent tools such as CoSchedule to organise your blogging activity, but that still leaves you with the decision as to when to blog. Should you write a blog post first thing in the morning, at lunchtime or even, perhaps, late at night?

Time for content

Some people advocate writing your blog posts first thing in the morning. The idea is that you get the job done, and it is out of the way before you get on with “real business”.

Others argue that the best time of day is at lunchtime – providing you with something different and potentially more interesting to do between all the routine work stuff; a kind of break.

Then there are other people who say you should blog at the end of the working day so that you get all of your work done before doing something that is perceived as a lower priority.

Now, though, new research suggests a different option. The study from research conducted across the UK, Germany and Hungary implies that the best time to blog is late at night.

This study was looking at something known as “autobiographical memory” – how we remember our own lives. The researchers wanted to know how much would people recall from recording a daily diary depending upon the time of day they wrote their journal.

People who completed their diary entry last thing at night before going to bed were the ones who remembered the most details 30 days later. The researchers believed that this was because of the impact of memory formation during sleep. It is already known that one of the functions of sleep is to help preserve memories. However, if something happens early in the day, there is a greater chance of “interference” with that memory before it gets organised during sleep.

For bloggers, recalling what you have previously written about is a good part of doing the work well. Otherwise, there is the chance you will repeat earlier blog posts or too frequently write about the same thing. Writing your blogs late at night could help ensure you keep closer tabs on your writing, helping to ensure that you remember your previous blog posts more easily. That, in turn, will help you to introduce more variety into your blogging by reducing repetition.

Blogging late at night could, therefore, improve your blog.

The Daily Mail can actually make you a better blogger

The success of the Daily Mail website provides some lessons for bloggers.

Four tips for bloggers taken from analysing what the Daily Mail does to achieve its huge online success and what a former employee told a search marketing conference in London

The Daily Mail is an online success story. Whatever you think about the publication or its views, you cannot deny it has achieved a great deal online. Every minute of the day there are 19,444 articles being read on the Daily Mail website. Each hour there are almost 5,000 comments being made by readers. Each month the website receives 190m unique visitors. It must be doing something right.

Front page of the Daily Mail

So what does the Daily Mail do that we can all learn from?

One of the key things to notice about the Daily Mail is the huge number of pictures on the front page. It is visually crammed. Today’s home page, for instance, had 492 pictures (yes I counted them all) making the home page massive in terms of the amount of data it is sending. Yet, what we hear from all the “experts” is to keep your home page small, so that it can be downloaded quickly. True, the Daily Mail uses coding techniques that keep its page as small as possible, but even without the pictures it is 723Kb. Clearly, being big is not an issue for its readers. What seems to matter is that it is full of pictures.

Images exploding from computer screen

The impact of the vast number of images was made clear in the recent Search Bootcamp by former Daily Mail web employee, Jackson Rawlings. He said: “Some Mail stories are 90 per cent images. That allows quick browsing over lunch, for instance.”

If you check out the lead story on the Daily Mail, you will find the story is told in pictures. There is a short amount of text, but there are 17 pictures with captions. You can get the whole story if you just scan those pictures and read the few words below them.

As Jackson Rawlings told the audience at Search Bootcamp, “The reason that so many people keep coming back to the Mail is because it is so easy to view and use. If you are using images already, then use more images. People don’t use enough multimedia.”

So, Tip Number One for bloggers – increase the number of images you use.

Back at the Search Bootcamp, Jackson Rawlings made another really important point. He said that the Daily Mail did not wait until a story was complete before publishing it online. The editorial policy is to get something up on the web as soon as possible and then add to the story as it grows and as new information and images come in to the newsroom. As a result, the story evolves online.

Bloggers often wait to publish until everything is complete or finished. Rarely do bloggers go back to old posts, change them and adapt them as new information comes in. Yet, the highly successful Daily Mail, treats its content as something that is always ready to be changed.

Tip Number Two for bloggers – your blog posts are never finished.

Another feature of the Daily Mail that is noticeable is that the headlines are very long.

Daily Mail Headline

Look at that headline…! It is 32 words long. All the advice on headline writing on the web is that it should be short and snappy. The most successful British newspaper online does the complete reverse of that advice. There is a lesson in that.

Tip Number Three for bloggers – tell the entire story in the headline.

Finally, there is something else the Daily Mail does. According to Jackson Rawlings the Mail constantly researches what the visitors are interested in. The editorial policy is centred around what people want. How much of your website or blog is based on assumption and how much is based on reader research?

Tip Number Four for bloggers – research your audience in-depth.

So, there you have it. Four tips to help your blog as a result of looking at the Daily Mail. Use more pictures,  write longer headings, research your audience and never assumed a post is finished.

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Very tight deadlines will improve content marketing

Working to tight deadlines will improve your website content marketing thanks to two different psychological factors – naturalistic decision making and anticipated regret

Diary with deadline markedThe vast majority of websites in the world never get updated. A tiny proportion get new material every now and then, a really tiny proportion get extra content each week. An even tinier proportion of websites get daily updates. Where is your website on this spectrum?

The chances are your website is “average” in terms of its updating – which currently hovers around the once every ten days mark for a typical business website.

Website owners complain it is lack of time that is the real issue. “How can we update our website when we have all this work to do?” they ask.

Frankly, though, if they wanted to, they could find both the time and the money to update their websites more frequently.

It’s not a work issue, it is psychological

The real issue is a psychological phenomenon of “anticipated regret”. This is an almost instinctive part of our behaviour that prevents us from doing lots of things. We remain with the status quo because if we take some action we believe there might be a problem or difficulty that arises from that action. So we don’t do it. Much potential content is denied from the web because website owners subconsciously perceive some kind of potential problem if they were to add a blog post. They are unconsciously worried that they will regret adding the content, perhaps due to negative comments, or even no comments. Businesses appear to have collected “anticipated regret”, with everyone subconsciously aware of the potential difficulties that regular blogging might cause. So, guess what, it doesn’t happen. We often do not act because we subconsciously fear at some stage in the future we will regret taking that action. It is all part of our in-built survival instincts.

