The Right Way and The Wrong Way of External Link Building

 

 

What Is The Ultimate External Link Building Strategy?

 

 

The Right Way and The Wrong Way of
External Link Building

 

 

If you desire to ignite your social media with passion and turn it into a profit, you must set the basics in order. One basic is content optimization and SEO. Believe it or not, all SEO’s were newbies at one time or another; plus there is a always more room to learn for everybody.

The last time we saw how links help search engines love your website and reward you with higher ranking. This week, we’ll build on our discussion of link-building activity.

Building quality links back to your website not only improves your overall popularity in the eyes of the search engines, but also improves your search engine visibility. Perhaps you’re questioning, as most people do: How do I get links pointing back to my site when I have no control over other websites out there?

The good news is that because links come in different forms, they can be generated from different tactics. There are some easy ways to build links. One that you’ll want to implement first is having an online presence in web directories.

Register on Relevant Web Directories

A common way of generating links is by registering your website on different web directories. But keep in mind that you want to be extremely selective about the directories in which your business information and links appear.

I would recommend, for instance, the Yahoo directory as a great place to start. If your business or ministry is local, submit your information to local business directories.

Next, if there are industry-specific directories and listing services that are trusted and unique to your market, register on those directories, too.

Don’t put yourself on listings and directories that exist solely to generate links. There are many spam directories on the Internet and very few are actually trustworthy.

A good guideline to follow is to determine whether or not the directory conducts some form of editorial process that reviews each link and accepts only relevant and trusted websites themselves. If a directory is willing to publish any link without review, it’s probably not a reliable directory. Another easy way to get links to your site is to use social media platforms to direct readers back to your content.

Share Content on Social Media

It is crucial to gain links from social media sharing. People are social beings and are eager to share interesting content on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Social media links signal the search engines to what content people actually like and what real people are actually interested in. So use those sharing buttons on content pages and use your own social influence on the networks you participate in to promote links to your content so it is passed around. Leveraging your social connections to alert readers that you have posted new constant is an effective way to build links. But don’t stop there.

Reach Out to Other Relevant and Trustworthy Sites

Another way of building links is to attract other websites to link to your content. The key factor here is that your content must attract notice and appreciation – in other words it must be high quality content. Sometimes great content naturally invites great links as a result of people discovering and sharing it. But more frequently, you will need to do a little outreach to motivate people to discover your content.

Look for other websites that have the same audience as you. For example, if you have a social media website, seek out some of the top-notch people who post content that is relevant to yours, such as, Kim Garst, Jeff Bullas or Pam Moore. Reaching out to them and demonstrating that you have content that their readers might find useful could result in a link back from them – a very relevant and trustworthy link. Building links can be time-consuming and difficult. There will always be temptations to take shortcuts. But you know better than to do that, right?

Stay Safe

There are also wrong ways to build links. If you question whether you are cheating the system, don’t do it. Being caught is inevitable and real consequences follow. It could mean the end of your online business.

Because the Internet is constantly changing and evolving, the search engines are too. As quickly as a link scam can be devised, the search engines find a way to detect it.

Don’t fall prey to companies that sell links. Don’t trade links with strangers who have no relevance to your business or content. If it’s too easy, it will probably get you in trouble.

And don’t put yourself on listings and directories that exist solely to get you more links. You will not find quality links from these sources. As with most things, common sense will keep you out of trouble.

To Sum It Up

Although much about the Internet has changed, the importance of links has remained intact: quality and insightful content will always attract readers who will in turn want to pass along the valuable information you’ve provided. As long as your link building tactics keep these key elements in mind, you will continue to have the opportunity to build new quality links.

 

How To Link Your Way to SEO-Love

 

How To Link Your Way to SEO-Love

 

Links are one of the most important aspects to getting search engines to love your site. Links are a key activity of search engine processes. Search engines crawl the Internet, accessing pages throughout the world, in search of linkages between pages.

What is a link?

Links are recognizable by their underlined blue text. When you click on the text, your browser follows the link to another page – sometimes to another site, sometimes within the same site. Links represent confidence in the pages to which they link. By providing the link, the linking site is saying, “This site is an authority on its topic and is to be trusted.” But from the search engine’s perspective, not all links carry the same weight of authority and trustworthiness. Understanding how search engines evaluate links can help you rank higher in search results.

What is the relationship between links and SEO?

Your search engine visibility is improved by increasing how frequently other sites link to your site. If no other websites link to yours, the search engines interpret it as lack of trust in your site and your site will not show up well in the search results. A search engine favours sites that have earned links and authority. But you can have all the links in the world, and it won’t benefit your placement in search engine results if those links are not of high quality. The two most important aspects of links are:

1. The number of links pointing to your site
2. The quality of those links

The greater number of quality links that you have pointing to your website from other websites, the more authoritative your site will be to search engines.

What makes links high quality?

1.  Search engines assess the quality of a link by looking for its relevance to the content of the page to which it links.

A parenting blog linking to a website for children’s clothing, is a quality link. The search engine recognizes the relationship between
the two subject areas or themes.

However, if a political blog were to link to a site for children’s clothing, it would be a stretch to come up with how they are related.
Because there is no thematic connection between the two, a search engine may not place as much value on that link.

2. Search engines also look at the link text itself. The text that you click on, also known as anchor text, should be descriptive of the theme or subject area of the destination page.

For example the link content optimization, is a strong indication that the page to which it links is about content optimization.
Without going to the page, the search engine knows what to expect.

Avoid creating links that use anchor text such as click here or link. Unless the link page is really about clicking here or links, it does not give the search engine relevant information about the link page.

