Blogging 101: Lessons Learned from 31 Days of Blogging

Blog for 31 days in a row?

Are you kidding me?

Soon to be I did it! Blogathon Badge

I made it! 31 days of blogging.

I didn’t think I could do it. Scratch that. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. Then I read Jackie Dishner’s guest post on Michelle Rafter’s blog and figured, why  not? Gaining readers can’t be a bad thing. Improving my visibility with Google wouldn’t hurt.

And really, can I sell the idea of consistent blogging if I can’t come up with (and implement) a 31 day plan myself?

So I’ve done it. Today marks Day 31.

In the book, the Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes that to master anything, one must hit the 10,000 hour mark. I’m certainly nowhere close to 10,000 hours but, through consistency, I’d hope I’ve learned something and maybe even gotten better at what I do. I like to think so.

1. Blogging daily made me market myself first.

Though I had other projects awaiting my attention, I knew I had to give my own blog its due time in order to complete my commitment. I’d like to keep that priority and transfer the daily urgency to produce at least one query or LOI each day.

2. Blogging daily made me measure my reach.

If I’m putting in the work, I want results. When I began blogging, I was happy to have a platform for potential clients. Now I’m hoping to get found. But getting found uncovers a long-term strategy that consists of layers of SEO, relevance, key word optimization and consistency. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, which I learned to use during this month, showed me how far I am from my goals and where I can improve my blog.

3. Blogging daily made me know I can.

My dirty little secret is this: I am not a goal setter. I once sold advertising and when the bossman would give us an incentive goal, I would think to myself, “Nah, my base salary is good.” (Obviously, I’m no longer an ad rep.) High bars generally discourage me. Going into the Blogathon, I figured I’d do my best but wouldn’t let it stress me out–that’s code for I’ll give it up if it infringes upon my American Idol consumption. But lo and behold, I found myself locked away in my room, churning out two or three blog entries at a time. I wanted to say I did it.

In the end, I’d say I’m a better blogger with a better sense of my editorial strategies. I’ve also made some excellent connections and opened doors to future guest blog opportunities.

So, thank you, Michelle Rafter. I needed the challenge.


Video blogging: Add uumph to your content marketing strategy

When copywriting isn’t enough to jumpstart your marketing

It might surprise you to know that not all content needs to be written. In fact, a Nielsonwire’s Global Report notes that watching video content on computers is just as common as watching video content on television. And mobile video consumption growth is biting at computer consumption’s heels.

Think about it. After a long day in the office, staring at mountains of text-driven documents, you open your Google Reader and have a choice between visually stimulating videos and photos or more text. Add a bustling subway ride and the choice is clear. Video wins. Entertain me. Don’t make me work for this.

Video-driven content marketing, though lacking the ever-important keywords, gives you an opportunity to tell your story. And though Google swears it doesn’t give ranking preference to video content on say, You Tube, my experience has been that it kinda does.

Types of video content

Your video, like your blog, can cover different territory. Changing it up keeps your content interesting and allows you to be creative, straightforward or business-like.

Emotional video content

Emotional video content focuses on experience. What experience does your product or service promise? This goes beyond peace of mind. Think lifestyle. What might your client be doing instead of worrying about not having your widget? How will their life be better. Show this story using texture rich images. Here is an example of a low-budget but very effective emotionally-rich video by Cyclopedia of Redding:

Interview video content

Interview video content can be one-sided or two. For a one-sided interview, activate your laptop or iPhone video and start talking. Do check your lighting and background image but don’t worry so much about it being professional grade filming. Just talk. Tell why you do what you do. Be human. Here is one of my earliest and most popular video offerings.

Testimonial video content

Similar to interview content, ask your happy clients if they would be willing to let you film them using your product. Intersperse clips of them telling why they made the decision to go with your company–what did they get with you over your competition, how did you solve their problems?

Here is a great example of a testimonial video for a local high school:

The Shasta Experience by Carson Schmeck


Disclaimer: The videographer for The Shasta Experience was my son, Carson, who is available for video projects. Contact him at CS Photography.


Instructional video content

How-to video content can be one of your most valuable tools. If your product isn’t tangible, consider how you might show your steps using PDF screen shots. Or, simply make your video using Prezi, a free presentation tool.

Variety is the spice of life. Give your readers some visual delight. They’ll thank you for it and you might just find your video posts, because they are so engaging, inviting, humorous, relevant or interesting, go viral.

What do you think? How might you use video blogging to enhance your content strategy?

Copywriting Case Study.

Improving content improves your marketing message.

Copywriters don’t invent every word. But copywriters wrestle content into submission as they consider your goals, your audience, the timbre of your message and the type of document they are creating.