Anticipated regret appears to have a greater impact when we have longer to ruminate on things. If we have time to ponder on our actions, we can find all sorts of consciously thought-out reasons not to act. “I can’t blog today because I have to prepare for an important meeting this afternoon. ” Or “We can’t possibly blog every week because we mustn’t put our staff under such pressure, it would be unfair on them and become a health issue due to stress.” You get the picture. It is all about putting things off because we might actually in the future regret doing them now.

Quick decisions are good decisions

New research, however, points to another psychological factor which could be used to counteract anticipated regret. In a study of a simulated air crash, researchers investigated the decision-making taken by emergency services. There were 194 people involved in the pretend incident and they worked under the same intense time-pressure which would occur in a real incident. Such training practices take place regularly, of course.

One of the issues in such situations is that the decisions taken by emergency services personnel are literally life and death. You would think that under the pressure of time, their decision making could be impaired and that mistakes could happen. However, what the research found was that when under extreme time pressure our decision-making improves. We get better at making decisions when we have a really tight deadline, it seems.

This is partly because we start to rely on intuition – essentially we hand over decision-making to our subconscious brain. When we have the time to make decisions consciously we tend not to be so good at it.

Talk to journalists and many of them will tell you that their best stories are usually those which are under pressure, battling away against a seemingly impossible deadline to get something onto the front page or into a specific broadcast bulletin.

Sure, journalists are unlikely to have to make life or death decisions like the emergency services, but the principle is the same. The deadline enables their brain to work better. Of course if you say deadlines do not work for you, that you don’t respond well to them, all that is really happening is that you are consciously adding to “anticipated regret”. Research shows deadlines do help.

So, how can you use these two competing psychological factors in your business? The answer is to impose deadlines for content production. No more “can you produce a blog post sometime this week”, but instead, “I need your blog post by 2.35pm today”.  Deadlines work – even artificial ones, even ones you set for yourself. They make people think more clearly and they help reduce anticipated regret. The result is you will get more content on your website – precisely what you need.

If you want to be sure your website is regularly updated with content, start setting deadlines. And if you want to make sure you do set deadlines – do it now. Hey, I give you exactly 14 minutes from NOW to set your deadlines for the month ahead. That’s it, you have a 14 minute deadline to meet. Get on with it! If you meet that deadline, you’ll have set your blogging deadlines for the next four weeks. Of course, if you allow the anticipated regret of starting work now to take over, you won’t set any deadlines. So, get on with it, you only have 13 minutes now….!

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How to produce 486 blog ideas in 15 minutes

To produce content ideas you need to use a system. The Search Bootcamp in London showed how.

One of the biggest problems that anyone producing content has is coming up with ideas as to what to write about. However, it is much easier to produce ideas than you might think.

image

At the Search Bootcamp being held in London today, Pete Campbell from Kaizen showed exactly how you can produce a vast list of ideas very quickly. He asked the 54 people in the room to write down three ideas for a “boring” business – a sign manufacturer. Having written three ideas down,  the people then passed on their ideas to someone else who either built on those ideas, or used them to trigger other thoughts. A few minutes later, the growing list was shared again and each individual wrote down another three ideas.

As a result, each person had written down nine ideas in 15 minutes; with 54 people in the room that is 486 ideas.

Forget brainstorming
This was a graphic demonstration of the uselessness of brainstorming. Several psychological studies in the past have shown that brainstorming produces fewer ideas than thinking about things on your own. Businesses and content planners frequently fail to produce enough ideas because they rely on brainstorming sessions. These end up focusing on a small selection of ideas produced by a dominant personality in the room. Also, in brainstorming sessions, people tend to try to produce ideas that they think other people will like, or ideas that will please the “leader” in the room.

Producing ideas on your own is better – but you cannot produce many. If you were asked to come up with nine ideas for content for a boring client on your own you would be hard pressed to produce enough. Often in tests of doing such things, people produce a few ideas and then simply repeat earlier ideas with a different set of words.

With the technique shown by Pete Campbell today, delegates were shown how to produce several individual ideas. The passing around of ideas written down provides psychological triggers for individuals to generate new ideas.

How to generate content ideas
To generate ideas in your business you can use this technique. Get your staff together in a room and give them a sheet of paper each. Establish the topic you want ideas on and then ask each person, silently, to write down three ideas. Then they pass their paper to another person who has five minutes to write down three more ideas. You keep doing this until the sheets of paper have gone round the room.

If you only have five people in your team you will have produced 75 new ideas in 25 minutes.

So, don’t go telling me that you are short of content ideas..!

Is the media being strangled by content?

The more content that is produced by companies the less they will want to engage with traditional media.

Businesses are getting conflicting advice about online marketing. Soon that advice is going to collide and there is going to be one massive fall out.

Take a look at the latest data about the influence of “YouTube Stars“. It turns out that people aged under 24 are heavily influenced by them – more than by TV or film personalities.

YouTube Influence Chart

For years, of course, we have heard that every new media channel will kill off another. We were told that videos would see the end of cinema – it didn’t happen. We were told that radio would spell the end of newspapers – they are still with us. And we were told that email would stop real mail – yet the post offices are still busy sorting letters. Every time a new medium is invented it merely adds to the variety, providing people with more choice.

But online content is different. It has the power to produce one of the most significant changes in media history.

In the past if you were a big brand you could get your message out to the world by buying space in newspapers and magazines and having a media relations team that ensured your name got into the headlines whenever possible. Public relations is a key component of most major brands.

But PR is also an essential component of local businesses and small specialist services. They get coverage in local newspapers and specialist trade periodicals.

However, there is now a problem which did not previously exist. Online content.

In the “good old days” where brands held lunches with journalists, took them on fancy trips or invited them to swish press events, there was something in it for both sides. The brands got coverage and the journalists got material to fill their column inches or broadcast schedules. It was a deal that worked for everyone.

Nowadays, though, brands have their own outlets which compete with the media. Only yesterday I was talking with the Communications Director of a major sporting brand who has more than 30m people looking at their Facebook page each week. That channel is much more important to the company than the ten million who might be watching the TV news tonight.