We have discussed links back to your site from people and websites that you do not control. These external links are important and need to be cultivated. But search engines also look at links within the pages of your site. To get the search engine to love your site, you will need to make use of both navigational and contextual links.

Navigational and Contextual Links

Be sure to make the most of the links over which you have complete control – links within your website. Internal linking helps search engines understand the structure of your website, the topics and themes of your content and even the relative importance of each page on your site. An internal link helps the search engines to understand topical relevancy between pages and the importance of a page by the quantity of internal links pointing to it.

There are two different types of internal links: navigational and contextual.

Every website has navigation links. They are typically located at the top of a webpage and serve as a table of contents or guide to the site. Search engines analyze navigation links to determine the hierarchy of pages that drill down from your home page. This tells the search engine how your content is organized and whether the structure of your site is flat or deep.

Contextual links are the links referencing the content of one page on a site to the content of another page on the same site. Contextual links help users to cross-reference relevant information, but they also help search engines. Search engines can look at the anchor text of an internal link to help it understand the content of the page to which the link points.

When you are building your website, make sure that you give some thought to the navigational elements that you will use across all of your pages. And when you are writing content, make sure that you are taking advantage of linking to other pages on your site with contextual links that use appropriate anchor texts.

To Sum It Up

By taking advantage of linking opportunities, you’ll get more SEO-love and the users of your website will love it too!

What is Content Optimization?

 

 

 

What is Content Optimization?

 

As a beginner in online marketing, phrases such as “content optimization” might want to make you run the other way. Although it sounds intimidating, the truth is content optimization is a technical term for a process that is based in common sense. It is the process of improving the quality and relevancy of your website content. Think about it: you want to attract the right visitors to your site and provide them with quality information in an easy-to-use format – that’s content optimization. It’s an ongoing task which will help your website rank higher for pertinent keywords and will also better engage visitors to your site.

Content must serve two masters: It must be valuable to the users of the content (website visitors) and it must “play nice” with search engines. As we publish content over time, we constantly fine-tune it to best serve both visitors and search engines. So, what makes content good?

What Are the Characteristics of Good Content?

When we think about content optimization, keep in mind that we are optimizing our content so that it benefits both users and search engines. And we’re focusing on themes and building trust.

Themes

Let’s imagine that we searched on “flight cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy.” We choose a search result near the top of the list, click through and begin reading. But instead of information about flight cancellations we read about the extensive damage in heavily populated states including New York and New Jersey; we learn about power outages in the affected areas; we see pictures of the storm’s devastation; and perhaps flight cancellations were briefly mentioned. All important, accurate and informative, but…

Even though there was a great deal of information in the article, there was really no central theme and the information was not relevant to our search topic: “flight cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy.”

Both website visitors and search engines expect a theme – the more specific your focus, the better. No one wants to wade through layers of generality when they are seeking specific answers. More importantly, both website visitors and search engines want content that is trustworthy.

Trust

If we are searching for a resource about “flight cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy” and we end up with details of the storm, but nothing helpful about flight cancellations, we will mark that resource off our list. We will not trust it to provide similar information in the future and may therefore never visit the site again.

On the other hand if the website gives us specific and relevant content that helps us find out if our flight has been cancelled, how to apply for a refund, alternate forms of transportation between points, that’s a website that we will remember the next time we have similar questions. And we trust the answers we’ve found. We will return to the site.

When people find content that they like, they also share it. Search engine programs can detect the sharing of information and view it as a sign of trust. The more they see that visitors trust your site, the more they reward your site with search engine visibility. But search engine rankings also take into account the content of blog posts and pages.

Blog Posts and Pages

In WordPress, there are both posts and pages. Each is used for a different purpose. Posts are for composing blog entries. A blog post is like a newspaper. The content of a blog is updated frequently.

Pages, on the other hand, are for content that does not change frequently – in short for all non-blog content. Pages titled such as “About us,” “Contact us,” etc. provide a way to quickly navigate your website. Together, they communicate the reason your site exists, and the kind of customers or readers you want to serve. Just like blog posts, pages have keywords and the content of pages can be optimized.

As you begin to build content around keywords, you will be developing content for multiple pages on your website. It is important to structure these pages in a meaningful way, so that search engines understand how the pages relate to each other.

The job of the search engine is much like going to a new shopping mall for the first time. You don’t have a clue where shops are located and you must learn its layout. You are looking for the newest gadgets for phones, tablets and laptops. Fortunately this mall has a great directory to show you where the Apple store is located. Once inside the Apple store, you’ll need to be directed to the section that has what you are looking for.

Now, imagine that you repeat this process to learn the entire layout of this new mall. You figure out the location of every store, what store it is next to, what items each sells, the closest restaurant, and even where the restrooms are! You know this mall inside and out.

This is exactly what a search engine does. It crawls and navigates your entire website to know what’s there, where it is located within the site and how it relates to the other things on the site. So, you see, effectively optimizing the content and organization of your website is critical.

Content Optimization: Not Just For Text

We generally think of content as text, but it also includes images. On my website, the “Meet Olga” page has not only text, but also a picture of my husband and me. The image helps you, the reader, to understand who I am, where I live, what I do and why I built this website. While the text on this page tells you some things about me, it’s likely that when you think about my website you might remember the image more than the text. Feelings and emotions are better communicated through images. Video is another form of content that can be used to optimize a webpage. I don’t YET have videos on my website, but we all have experienced the immediacy of a video. The rich visual experience and sound of videos can communicate at a level that images and text alone cannot.