Imagine now that you are that Communications Director and you have information you want your audience to get. What are you going to do? Are you going to – as you did in the past – hold a press conference and give it to the media? Or are you going to keep it to yourself and distribute it through your own channel?

The traditional media have gone from being partners for businesses communications, to being competitors – all because of the ability for brands to produce their own online content.

The result of this is that the traditional media are slowly being starved of the raw materials they need for their publications and broadcasts. Inevitably, this will lead to reduced value to the audiences who will go direct to their favourite online content instead.

However, eventually people will realise that what they are consuming is biased. When brands provided information to the media through PR, it at least went through an editorial process that helped provide a degree of balance. Now, online audiences only get biased material and eventually they won’t like it.

But by then, much of the traditional media will be polarised into aggregating material you can already find free of charge elsewhere or celebrity tittle tattle.

Yet there is another way for both businesses and the media. Analysis.

Newspapers, magazines and broadcasters are going to have to give up the notion of reporting business news. Thanks to online content we can all get the news we want direct from the companies we want to engage with. Instead, the traditional media needs to change to being more analytical – taking the content that the brands produce themselves and comparing and contrasting it and analysing it. That would provide a service to their audience and it would not compete with the businesses who have their own online channels of content.

And what does this mean if you run a business? It means that audiences are going to look direct to you for news content – so you had better start producing it. It also means that journalists are going to look to you for data and insights, not news. So you had better start doing that as well.

The YouTube Stars have realised this already. Have you?

LinkedIn blogging has relatively low take-up

Content marketing on LinkedIn could be a waste of time

LinkedInA year ago LinkedIn provided the ability for members to publish content directly on the site. The idea was that LinkedIn members could write articles or blog posts and have them distributed on the LinkedIn network. Sounds a great idea.

Indeed, LinkedIn themselves are very proud of their little invention. Last week they announced that they had reached the grand total of 1m posts being added in the first year.

But, as recent statistics show, there are 1.5m blog posts added to WordPress.com every DAY….!

In other words, WordPress achieves in 16 hours, what LinkedIn has taken a year to do. That is not very impressive.

But are we missing a trick?

With few people posting on LinkedIn, your visibility becomes much greater. On WordPress you are one of millions, on LinkedIn you become one of thousands.

However, there is another issue with this increased visibility – it is to fewer people. WordPress reaches several billion people, whereas LinkedIn only gets to 330m individuals. So, posting content on LinkedIn gives you greater visibility to a smaller number of people. Of course, if they are the “right” people, so much the better.

What the LinkedIn blog posting idea really shows is another example of a social network adding features “because they can”. You can blog on LinkedIn, you can start discussions, you can connect with people and you can chat to them. Hang on a minute….you can blog on Facebook start discussions, connect with people and chat to them. Wait……! On WordPress you can blog, start discussions, connect with people, chat with them…….you get the picture.

Adding posts to LinkedIn may well work for many businesses if your audience is active on LinkedIn. Equally, posting content on Facebook works for many businesses, but only if their audience is on Facebook a lot.

Posting items on LinkedIn is only relevant if your audience is there. If not, forget it.

The fact that most people appear to be forgetting it is revealing too. It shows that most people perceive LinkedIn as something different – a place to make direct connections, perhaps. And if you are making direct connections do you really need all that “content” on LinkedIn?

It will be interesting to see the take-up of blogging on LinkedIn this year, as they open it up to more languages. But if you are already adding content to your own website on a regular basis you are probably better off doing that and adding links to that in your LinkedIn activity stream. Besides which, the content is seen as your brand, not as part of LinkedIn. By adding content to LinkedIn, you have to consider whether people will perceive that content as yours or as part of what LinkedIn offers. There is a chance they will see it as LinkedIn’s  – not yours. So you have to question what LinkedIn content does for your brand.

Perhaps that’s why so many people are retaining their brand image by blogging with WordPress rather than using LinkedIn…?

Content marketing should be central to your website

Website visitors are increasingly looking for good content. Blogs, stories, articles and so on are vital to your web success.

Web visitors want more information from you

Hand sketching laptop and writing website content words for businessYou would think that with the ever-increasing amount of information around us we would all want short, pithy nuggets rather than extensive amounts of content. However, the more material that is published online, the more people want.

That’s partly due to our desire to minimise risks. When we have wide availability of information on any topic we want to check more of it to ensure that everything we have learned is true, thereby minimising the chances of making a wrong decision. When information is in short supply, we go with what we know. The mere fact that the web is growing at an amazing rate means our brains simply kick in with our risk reduction mode and make us want to check out even more information.

And boy oh boy, is the Internet growing…! Data from the company that produces WordPress, Automattic, shows that the number of blogs created in 2014 was up by 12.5% on the previous record year. Each day around 50,000 new blogs are created leading to over 1.5m blog posts being published every day – about 17 every single second. Even more significant is that these are only the figures that relate to WordPress.com – the hosted version of the blogging software. The data does not take into account the billions of blog posts produced by software downloaded from WordPress.org or from other content management systems, such as Blogger or Tumblr. The chances are that by the end of this week, more blog posts will have been written than the entire outpouring of writing during the whole of the 19th Century. The vast amount of content online cannot be underestimated.

This explosion in content is making us more interested in content. Never before have we read so much, or written so much. Content is now becoming central to our daily activity.

And that means it should become central to your online activity. If your website is not based around content, with new content being added regularly, you are not providing what web visitors want. Major firms, such as the global PR company FleishmanHillard, are restructuring to focus their businesses around online content. And marketing experts believe that businesses will increasingly have “content departments” much like they have other functional teams.

In other words, businesses are becoming more and more organised around content, with the production of content for the web being the centrepiece of their business.

The question is – are you doing the same? Is your business gearing up to focus its operations around the production of online content? If you are not doing that by now, you are already behind the times. After all, in the couple of minutes you have taken to read this far, around 2,500 blog posts have been added to WordPress alone. The web is content focused; if your business is not, you are not really providing what your web visitors want.

It takes 10,000 hours to be a successful blogger – really?

To be a successful blogger you need to start as soon as you can and keep on doing it. Start now and blog each day and you will get better.