The key to content optimization is using the type of content that will be effective, useful and helpful for your specific audience. While the search engines may bring visitors to your website, once they are there, you must engage them and ultimately convert them to your business goals. Using a mix of the most effective content type will surely help the experience of your visitors.

To Sum It Up

• Content optimization is an ongoing task

• Content must be valuable to the users of the content (website visitors) and it must “play nice” with search engines

• Good content is organized around a theme and builds trust

• Blog posts and pages must be optimized

• Texts, images and videos are ways to optimize your content

Are you new to content optimization? Let us help you get started! We are here to serve you.

 

Two Fundamentals of SEO: Relevance and Authority

 

 

Two Fundamentals of SEO:
Relevance and Authority

 

Have you ever thought about how much the Internet has changed since the first page was posted online some twenty years ago? Next to email, what we do most with the Internet is search. Searching is the gateway to everything we do online. Wherever you type a word or phrase (search term) into a box, press enter and wait for a list of results, there’s a search engine at work.

The topic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can become technical and complicated very quickly.Perhaps you just started blogging and need to progress in your SEO knowledge, concept-by-concept, continually building your mastery without becoming overwhelmed. This blog post is for you. We’ll demystify and simplify SEO so you’ll understand how it factors into the success of your website. But first, we’ll quickly set the stage for how a search engine works.

How A Search Engine Works

A search engine process has three components:

• an input phrase or search term (the words typed into the search box)
• an algorithm or the step-by -step procedure used to find matches to the search term
• the results, a listing of websites with links that relate to the search term

Now we understand the components of the search engine process, we next want to know what we can do to “play nice” with the search engine so that our site is listed high in the results when certain search terms are entered.

What Is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is simply making improvement on and off your website in order to gain more exposure in the search engines results which will ultimately lead to more visitors finding you for the right reasons and then going to your website. Search engines constantly scan the Internet, cataloging and classifying all its content. And then it quickly delivers relevant and authoritative results relating to the search term.

What Is Relevance?

When the search term “social media” is entered, a search engine wants to show a list of results that are relevant to the topic of “social media.” So in a split second, it scans all the relevant pages and loads this data into its algorithm. But how is relevance determined in the first place?

In the split second that the search engine is evaluating pages, it is also evaluating many other factors including how the content is written. Search engines make a very clear distinction between content that is about “social media” versus content that is relevant to other search terms such as “social media tools” or “social media platforms.” While “search engine” is a semantic term, “social media tools” or “social media platforms” are themes that are related to “social media.” Search engines are able to pick up both semantic and thematic connections between words and concepts.

Here’s another example: A search engine picks up webpages that contain content about coaching are extremely relevant to the search term “life coaching,” but also includes websites with content about “business coaching,” “executive coaching,” “coaching skills,” and even “mentoring.” When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing what goes on behind the scenes after we press enter! But relevance is not the only attribute a search engine evaluates. It also rates the site’s authority.

And Why Do I Need To Know About Authority?

Because websites and the information they contain are, for the most part, unregulated, allowing anyone to post anything. Before including your website in its search results, the search engine will make an effort to assess whether your site is trustworthy. Does your site have authority in your topic?

A very common way that search engines determine the authority of a webpage or a domain is by evaluating the links that point to it. You can think of a link as an online vote for your site. For example, when you make a comment on this post, you will leave your link on my website. Essentially you are saying “I trust your content enough that I am willing to reference your blog and possibly even send traffic to your site.” It is a vote of trust and as the search engines scour the web reading, evaluating and storing all the data that they can find on all the pages of the Internet, they pick up on your “votes.”

A word of warning here: This is not a popularity contest with the objective of accumulating as many links as possible. That is a very bad idea! Search engines have safeguards in place to prevent such abuse. They are looking at the quality of the link; so don’t try to play games. That can actually work against you.

A search engine is more likely to trust a link coming from a well-respected or well-related site. A link from a one-month-old blog having no relevance to you or your niche, that links to a many other sites is not given the same value as a highly relevant, well-established site. From a search engine perspective, some links carry more clout than others in casting their vote for your website and determining your site’s authority or ranking.

To Sum It Up

Way to go! You have progressed in your SEO knowledge, and have laid the foundation for mastery. By understanding how a search engine works and the importance of both relevance and authority you can improve these factors on your site. In a future blog, I will cover specific things you can do to capitalize on this understanding. These improvements will ultimately lead to better search engine exposure and more visitors to your website.

Please remember to post your comments and questions. Olga Hermans VA is here to serve you. As you ask questions and make comments, it helps all of our readers to gain additional insight into the many facets of social media.

photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz via photopin

Your First Blog Post In Seven Easy Steps

 

 

Your First Blog Post In Seven Easy Steps

 

 

It’s time to write your first blog and post it to WordPress. And it’s not as difficult as you might imagine. In this post, I’ll walk you through the seven steps. We’re going to cover things to consider before you ever begin writing, how to actually compose your blog, transfer it to WordPress, and then publish! Are you ready? We’ll start with the planning phase.

1. Plan Your Topic

Before you write you must choose a topic. Ask people what topics interest them and then give them your useful, interesting and unique perspective. Provide them with answers to questions, solutions to problems, and practical tips in a clear, concise way. Through consistent delivery of your valuable expertise, your readers will come to trust you.

Topics ideas start broad. Your first job as a writer is to narrow them down. For example, “Twitter” is a broad topic. An angle on the topic of Twitter is “How to use Twitter.” That topic is still pretty broad, so continue being more and more specific until you get to “Applying a theme to your Twitter profile.” The goal is to come up with narrow enough topics that can be adequately addressed in the space of a typical blog post. The more specific your topic, the more valuable the information is to your readers. And as you provide specific information, it establishes you as an authority on your topic. Once you have your topic, make an outline.

2. Outline for Efficient Writing

It is always best to outline before you begin writing. The outline provides you with how your blog post will flow and helps you to stay on topic. Without an outline, you can drift into wasting time writing about points that don’t specifically link back to your topic. Your readers are expecting to be lead down a specific path. And when you wander from that path, they lose interest and the desire to read through to the end.

Be sure to include an introduction and conclusion in your post. Both are short summary statements of what you’re going to write about (introduction) and what you wrote about (conclusion). The conclusion can also include encouragement about the value of acting on the information in the article. Another pre-writing task is researching keywords.

3. Research Keywords

Keywords are the terms people enter into the Google search box to find information online. If you can use the same terms as they will be using to find your topic, your blog post will rank high in the search engine results. Sometimes the popular search terms are different than you would think. So be careful to not make assumptions.

How do you find the terms or keywords that will lead readers to your blog? It takes a bit of keyword research. I use the Google Keyword Tool. In my next blog post I will expand on this topic. When I researched keywords for this post, I checked “how to write a blog post,” and “steps blog post.” Through that, I found that “writing a blog post” is another good keyword for this topic. Now you have a topic, an outline and some keywords. Next you need to spiff up your working title – transform it into a captivating headline.

4. Headlines Are Critical

Your working title may be bland and so you will want to take the added step of turning your title into an attention-grabbing headline.

Here are three tips for writing a powerful headline:

• Don’t Reveal Too Much – Just enough to arouse reader curiosity so they are compelled to read on.
• Include Specific Details – “Tips for A Better Blog” is general. “Seven Tips For A Better Blog” is more specific. “Seven Tips to Immediately
Increase Your Blog’s Readership” is even more specific and compelling.
• Use Numbered Lists – Numbered lists are very effective for drawing readers into your content, by causing them to focus on the
benefits of reading through your blog.

Another pre-writing consideration is the formatting of your post.

5. Format to Invite Reading

The formatting of your blog post can improve the likelihood your post is read. People tend to scan until they find something that catches their interest so make use of formatting to draw them in. Paragraph headings, in bold, and a different color and font from the text, provide a visual summary of the flow of your article and help to pull the reader into the content. Keep paragraphs short so people perceive that your post won’t take too much time to read. Make sure to leave plenty of white space and use bullet points where appropriate. Finally it’s time to actually compose your blog post.

6. Compose In A Word Processing Program

Compose your blog post in a separate word processing program, such as MSWord. Your word processing program will be familiar to you. It offers more formatting flexibility than the WordPress dashboard and your final document is your back-up outside of WordPress.

No document is complete without running a grammar and spell check. Sloppy writing with blatant errors can undermine your credibility as an expert.

Without further ado, it’s time to move your masterpiece into WordPress!

7. Transfer to WordPress, Tag & Schedule

Finally it’s time to post your content into the WordPress editor. This is very simple, because the only thing you need to do in WordPress is click on posts and then click new. Enter your attention-grabbing headline in the box labeled “enter title here” and then cut and paste the content from your word processing program into WordPress.

You’ll also notice in the WordPress dashboard that there is a field to add what are called tags. These are basically keywords that will tell the search engines how to classify your blog post so that readers can find it. Make sure to add at least three or four tags, but generally no more than eight.

Your final step is to schedule the publication of your blog. To do this, choose the “Edit” option next to “Publish immediately” located near the bottom of the screen. Tell WordPress the date and time to publish your blog and press “Publish.” You will love the convenience of pre-setting WordPress to publish your blogs.

Let’s Review

You understand the importance of planning: topic, outlining, keyword research and headlines. You know why it’s important to compose your post in a word processing program. And you see how easy it is to transfer your post to WordPress, then tag and schedule it. All that’s left is to “Just Do It!” I look forward to reading your original engaging content soon!

Coming Up Next

In the coming weeks, we will go deeper into the topics of keywords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Please mention in the comments section if there are specific questions I can cover for you. We are here to serve you!

photo credit: dawvon via photopin

Six Design Considerations To Make Your Blog Social Media-Friendly

 

 

 

Six Design Considerations To Make Your Blog
Social Media-
Friendly

 

 

The decisions you make about the appearance of your blog are important because your blog is a reflection of who you are. If you have a vision of how you want to represent yourself through your blog, you’re much more likely to be successful.

One of the ways to understand what will work for you is to look at other blogs, especially those that are similar to what you want to accomplish. What does the design of those blogs say about the blogger and the blog content?

Although your blog will be a reflection of your unique perspective, there are some basic design considerations that will make it social media friendly. Let’s talk about layout and placement, color themes, branding, the About page, social media integration, and comments.

Layout and Element Placement

Every blog has three different areas in which to place and customize content: headers, sidebars and footers. Each serves a specific purpose.

Header – The most important element of your header is the name of your blog. The name should communicate its focus. You can also include a tagline to further describe your blog’s purpose.

It’s also a good idea to place your name and picture in your blog header. In addition to giving it a more personal touch, your name and picture show that you are legitimate – there is a real person who stands behind the blog.

Navigation tabs, should be located directly under your header to help your visitors find their way around and provide them with quick links to special areas (pages and categories) that you wish to highlight.

Sidebars – The columns, along either side of your main content, are a major focus of your site. Some of the elements that are placed in the sidebar are your opt-in offer, and feeds from your Facebook and Twitter pages. You may also place links to archived blog posts in this location. Most importantly, remember to include a search box for your site within the sidebar.