Notepad with the word Blog written on itAre great bloggers naturally talented or can you become one?

Every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day there are 35 new blog posts published. That amounts to three million new blog posts every single day – more than a billion each year.

If each blog post were to be around the average of 400 words, that’s the equivalent of more than 17,000 novels worth of text being added to the web every day, just by bloggers. If you did nothing else, not sleep, eat or move from your computer it would take you at least 12 years to get through that lot. Is it any wonder that the vast majority of blogs get so little readership?

Indeed, there is a “long tail” of blogging readership, as is common for many other aspects of the internet. It means that only a tiny proportion of bloggers actually achieve any real degree of success, with plenty of readers.

But there could be more to their success than simply the sheer size of the competition. After all, there are millions of people in the world who play football every day, but only a relatively tiny proportion of them have made it to the World Cup (though there are some children playing footie outside today who do appear to be somewhat better than many members of the Brazil team…..!).

Could it be that those successful bloggers are just naturally talented?

Is it that they have some kind of gene that makes them good bloggers and therefore this helps them get their audience? Could you be born a blogger?

The whole debate about talent and whether it is nature or nurture has raged on and on for centuries. However, new research has suggested that there may be more to natural talent than we first imagined. Researchers from Princeton University have found that practice only makes a small contribution to success. Indeed, in some instances, the study found that practice only contributed 1% of success.

However, this study is not all it seems. The researchers themselves point out that there is a relationship with age – the earlier you start doing something, the better. Plus they say that there appears to be some role that our “working memory” plays. Working memory is that part of your memory system that holds things in place which are needed at that moment in time. So, for instance, to read this blog post your working memory needs to keep in it the words and phrases you are looking at, as well as the information from your brain’s “lexicon” which holds the meaning of these words. Otherwise you couldn’t read. Your working memory also probably has in it the physical memories required to move the mouse and scroll down the screen. Later on, all these things will be dumped from your working memory to make way for the next required elements, such as recalling the tastes of food as you peruse the menu at lunch time. In other words, your working memory provides a central repository of memories extracted from other parts of your brain to enable you to cope with the here and now.

But the mere fact that working memory is involved with the success of so-called talented people suggests that even if practice is not necessary, there is a cognitive element to their apparent brilliance, rather than a mere inborn natural ability. Research suggests that the speed of your working memory is also playing a part. And it seems that your working memory gets quicker at doing things the more times it does them. Goodness me – that’s practice….!

In other words, practice alone does not make you more able to do something, but practice which quickens your working memory does have that impact. And guess when you can speed up your working memory more easily – when you are younger. This all combines to point to one thing – practice may not make perfect, but doing something repeatedly for a long time improves your working memory and it is this more rapid working memory that is responsible for your increased ability.

The Colarado psychologist, Anders Ericsson suggested back in 1993 that if you practised something for 10,000 hours you would become good at it. His theory was popularised – incorrectly according to Ericsson – by Malcom Gladwell in his book “Outliers”.  Ericsson claims that the 10,000 hours is an average, whereas Gladwell counters that this fails to allow for “raw talent”.

But the row about 10,000 hours misses out something. It misses out the impact on your working memory’s capability of doing something repeatedly. Even if you have raw talent as a blogger, doing more blogging will make you a better blogger because your working memory has to work less hard, enabling you to think more and blog more quickly. If you are a beginning blogger with no talent, you will become a better blogger the more you post things because your working memory will cope better.

In other words, the argument about talent being nature or nurture is the wrong argument. The argument about 10,000 hours is the wrong argument.

The real argument is about how you can maximise the effect of your working memory. And the research on that shows us two things:

  1. Working memory improves the more you do something regularly
  2. Working memory improves when you start doing something younger

So what does this mean for bloggers? It means the sooner you start, the better and the more frequently you blog, the better.

You will become a better blogger the sooner you start and the more often you do it. Which reminds me….take a look at those highly successful bloggers who get the readers in spite of the online competition of those millions of words. Goodness me, just look at what similarities these “talented” bloggers share – they started a long time ago and they do it every day, sometimes more than once a day. Their cognitive abilities to blog well are finely tuned because their working memory when blogging is not clogged up with the basics of putting things together.

Practice will not make you a perfect blogger. But regular blogging will make your working memory more able to cope with blogging.

If you want to be a great blogger start today and then do it every day – your working memory will love it.

Do you have a content marketing pathway?

Content marketing is only worthwhile if you have objectives and a means of achieving them. You need a content marketing pathway to do that.

winding path

Content marketing is the latest trend for online business. It is, of course, nothing new – successful businesses have used “content” of all kinds to market their business for ages. Indeed, it was happening thousands of years ago; those Egyptian hieroglyphics were fancy content marketing of a sort. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of years ago those cave paintings produced by early humans seem to be a form of content marketing, telling people where the best hunting grounds were. Those paintings were not mere art, they were a form of communication and instruction.

So, forgive me while I snigger at the online youths who think that they have invented something new and called it “content marketing”. It’s not new; it’s almost as old as human life itself.

However, what is new is the Internet allows us to track and trace the impact of our content marketing. In the past, if you used print-based content marketing it was difficult to see if you had any real impact. Nowadays, thanks to analytics systems and cookies you can see the exact impact. Indeed, you can calculate the exact profitability of each piece of content you produce for your website. You do that, right?

Therein lies the issue. Most businesses produce content and then hope it works. Sure, they check their analytics to see if they have any more visitors. They can see that the more content they produce, the more visitors they get. But that’s not enough. After all, the costs of producing the content that led to those extra visitors could be making the whole palaver unprofitable.

The only way to check if your content is profitable is to set goals for each piece of content.

Sometimes your aim will be to produce a sale, other times it will be to create awareness and sometimes it will be to show expertise.

However, you need to know in advance – otherwise you are producing content for content’s sake – and that is a dangerous strategy as it can lead to other costs and to extra, unnecessary work.

Good content marketing starts with the end in mind.

Once you have the destination in place you can work out how to get there.

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  • For instance, if you want a sale, what persuasive steps do you need to put in place that will take people on the journey from the original content to the shopping cart? Is it testimonials and reviews? Is it price comparisons? What do you need to insert between the content and the objective to help provide a pathway to take your user from the start of their journey – your content – to the final destination, the shopping cart.
  • If, though, you are not looking for a sale but for something less specific such as lead generation, then do you have in place calls to action that drive people towards completing your required contact form?
  • And if your reason for producing the content is even less particular, maybe as part of establishing your expertise, then have you set up analytics goals associated with your page of content so that you can see that it is being viewed by the kind of people you want and producing the results you want?

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Whatever kind of content you produce it is unlikely to be a simple “here’s a piece of content, read it”. Largely you will have other objectives – but have you got the necessary pathway between the content and your goals or, like many online businesses are you just hoping it will all somehow tie together?

[box type=”note”]If you are wondering what the objective of this piece of content is, then it is expertise-establishing with a pre-set goal inside Google Analytics ready for me to measure.[/box]

Go for a walk before writing a blog post

Walking appears to boost creativity significantly – and that creative boost continues even after you have sat down to start writing a blog.

Every day millions of bloggers have the same problem – what to write about. Every day thousands of bloggers give up because they no longer have the motivation to write anything. Every day millions of people visit blogs to discover they are dormant, having been left untouched by their originators for years.

Blogging is a great business tool and a central component of the Internet. But over 95% of blogs get started only to die after a few weeks because their creators give up.

The problem at the heart of all this is lack of creative thought. People dry up after a while, having exhausted all the obvious blog posts they could produce.

They sit facing their computer screens, lacking any ideas as to what to put into those blank pages.

Now, new research provides a simple answer.

Get up from your PC and take a walk.

Full length portrait of a young man walking a dog, isolated on white background

It turns out that something as simple as a short walk is enough to boost creative thinking in almost everyone. Plus, the study at Stanford University found that this increase in creative thinking persisted for several minutes even after the individual sat down and rested.

In other words, if you cannot think of any ideas for your blog or your website, get up from your computer, go out for a half-hour walk and come back and sit down facing that blank screen again. You will be brimming with thoughts and ideas to help you write something, breathing new life into a flagging blog.

Not only that – walking reduces stress, cuts down on anxiety, alleviates depression and is a general health boost.

So, stop reading this blog post right now…! Get up, get out the door, walk down the street and come back ready to write a new and exciting post.

7 ways to capture your blog ideas

You need to capture your blog ideas the moment you get them, otherwise your memory will not store them. Use one of these 7 methods

Notepad with the word Blog written on itOne of the problems with our memory is that it doesn’t always work the way we want it to. That’s because our subconscious will often produce something useful for us and send it directly to our conscious thinking – you know the kind of things, you are daydreaming on the train when suddenly a thought hits you out of nowhere. That’s because something entered your subconscious maybe several hours ago and it has been working away, trying to come up with an answer for you. Once it has the answer it knocks loudly on the door of your conscious mind saying “here it is, here’s the answer you wanted”.

But at that point your subconscious does a quick about-turn. It hurries away, ready to get on with the next task, considering the job done.

Of course, it isn’t really like this – but you get the idea. Unless you make an active effort to store what your subconscious comes up with, it can drift away from your mind, never to return. How many times have you had a brilliant thought as you walk into a meeting, only to forget it by the time the meeting is underway?

The same thing happens with blogging. Each day there are millions of brilliant blog post ideas produced with many of them never seeing the light of day because they are forgotten as quickly as they were produced.

The issue is that bloggers are not capturing those brilliant ideas snapped out of their subconscious. So here are 7 ways in which you can capture your ideas the moment they pop into your mind, ensuring you always have plenty to write about.

1. Pen and paper

Yes, I know we live in a technical, web-connected, smartphone enabled world. But there is still little to beat a humble pen and a piece of paper when you need to capture something quickly. No matter where you are, you should always have a pen and paper with you because you never know when your blog ideas will spring forward from your subconscious. You do have a notepad by the side of your bed, don’t you?

2. Phone yourself

As soon as you get an idea, phone yourself. Because you are using the phone it will automatically be diverted to voicemail – where you can leave yourself a message with your idea. If you don’t like the notion of speaking to yourself then just send a text to your own mobile. Either way you can quickly capture your blog idea if you have forgotten your pen and paper.

3. Use a blog board

You can have a whiteboard, blackboard, peg board, cork board – who cares, whatever works for you. But the board’s purpose is merely to be a repository for your blogging ideas. As soon as one strikes you either write it on the whiteboard or pin a note to it.

4. Tweet Yourself

Set up a Twitter account where the Tweets are protected and hidden form view, essentially just a blank account. Then when an idea strikes you send it as a private direct message to your blank, dormant account. This will then act as a store for your ideas, all of which will be the direct messages you have sent.

5. Use Google Keep

Google Keep is part of Google Drive and it is a simple note-taking system. You just go to https://drive.google.com/keep/ type in your blog post idea and Google saves it for you on your Google Drive account.

Screen shot of Google Keep

6. Set up a blog idea form

Set up a page on your website that you prevent from being indexed by search engines and for which the URL is not obvious. Then on that page install a form that allows you to enter your blog idea. The form can be emailed to you, or saved in a database. But either way you can simply store a bookmark of the page and then whenever an idea strikes you that’s the page you go to and type in your idea.

7. Use Evernote

Evernote is out and out the best and most flexible note-taking system I know.  Using it for blog ideas is brilliant, but using it throughout your business simply makes you more productive. You can create a notebook for blog ideas and then every time you get one you simply go to that notebook and jot down your idea.

So there you have it – seven ways to capture your blogging ideas. You have no excuse now for not having enough ideas to write about.

Young academics show you how to succeed with a blog

Publishing early and publishing lots equals success according to new study

funny cartoon scientist How can you tell the difference between a university lecturer and a professor? It’s not qualifications – sometimes lecturers have more letters after their names than the professors who head up their departments. Is it age? Nope. Sometimes professors are younger than their lecturer colleagues. One of the most common differences between a professor and a lecturer is simply the fact that the professor has more “publications” to their name. They have authored more research papers, written more opinion pieces in journals and have contributed more to the academic literature. It is not just your qualifications that help you become a professor; it is the weight of the pile of paper with your byline on it.