Footer – This is the area at the bottom of your website. It is valuable space, but best used for information that doesn’t need to be prominently displayed.

With your layout in place, a color theme will further bring your blog to life.

Color Theme

Consider your blog readers’ preferences when you choose your colors. Once you have decided, be consistent within your color palette. A theme is a combination of colors – usually five – that coordinate well together. The combinations are endless. And if you need some help getting started, kuler.adobe provides a catalog of themes and can be searched by color. Aim for unique and fun, but also keep in mind that your blog’s readability, especially as to the size and color of the text in your blog posts, is the most important factor. Choosing your color palette is a part of creating your brand.

The Brand of Y-O-U 

To brand yourself, you need a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with your blog, your vision and mission, values, goals, strategies and strengths. Are you familiar with the saying “No decision, is a decision”? Well, the same applies to branding yourself. If you take no action, the mishmash of “whatever happens” becomes your brand…It becomes you.

In order to become the brand of Y-O-U, you must create a clear and accurate online presence so that you are recognized in any of the other online places that you appear. So your blog purpose, personality, tone and appearance are recognizable whether you are commenting on Facebook, or tweeting on Twitter.
Your brand is your followers’ consistent online experience of Y-O-U and becomes your shortcut to online recognition. Now that you are branded and recognized, what do you want your readers to know about you?

One Place That Truly Is All About Y-O-U

The About page may be the most important page on your site. If properly focused, it can be the workhorse for your site, communicating who you are and what you stand for. Contrary to what you might think, the About Page is not simply rattling off details abut yourself that you hope will attract notice. The personal information that you share with your readers should be strategically chosen and written in a way that communicates who you are and what you have to offer.

Plug and Play: Integrate Social Media into Your Blog 

When you begin to blog on a regular basis, your next step is to connect your blog to your social media platforms. I recommend connecting your blog to the five most used platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google +.

Integration with social media will increase the amount of exposure and attention your blog receives because:

• It will be easier to find through online search engines
• Your visitors can easily share your content
• Your blog will experience improved visibility and search engine ranking because social media websites provide backlinks to it
• Your readers can more easily discuss your content

You can begin with these creative ways to integrate social media into your blog.

Add social media buttons – Social media buttons allow your visitors to easily connect with you on your social media platforms.

Add social sharing widgets – Social sharing widgets make it easy for your readers to share your blog content on their social media platforms with their friends and followers who can in turn share it with others.

Provide easy-to-use Like, Share and Follow options – Your readers are all different. Some will like a post if they enjoyed your content, while others will share the content with others completely bypassing the like button. Some will also follow your blog to stay in touch using their favourite social media platform. Make sure that you are including all of the ways your readers want to connect with you. And don’t forget, sharing is a two-way street!

Remember to Be Social

Keep your comment section turned on in your blog because interaction is what social media is all about.

Comments are essentially how blogs differ from web sites. It is unique to blogs that readers have the opportunity to interact and communicate with the blogger him/herself. Give your visitors the opportunity to leave a comment. And leave comments on others’ comments. Also, remember that those who make comments appreciate having space for outbound linking – leaving links to their own blogs.

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Although there are many parts to making your blog ready for social media, they are very “do-able” when taken step by step. I know because I have done so. Olga Hermans Social Media is here to help you. Please contact us regarding customized services to audit your blog for social media readiness and develop an action plan for you.

photo credit: Rosaura via photopin

How to Set Up Your Blog To Be A Launching And Landing Pad For Social Media

 

 

 

How to Set Up Your Blog To Be
A Launching And Landing Pad For Social Media

 

 

I know first hand how overwhelming, and even annoying, it can be to implement social media. But social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.) is not a trend or a fad. It is a permanent part of the online landscape.

If you use social media correctly and strategically, your business can grow significantly by reaching potential customers and turning those customers into loyal fans. It’s worth it to move beyond the obstacles and watch your business grow. But social media needs a launching and landing pad for all those potential customers. And your blog is that pad!

It’s All About Your Blog

Social media needs a home base and your home base will be your blog. Establishing your blog involves several steps. We’ll break those steps into action items that are within your capabilities. Then with your blog in place, your social media activities have a place to send those potential customers you’ll be connecting with.

I want you to make smart choices from the start about technology, software and blogging, so here are recommendations based on my experience.

These are the basic steps to follow:

Step 1: Choose a Domain Name That Works For You and Not Against You

A domain name serves as your address on a computer network. It’s where your clients and customers go to find you.

Your domain name should mirror your company name. And it should be easy to remember, easy to find, and easy to spell. Avoid spellings or words that are complicated to type. Imagine typing your chosen name as a web site address. For example, “Ellie’s Essentials” may sound nice, but typing www.elliesessentials.com can be confusing because of the multiple occurrences of the letters e, l and s. (In fact, the first time I typed it here, I misspelled it!) Also, no hyphens or apostrophes. Just a clear and catchy phrase.

Once you have come up with a name that works and is available as a domain name, go ahead and purchase it.

Now, you are ready to choose your blogging platform.

Step 2: Choose a Blogging Platform

There are several blogging platforms such as Blogger that are free or inexpensive. I use and recommend WordPress, which is also free. WordPress is easy to use. And I prefer it because it offers some important benefits that are not found in other platforms.

There are two packages, WordPress.com and WordPress.org, both free. I strongly suggest that you use WordPress.org because it gives you complete control and flexibility in the layout of your website and that is what you are looking for.