Academic success is measured, in part, by how much literature there is in your name. It is a pure measure of quantity. The more papers you have published, the more impressive you are within the community. People weigh your experience by the pound.

Now, new research shows how those professors get to the top. It turns out that the most successful scientists, the ones that make it to the top of the academic tree are the ones that start publishing young and relentlessly keep on publishing, churning out paper after paper after paper.

It is a demonstration that the amount you write is part of the route to success. True, these academics have got to know their stuff. True, they have got to impress their colleagues with the analytical thinking they have. But there are plenty of academics who fulfil those requirements who do not make it to the top – and now it seems that this is because they simply do not write enough.

You can equate what is happening in the academic world with what is happening online. The most successful websites in any sector are the ones where content is added relentlessly. Publishing lots equals success online, just as it does in academic circles.

Take a tip from those young academic scientists; get the writing bug. Write, write some more and write some more again. That might not make you a professor, but it will be a significant contribution to success in your sector, because it seems that we do equate the amount someone publishes with their expertise in their sector. If you want people in your world to believe you are the expert, you need to publish lots and lots and lots. Or as they say today, you need to do some “content marketing”.

Forget the keyboard – handwrite your web content

Handwriting engages parts of the brain not used when we type on a keyboard. For better web content, start with handwriting

drawing of hand holding penThe humble keyboard has been with us for over 150 years and has become the most popular way we write things of any length these days. Other than the occasional shopping list, most people now use a keyboard to write things. Even if they are using a tablet device, they bash away on a virtual keyboard. What ever happened to hand writing?

You might not think it is worth worrying about that much. We spend years teaching children how to write letters and then get them to type up their homework on a computer. Why do we need to teach them to write? Surely teaching them to touch-type would make more sense. Perhaps.

Teachers, though, are not so daft. They know that learning to draw the characters of the alphabet and become proficient in handwriting is linked to academic performance. Children who learn to handwrite efficiently tend to do better in a wide range of other learning tasks. Similarly, children who learn to write well, also tend to read better; and better reading leads to more reading which leads to improved academic performance all round. In other words, handwriting and learning appear to be intertwined.

Indeed, neurological studies show that when we write by hand we engage parts of the brain that are not engaged when we use a keyboard. For instance, when you write by hand the decision-making centres of your brain are stimulated, yet this does not happen when you type on a keyboard. Equally, brain scan research shows that when you write by hand your attention centres in your brain are more active than when you type.

However, writing by hand tends to be slower – besides if you were to write every piece of web content or blog post by hand you would have to then double up the effort by copy typing it, or paying someone to do that. Far better, we think, to create our web content using our keyboards because of the speed and time savings.

The problem is, though, lack of attention on what we are writing, reducing things like quality. Also, we might not make good decisions about the words to use, reducing the readability. Google likes readability by the way…!

Research shows there are clear benefits from hand writing which are not found when we type. So how can your blog or website benefit from handwriting, without impacting too much on your productivity?

Firstly, instead of keeping a spreadsheet of your blog plans, handwrite your ideas in a notebook dedicated to the purpose. Handwriting your blog or article plans will help engage more thinking processing in your brain enabling you to produce better plans.

Secondly, for each blog post or article, handwrite your outline – you only need to jot down a handful of bullet points, but in doing so you will get your brain into gear ready for writing a better piece of content than if you just hit the keyboard.

Your keyboard is a crucial link between you and your audience. But handwriting is a critical link between your brain and the keyboard.

Blogging is a winner and a loser for your website

Blogging may bring you lots more traffic; but is it the right traffic?

Red and white 3D illustration of the word Blog connected to a mouse.Blogging undoubtedly helps bring more traffic to your website. There is enough evidence from a wide variety of sources to demonstrate that. Indeed, there is plenty of support for the notion that Google itself prefers sites that have blogs.

Of course, it is not really about “blogs” as such. Rather it is about adding fresh, new, original and interesting content to your website. You might call it “news” or “updates” or whatever, instead of “blog” but the principle is the same.

But how often should you add fresh content? Research by the Inbound Marketing company, Hubspot, shows that the more often you add new content to your website (or blog) the more traffic you get and the more leads you generate.

Now, the results of an experiment by the website LogMyCalls has added to the debate about the frequency of blogging. They have been testing the impact of writing three blog posts every day. They checked things over a 200 day period (almost the entire working year). The impact was dramatic. In the first 100 days of the experiment, website traffic generated by search engines went up by 3,489%….! Yes, you read that correctly. Significantly, website traffic that was “direct”, whereby people typed in the website address having “heard about it” somehow also went up by 288%. And the amount of traffic coming from links went up by an astonishing 1,435%.

These are stunning figures, confirming the effect that blogging has, which Hubspot have been saying for years and which has also been part of my mantra too. The LogMyCalls data is also backed up by their Alexa ranking statistics, which show a steady and significant rise in “reach” over the period of the experiment. (Reach is the percentage of all the users of the Internet who actually see your website.)

What this all does is back up the notion that blogging is a real winner in terms of getting website traffic.

But…you knew there was a but, didn’t you?

Take a look at the bounce rate for LogMyCalls over the period of their experiment.

Bounce rate graph

The number of people landing on a page and then disappearing after reading that one page has trebled over the past year. The number of people visiting the site has gone up dramatically, but so too has the proportion of people bouncing out. Equally, the Alexa data shows that over the time of the experiment the amount of time spent by each visitor on the LogMyCalls website has also plummeted.

Now, we have to take this all with a pinch of statistical salt. Alexa is only estimated data, based on educated guesswork. Only LogMyCalls can really tell us what is happening with their site.

Even so, the Alexa data does match what happens with other sites when they increase their blogging or content production generally. They tend to get people who are attracted by the headline of the new piece of content who then visit the site as a result, but are less interested in what else it has to offer.

In other words, blogging – or adding new pieces of content to your website each day – is also a losing strategy because it brings you thousands of visitors who aren’t the least bit interested in what you do or offer.

However, take another look at the LogMyCalls data. True, the bounce rate has risen dramatically. But it is a bounce rate within a much higher total of visits. Back in 2012, before the experiment, Alexa reckoned the bounce rate as around 10%. That is 10% of almost 4000% less traffic overall. Now, the bounce rate is around 50% of that much, much higher traffic.

Let’s look at that in mythical numbers because I don’t know the LogMyCalls actual number of visits. Let’s imagine that in 2012 they had 100 visits a month and 10% of these bounced, giving them 90 potentially useful visits. After the experiment, the 100 visits would go up by 4,000% to 4,100 visits, yet 50% of these would be bounces, leaving them with 2,050 useful visitors, instead of a paltry 90.

So, what does this really tell us?

It suggests that if you do dramatically increase your content output you will significantly increase your traffic – but a large slice of that traffic will be useless to you. You win and you lose.

However, the rise in traffic from increased content production is so vast, that useless traffic is not worth worrying about.

It is yet more evidence that regular, several times a day blogging is vital to online success.

Blogging is about to become dangerous

Take care when writing online – blogging can be dangerous

Is prison the place for bloggers?Bloggers face a troubled future. Never before in societies around the world has so much public opinion been made public. Up until a decade or so ago, political authorities were able to keep the lid on dissent. True, there were some major issues, such as the UK Poll Tax riots, but largely any argument with the political elite had to be channelled through organisations – and that meant they could be monitored.

Thanks to blogging, opinions from individuals can reach millions and in turn they can spread those thoughts far and wide before governments are even aware. No longer can politicians so easily manipulate public opinion. Nowadays – and increasingly – they are on the back foot. The Internet, blogging in particular, has fuelled a significant amount of public thinking which politicians cannot easily control.

So, when political systems have a problem like this, then they start fighting back. Bloggers are in prison in some countries, simply for writing their thoughts on the web. Even in the USA a blogger faces jail and in the hallowed halls of the United Nations recently attempts were made to silence a popular blogger.

Of course, you could argue that in each of these cases the blogger has done more than simply write their thoughts – the courts have agreed, for instance, that the bloggers involved caused offence or harassment.  But the fact that the courts around the world are getting involved in cases against bloggers or those who Tweet is an indication that the world of “free speech” is only really “free” if it doesn’t upset the political apple cart.

Here in the UK, the botched legislation in the wake of the Levison Enquiry looks like it has such grey areas that it will catch many bloggers – in spite of attempts at reassurance from civil servants. Indeed, the Leveson Enquiry only looked at print – even though all of the newspapers called to give evidence have vast audiences online, the Enquiry was asked only to look at print. The online world only got a single mention in the four volumes of the report.

Yet, the legislation now agreed by the politicians at Westminster appears it is going to cover online writers in many instances, even though the Enquiry which led to the new laws did not even investigate that arena. Cynics might say that the politicians have seen an opportunity where they could introduce legislation that also encapsulated the world of blogging so they could limit the impact of web-based free speech.

Ultimately, though, it all means one thing. If you blog, you must do so within the laws for your country. That means if you want to stay out of trouble you need to learn publishing law if you want your blog to stay untouched online. I recommend the excellent text book McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists to keep you on your toes and prevent you from ending up in court.

Naked Prince Harry, The Sun and YOUR Blog

Naked Prince Harry is not the problem. Rupert Murdoch is.

Before I begin I want to make it completely clear; I have no interest in Prince Harry’s willy. Nor do I care about the rules of strip billiards or the fact that a healthy 27-year-old man lets his hair down with his mates. Even if he was first in line to the throne I wouldn’t care either. Bothered? Me? And neither are you.

Except you should be.

But not because of what Henry Charles Albert David Windsor got up to in a Vegas hotel room last week, but rather because of what The Sun newspaper did today. If you have been on another planet for a few days you’ll have missed the fact that The Sun has published pictures of young Harry in the buff.

The newspaper argues that this is about press freedom. Tosh. It’s about sales.

The Sun says that because these nude images had been available on the web for days and that hundreds of millions of people had seen them it was a matter of press freedom if the British press was prevented from printing the same images. That is false logic parading in Emperor’s clothes.

For a start – just because something has been published on the web does not mean it MUST be able to be published in newspapers. After all, there are websites devoted to explaining how to commit suicide, how to make bombs and how to shoot down aircraft. Would The Sun argue that it is a matter of press freedom because these items are available online they must also be available in their tawdry publication? Even The Sun has standards – honest, they do. So the argument that because something has been previously published and therefore preventing it from being republished is a barrier to press freedom is patent nonsense.

But what The Sun has done is probably the first step in REDUCING press freedoms. Here’s why. Politicians are fuming – just listen to them on the radio or watch them on TV. They are like pack dogs sensing blood. What will the result of that be? Legislation.

Just when the politicians were relatively happy to let Lord Leveson tell them what to do, along comes Rupert Murdoch to rock the boat.  Now, no matter what the Enquiry produces, politicians are in no mood to let The Sun go unpunished. And that will punish all of us who write – including your blog.

If you think that’s not the case, just take a look at what is happening elsewhere in the world. Already in Australia there are proposals which will limit the freedom of bloggers by making them adhere to strict rules. In China, the whole blogging industry is under attack. Not too far away in Thailand bloggers are facing a clampdown. In India sites are facing closure because they are a “threat to national security”. And the list goes on.

Amongst the political elite of the world – who meet up with each other constantly, there is a growing appetite for controlling the web.

In its pathetic attempt to cover up a sales promotion as a bid for press freedom The Sun has merely added fuel to that fire. Rather than increasing our freedoms, Rupert Murdoch and his cronies have actually taken us a step backwards.

They don’t need to be ashamed for trying to make money out of tittle-tattle (even though most of us don’t like it, there is a commercial market for it). But they should be ashamed of what they have done in getting politicians to think that they need to create more controls over publishing, including what we do online.

Who is your blog for?

Is your blog for you to make money or is it for your readers? Some bloggers cannot distinguish the two it seems.