WordPress also has security and functionality measures in place that make it a good choice for your blogging platform. The WordPress software is updated regularly to address new security issues that may arise. The latest version of WordPress is always available from the main WordPress site. From a functionality standpoint, the system architecture behind WordPress features multiple data centers to host your website, while at the same making it respond faster to requests from around the world.

If you choose to go with wordpress.org, you will need to select a hosting site.

Step 3: Select a Web Hosting Service

The next step is to find a web hosting service that is reliable and offers the benefits and levels of service that you need in order to get the most out of your blog.

For beginners, I recommend www.hostgator.com because they offer high levels of customer support. Normally their hosting fees are $6.95 a month, but they are currently offering a special rate of $3.96 a month.

GoDaddy is also very good. They offer a ‘one click install’ Economy WordPress hosting plan that is really a great deal. Monthly hosting fees can be as little as $3 to $5 (that’s $36 to $60/ year) depending on how long you sign up for. Go to www.godaddy.com for more information.
You are almost ready to go, but you need to choose a theme.

Step 4: Install WordPress and Choose a Theme

Themes are the fun part. The look of your blog is an important part of your online image. It’s who you are and is part of your brand, so to speak.

Your theme should be flexible and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)-friendly, which means that it, works well with Google requirements. Choose a theme that you can easily edit and customize to make your own. Not only do you want to find an easily editable design theme, but you also need to find one that can be edited with a little CSS and HTML “know how.” Making these types of modifications will help you put your personal stamp on your blog and you want to be able to do that easily.

There are many WordPress themes, but there are only a few that I really recommend.
I use the Genesis theme and love it. It is both SEO and user-friendly. My coach, Kim Garst, uses and recommends the Headway theme.

So choose a theme and customize your blog to look spiffy, because it’s time to start writing.

Step 5: Let the Blogging Begin

All of the hoopla about names, platforms and hosting services has been for the purpose of creating a home base for your blog. Getting started with blogging is a very exciting step. Personally, I just jumped in and started writing. That would be my encouragement to you as well. Just do it.

It’s not necessary to be a perfect writer when you blog. We are all drawn to genuine people who share their experiences and opinions in an authentic way. Does that sound like something you can do? If you have a particular viewpoint or something that you have learned in life, blog about it. There are people out there who need to be encouraged or who might want to learn from what you know or have experienced.

The blog posts that you write are called “content.” The real challenge is to consistently create content that is valuable and interesting to your readers. I have learned that two posts per week, one on Monday and another on Thursday, is the preferred schedule for posting new content. Don’t ask me why Monday and Thursday. That’s what the research recommends and that’s what many of my friends do, so I stick with the Monday/Thursday formula.

Finally, it’s time to launch your social media

Step 6: Time to Meet People, Engage Them and Build Relationships

Once you have posted a few blogs, it’s time to engage with your readers. Allow them to make comments on your blog and then be sure to respond to their comments. Next you’re ready to begin linking your blogposts to your Facebook page and tweeting them to Twitter.

I suggest that you write this on a Post It note and keep it near your computer: “All customer contacts should lead back to my blog.” So when you link your blogpost to Facebook and someone opens it, they will be taken to your blog. When you tweet your blogpost to Twitter and someone opens it, they will be taken to your blog.

This is the fun part! Be genuine, make friends, share information, and attract followers in the process. That is social media in action.
How can we help?

This article has provided an overview of the steps you’ll want to follow to get your blog set up as your social media launching and landing pad. Are there any particular steps that are holding you back? Here at OlgaHermans.com, we can customize a service package for you that will move you past that obstacle and get you on the road to social media. We can help! Contact us at va@olgahermans.com a description of your needs and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

photo credit: Mike Licht via photopin

Five Steps To Get Started in Social Media

 

 

 

 

Five Steps To Get Started in Social Media

From my previous blog posts, you know that I believe 100 per cent in social media as a tool to extend the reach of your business or ministry.  Because I’m “all in,” people often ask me: “How do I get started in social media?”  If you are like many people, you have a Facebook account and most likely frequent one other social media platform.  The effectiveness of these social media tools is dependent, first in choosing the right platforms and then in strategically using those platforms to achieve your purpose.  But before we begin I want to be totally candid with you. Are you ready?

The most important thing to remember:

If you expect to succeed through social media, YOU MUST BE COMMITTED!

You shouldn’t start it unless you are willing to invest time and resources into it.

Still in?  Great.  Next, we’ll go through the following five-point checklist.  By the time we’re finished you’ll have all you need to get started in social media.

1.    Choose your platform

Each social media platform has unique advantages for differing uses and audiences.  You can be successful with each one individually, but you also need to determine which ones are best for your specific purpose.   I have found that I have the greatest success by using several platforms thus covering many bases.

Let’s review the platforms:

a. Facebook provides a highly personal way for businesses to connect with their clients.  It’s a great platform for creating your brand – how people think about your business, and marketing your service or product.  Facebook pages can be used to speak with your customers.  And Facebook “Groups,” can create mini-communities for the purpose of an ongoing conversation about what’s important to your groups of customers with common needs or interests.

b. Twitter, on the other hand, focuses on group-oriented and concise communication through its micro-blogging service.  Messages are “tweeted” in bursts of 140 characters or less.  Twitter reaches a much broader audience and with the use of hashtags, specific topics can be targeted. Twitter allows you to connect and have conversations with people from anywhere in the world who share your interests. It’s a great site for finding out what is “trending” in the world conversation, and for finding and discovering niches specific to your business.