Each day on the Internet there are around 2m blog posts written, averaging 400 words each. At 800m words a day that’s enough to fill the pages of The Times for 22 years..! If the words written on blogs each day were printed into the format of The Times newspaper the pile of print would be as far as Usain Bolt can run in 10 seconds. It is increasingly hard to imagine the massive amount of content that is being produced every single day. Yet unlike the writers on The Times – or any other newspaper for that matter – most of the online bloggers are untrained in journalism. And therein lies a problem.

Who is your blog audience

Journalists are keenly aware of their readers, listeners or viewers. Indeed they are often so keen to produce content for them that the people who provide them with much of their raw material – public relations professionals, marketing people and publicists – often think the newspaper writers are rude  or obnoxious. Some may be, but most are just focused on their audience, the people who consume their content. They are so keen to ensure they provide the right story for their particular readers or listeners that it can seem like they are riding roughshod over the people who provide the stories in the first place.

This is evident in something like the Olympics when a breathless athlete who has just lost the race is asked “how do you feel”. It seems crass and rude, but the journalist is merely trying to get the human emotion of what happened in the race, which audience research consistently shows is what we want as viewers.

The vast and much bigger army of bloggers is not used to being so impertinent. In addition, most of the world’s bloggers do not know the journalistic code of ethics which separates the news supplier from the audience. This means that newspapers do not therefore slavishly report what politicians tell them to print (and they still do think they can do this) but the reporters get the other side of the story and print something which would interest their audience. Similarly, if a business reporter is at some company where they have a lavish product launch, the newspaper writer will get the views of independent experts as well, rather than take what the company says at face value.

Bloggers, though, may not be used to the desire to get balance or to get both sides of the story. Many do, of course, but with 800m words being written each day, there’s the possibility that many will be writing biased material.

That is precisely the problem which a US judge dealt with in a recent case between Google and Oracle where they were ordered to reveal the names of bloggers who had been paid by their company. Transparency is required for a blog reader to be able to make a judgement as to the value of the content.  Newspaper journalists do this as a matter of course, but many bloggers are not aware of such protocols.

But there is a deeper issue than this; who is the blog for? If a blogger is willing to write things whilst being paid to write them it is possible that their focus is on making money. Indeed, all across the Internet you can find advice about making sure your business blog makes money. There are tips on using the right keywords to attract the best number of advertising clicks, for instance. Much of the blogging world is focused on creating content that generates cash in some way. This is a completely different focus to the professional journalist who focuses solely on the audience.

Last week I ran a workshop on social media and I spoke about the “audience” for a company blog. One individual challenged me and said that I should not call blog readers “an audience”. He said that to do so meant that I was focused on providing something for THEM whereas a business should be focused on what a blog achieved for the company.

Needless to say, I disagreed. The problem with many of the 800m words a day written online is that they are not written from the perspective of the audience, but from the point of view of the writer who is frequently concerned with earning cash from their writing, rather than service to an audience. Journalists – whatever you may think about their profession – do have one feature in common: their relentless focus on their audience – they let other people in the building worry about the finances.

Maybe that’s what bloggers should do. Focus on the audience and the money will look after itself.

3 Reasons Why Your Staff Should Blog

Getting your staff to blog will boost your business in several ways. Here are three reasons why your employees should blog.

One of the reasons why many business leaders shy away from blogging is because of the time it takes up. Research shows that the websites that have the most impact on the bottom line are those which are updated several times a day. It means that if you want to succeed online against your competition you are going to have to do a  lot of content production.

Either that is going to cost – because you have to pay freelance writers – or it is going to take time away from “proper work” as you spend hours each week writing new blog posts. Either way, it is counter-intuitive.  How can it boost your finances if you are spending more money on online activities and using up your working time to produce the content or work with your content producers? It doesn’t make sense.

Except, of course, the evidence suggests otherwise. Data from HubSpot, for instance, shows that in a study of 1,500 online businesses those who added content multiple times a day almost always received business from their online activities. But those who blogged monthly had only a 56% chance of generating business from their online activities.

Blogging leads to business

This merely confirms other research which shows the more content you add to your website the more business you generate. So, occasional blogging is not enough. Neither is paying your content producers, such as freelance writers, to produce a couple of articles a month. You need more. But how do you afford it?

One way is to open up content production on your website to your staff. If all your employees write blog posts you increase your content much more easily, with only a marginal hit on productivity. But that reduction in productive work is counteracted by the increase in business produced by the higher level of content on your site.

However, getting your staff to write blog posts does more than increase your business. Here are three other reasons why you should get your employees to write blog posts.

1. Increased sense of self-worth

The sense of self-worth is related to overall happiness and enjoyment of life. When people have higher levels of self-worth they perform better at work and are more productive. When staff are asked to blog they feel valued and this increases their sense of self-worth. The result is a happier workforce and people who are generally more productive. So, even though blogging may take time away from their active work, the increase in sense of personal value counteracts this. However, it is all dependent on the way you introduce blogging. If you force it, you reduce sense of self-worth, making the situation for your business worse. Carefully introduced with appropriate motivations, you’ll find that blogging makes people happier in the workplace.

2. Reduced workplaces stress

No matter where people work, stress occurs. Time pressures, deadlines, conflicts in the office – they all lead to stress. One way in which stress is relieved is writing. Research has shown that writing is often a cathartic activity. By getting your staff to blog, they will be able to express themselves and will reduce the degree to which workplace stress affects them. Blogging can lead to reductions in office stresses, thereby also creating a more productive, happy workforce.

3. Raised “web footprint”

The more bloggers you have on your team, the more connections they will make and the more you will appear online. One blogger only brings you one set of social connections, from which you only get a limited range of visibility for your business. By having a whole team of bloggers you get much wider online representation making your business more prevalent in search results, in social media and in links on other sites. In other words, more bloggers leads to greater visibility for your business. In turn that feeds back to the blogger’s sense of self-worth because they get the sense they are contributing to the business. That raises loyalty as a result.

There are so many reasons why you should allow your staff to be bloggers for your business website there has to be a pretty significant reason as to why you shouldn’t take this step forward. And if you are worried about what they might say, all you need is an editorial process with your current content producer acting as the arbiter of what can and cannot be published.

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