c. Pinterest is all about images and creative flair.  It is a great place to showcase your interests, personal and professional, in a single site.  You can create Pinterest boards to collect and display images relating to everything from inspirational quotes, home decor, and photography to marketing. It’s a great place to capture and drive traffic to your website.

d. LinkedIn is more business-like – direct and to the point. Your profile is much like a resume.  Through LinkedIn you can broadcast professional activities to your connections.  Professionals from small business owners and freelancers to CEOs of major Fortune 500 corporations frequent this platform. It is the online version of a networking event but with the built-in safeguards of entry and introductions through known and trusted associates.  LinkedIn is ideal for connecting both with potential employers and clients.

e. Google+ is still too new to define.  Being part of Google, we can say it has great Search Engine Optimization (SEO) possibilities. While the typical user profile has not yet emerged, it is said that more men than women use Google+.  As part of the Google brand, Google+ has great growth potential.  It certainly won’t hurt you to join this emerging network, but for now, Facebook and Twitter have the greatest number of users.

2.    Professionally brand your social media presence

I have had to learn this through trail and error, but I’m finally on my way.  I am convinced of the importance of having a professional graphic designer create a branded presence for all my social media platforms. You’ll be seeing my social media look change in the weeks to come.

3.     Be consistent in everything that you do from platform to platform

To succeed you need to gain your client’s trust.  To gain your clients’ trust you must be consistent, which requires diligence.  Part of your brand becomes being the person who is always there when your clients want to interact.  If you’re not willing to be consistently present and interactive, there are others who are.  And your friends/followers/connections will find them, just as they found you.

4.    Position yourself as an authority

As your “online real estate,” your blog is your greatest asset.  It is the place that people come to visit you, to assess your image, and to see what you have to say. To gain authority through your blog, you must post fresh, high-quality content at least twice a week.

5.    Give more than you receive

Giving is a biblical principle that works for everyone. Make it your goal to help as many people as possible. If you need your first client, help someone free of charge. It’s a great way to begin to master the social media learning curve with all of its subtleties and nuances.  As you are faithful in the small things such as commenting on others’ blog posts and retweeting others’ tweets, they will do the same for you and your reach will spread.

So, what do you think?  Are you ready to get started in social media?  I’d love to hear what platforms you’ve chosen.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting tips and suggestions for implementing individual social media platforms.  Please let me know through your comments how I can serve you through this blog.

Social Media Matters and is HERE To Stay

 


Social Media Matters and is HERE To Stay

 

 

Last weekend I attended the SocialBoom conference in Tampa, Florida and met my coach, Kim Garst, as well as my online business friends.

Kim masterminded an outstanding conference with timely topics and insightful presenters. Social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk, New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best-Selling author, was just one of several excellent speakers. My main purpose in attending this conference was to further equip myself to help you reach and communicate more effectively with your customers through social media. I was not disappointed. There is so much to share, so let’s jump right in!

Here’s the take-away message of the SocialBoom conference:

Social media matters and is here to stay… And we haven’t seen anything yet!

It was awesome to be with other entrepreneurs who are excited about social media as a way to reach, interact with and better serve our customers. The message that came through loud and clear is social media is relevant and is here to stay. We have only begun to see the rise of social media because it brings a personal touch into an impersonal and densely populated business environment. But it wasn’t always this way…Let me explain.

My father owned a bakery in a small village in The Netherlands. He was well aware of the importance of listening to his customers. He did everything to satisfy the customer, because if he didn’t  word would get around our small village. In attention to his customers’ feedback could give his bakery (and him, by extension) a bad name. The customer might even go to another bakery.

Fast forward to an economy that spans the world. Instead of selling to neighbors, companies sell to a “demographic.” Large companies decide what to sell and there is little opportunity for individual customers to influence what is available to them. After having decided on a product line and its features, companies then spend advertising dollars to convince the customers to want what has been made available for sale.

As commerce has become more rooted in the Internet, social media provides a way for the customer to once more have a voice and communicate directly with businesses they buy from. The customer is valued more than ever because the customer has access to information.

Do you read online reviews about a product before you buy it? Of course you do. More and more people do nowadays.
Both the customer and the company benefit from having information about each other. The customer can develop a relationship with the company through communication and feedback. Companies can make changes to better serve their customers because they have direct access to customer feedback…Just like my dad did with his bakery.

At the same time the Internet has become more dominant in commerce, bringing customers and companies into more frequent and direct contact, tremendous advances have been in the capabilities of mobile devices. And mobile devices are fueling the widespread use of social media.

Most people own smartphones and they engage with social media platforms on the go. It’s convenient to be connected 24/7. Go to a boarding area of any airport and you’ll see waiting passengers engaging with the outside world – most likely through their social media platforms.

Social Media is here to stay, whether you like it or not. It is not a fad. It is no longer a trend. Simply put, social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. And it’s here to stay!

Here are some facts to further consider:

1. Social media usage is growing

More people than ever before are using social media sites to connect with friends and family. Facebook is currently the most frequented social networking site, set to soon hit a billion users! Facebook is definitely a key player in the social media mix, having today become a routine part of many people’s online activities.

The next most frequented social media platform is Twitter which provides the ability to connect with anyone anywhere in the world simply by “following” and “tweeting.”

Other social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ each bring their unique twist into the social media marketplace. It remains to be seen which platform will dominate. Facebook is #1 right now, then Twitter and then Pinterest.

Another aspect of social media that causes its usage to spread is that it constantly evolves. Case in point: micro-blogging. Micro-blogging is a newly emerging and very powerful social media platform. It is a combination of blogging and instant messaging that allows for creation of short messages, which are then posted to one’s social media profiles.

But is social media primarily a US phenomenon?

2. Social media is global and trans-cultural

Despite significant differences in government and cultural practices, the use of social media is growing internationally. While most social media platforms originated in the US, the majority of social media users are outside of the US. I know, for instance, that my native country, The Netherlands, has the largest number of users on LinkedIn.

Our behavior on social media rises above cultural and national differences throughout the world. As I mentioned, I am in a business group with people from several countries. On the other hand, the use of social media to inter-connect people locally is also growing.
So, for instance, if you want to meet-up with other graphic designers, or dog-lovers in your zip code, social media platforms are there to help it happen.

But is it mostly young people who use social media?

3. Social media is multi-generational

As with many social phenomena, youth are the first implementers. Teenagers and young adults from 15-24 are referred to as the ‘digital natives’ because they have grown up with the Internet and communicate mostly through social media (versus email and mobile phone). When we look at the future through the eyes of these young people, social media as THE communication platform is a certainty.

But it’s not only young people who are using social media. Social media is multi-generational. The fastest growing group in social media is users 55 and older. And advertisers know they can find an age-diverse audience on social media.

4. Social Media display advertising is on the rise

Advertisers seek out crowds. They want to get the widest and most targeted audience per dollar spent. Consider the degree of hoopla that surrounds ads aired during the annual Super Bowl. Companies spend millions of dollars to put their products in front of such a large audience. Many advertisers are now placing display ads on social media platforms – especially Facebook. The takeaway is that ads strategically placed on social media are effective in reaching designated audiences.

The Bottom Line:

Are you convinced as I am that social media is not only relevant, but is also becoming more and more a part of our society?

I recently read that there are 2.8 billion social media profiles on the Internet. That means that almost half of world’s population is faithful social media users! It also gives an idea of the increasing influence social media has on our personal, public and professional lives.

If social media is here to stay, then it’s essential for you and me to determine which social media platforms are relevant to better finding and serving our targeted online customers.

Let me know what you think. I always appreciate your questions and comments. 

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA and YOU

 

 

Social Media and You


What is Social Media? Well, I’m glad you asked…

“Social media” is a phrase you hear often these days. But what does it mean? It’s a term that can be difficult to accurately define. A good place to start is by contrasting social media with traditional media

Traditional Media versus Social Media

Traditional media is a one-way street: you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but there is limited ability for readers, listeners or viewers to respond with their thoughts, comments and opinions. Social media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives the consumers of information the ability to have a conversation with the media source and with each other.

A well-designed media source, such as a website, not only publishes information, but also provides its visitors and subscribers a way to respond to the information and interact in real time with others who are consuming the information.

I started a blog “The Choice Driven Life” in 2010 and I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy communicating and interacting with my subscribers. During the past two years my blog has been fine-tuned and I continue to seek more and better ways to have conversations with those who follow me. I believe that the best way to elevate the quality of my followers experience is to incorporate social media. I have been making connections on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn for a while now and want to take social media to the next level.

So, I am thrilled to have the opportunity this coming weekend to attend the Social Boom Conference, hosted by Kim Garst, and featuring recognized social media experts Gary Vaynerchuk, and Nathan Latka to name a few. It will also be a great treat for me to meet all my online social media business buddies in person.

The Social Boom Conference will cover all social media platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. There will also be experts presenting how to write, publish and market a book, as well as, many other social media topics. And I have purposely chosen to align myself with these experts in order to bring greater social media expertise to my “The Choice Driven Life” site and to the clients of  this blog: OlgaHermans.com

Why Social Media now?

Social media is here to stay. Whether or not we’re on board, interactive technologies such as Facebook and Twitter (among others) are already revolutionizing the way people work, interact, communicate, and minister to one another.

Churches and ministries increasingly use these technologies to communicate with their members, supporters, and website guests. Not only is it a way for them to connect with their followers, but it is also a way for followers to connect with each other. It’s the new way to communicate with others—across the room and across the world.

You have already used social media if you have done any of the following:
- sent or received a text from your cell phone
- left a comment on a blog
- updated your Facebook status
- posted a comment on Twitter
- participated in an online webinar
- encouraged a friend or family member through Facebook or Twitter
- made an online donation to your church or any other organization

I invite you to connect with me today on these 5 important Social Media Platforms:

Connect with me on Facebook
Facebook is a huge popular social networking site that allows us to make connections, share interests, and join groups. It is a place to communicate with friends and family, share photographs and is also a great tool for your business.

Connect with me on Twitter
Twitter is often called a social network or a micro blogging service, but it’s really just a lightning fast instant messaging machine. At its core, Twitter is about sending and receiving group messages. The messages are limited to 140 characters and they are called tweets.

Connect with me on Pinterest
This hot new social media site is s all about images. Pinterest is a visual bookmarking website that allows you to “pin” images and videos that you find online. These images are saved or shared with others by placing the “pins” on virtual pinboards.

Connect with me on Google+
If you’re familiar with Facebook and how it works, you’ll soon recognize that Google+ Stream is very similar to the Facebook Wall. It is a centralized dashboard where all the people that you are connected to, along with the content that they share, can be shared, liked and commented on.

Connect with me on LinkedIn
LinkedIN is a social network geared toward business. LinkedIn is very popular with those who are seeking work or trying to build their network of contacts in order to reach out to employers and like-minded individuals.

The Final Word

I strongly believe that the choice is not “whether” we implement social media. It’s how well we implement social media. The time has come for all of us to learn more about how to use these emerging platforms to engage with our followers and subscribers and connect them with one another. Come join me. We’ll have fun!