Done poorly, content can have the following effects on your readers:

  • Disinterest
  • Confusion
  • Unfavorable assumptions of professionalism
  • Total turn off
  • No action
It’s that last one that really hurts. Because isn’t that what your content strategy is all about? Getting results?
How you communicate your message can mean the difference between having an opportunity to move a prospect to the next step in the sales chain or not.
A good copywriter helps you understand your objective, considers your current content and suggests or rewrites copy to achieve your goals.

A copywriting project unpacked

The best way to show you how the copywriter I know best (me) works is to, well, show you.

For this copywriting project, my client needed help with a funding packet that would, hopefully, attract significant donations of $1 to $12 million.

The packet I received was a cobbled collection of informational content, all important, but written by numerous committee members and laid down with no particular sense of order. They needed help organizing their document, adding clarity and making it more persuasive.

Here is a sample of what I received from them. A few things stood out to me immediately:

  • It doesn’t create a story for me–a reason that I, as a funder, might want to be emotionally or financially connected to the project.
  • The blocked paragraphs are hard to read.
  • There were few, if any, subheadings throughout the document. This audience is comprised of busy people who won’t want to comb through blocks of copy to discover what it is this foundation is asking.
  • Passive voice dominates the paragraphs which adds a slogging, flat rhythm. Passive voice robs sentences of any hope of excitement.

Revised draft adds persuasion and ease of reading.

I didn’t have to write from scratch but it is often more of a challenge to use and transform copy that is already written. It’s akin to deconstructing a poorly spun spider web and reweaving it to resemble something worthy of Charlotte’s Web.

To accomplish this client’s copywriting objectives, I worked with their document and mine, side by side in Scrivener (my favorite writing program), where I mined their details, grouped them, summarized where needed and determined an effective way of ordering their case for $12 million. I also chose stronger verbs, attempted to build their story and offered compelling reasons for this project in an easily digestible format. When they print this document, I will recommend they use schematic drawings as graphic alongside their content to build the visual piece of the story.

Here is what I delivered:


It might all be there, but it might not be good. But that is Okay.

Often clients know what they need to say, they just need help saying it. A good copywriter will never laugh at you for not waxing eloquent. We understand that not everyone dreams in word pictures and plays Words with Friends with relentless vigor.

There is nothing we love more than a good challenge such as this, where we peel away the extraneous and help clients find the gems within. Then, like an artist, we brush at our keyboards with generous doses of deletions and copy and pastes to, ultimately, present you with a shiny new brand that sounds way more bitchin’ than you ever thought possible.

It would be my pleasure to help you say what needs to be said. If you have one of “those projects” hanging around, please contact me using the button on the side of this page or by calling me at 530.638.3580. Let’s talk.



Wordle for SEO and Content Variety

Now that you’ve got your web pages optimized with keyword phrases and engaging content, have some fun adding variety. This Wordle tool is a great way to test whether you are using enough descriptive and SEO rich words on your website. Does your Wordle communicate what you do and the values you most want to communicate?

You might find your Wordle is cool enough to use as a graphic for additional collateral (brochures, business card, email signature).

Check out the Wordle website and they’ll walk you through a few very simple steps to get yours. Once it is created, you have options to change the size, shape and color. Here is Bizziwriter Copywriter’s message in a Wordle:

Let’s see your Wordle! Please share it with me.

Writing, Branding & Content Marketing: Blogs Worth Your Time

There are zillions of bloggers. Not all bloggers are focused and informative. Even when they are, only a handful write well enough to deliver their blogs in a form worth reading.

These blogs passed muster this week for me:iStock_000009604087XSmall

Writing Blind: How Blind People Manage to Write, a guest post by Maribel Steel on Robert Brewer’s My Name is Not Bob blog. Talk about inspiring. This woman talks about how she has tackled an industry that would seem to rely heavily on our sight. Instead of letting that scare her away, she found tools to help. We could all learn a little lesson here.

Why Consumers Dislike Corporate Brands that Get Too Familiar I don’t like it when a clerk calls me “Hon.” I’m not their “hon”– I’m a customer. But when my husband calls me Babe, I’m fine with it. Why? My husband has earned the right. Apparently, consumers feel the same about corporate messages that use too familiar terms. Find out if your company is making this off-putting blunder.

3 Components of a Content Marketing Calendar that Works by Copyblogger. Content marketing seems to have been the buzz topic of the week. If we had a pyramid of content, this one would be hanging out on top.

Persuade with Silky Smooth Copy by Neuromarketing. Tactile rich words make more of an impact on your readers. Instead of merely processing words, they’ll experience texture. Who knew?

How to Build a Reputation as an Expert with Content Marketing by Small Business Branding. Copyblogger posted about content marketing. I posted about content marketing. And so did this blog. Each one has a slightly different angle. All worth browsing.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Hope you abandon your electronics for the weekend and have some fun.

Writers Who Rock: Best of the Blogathon

Someone told me this is Memorial Day weekend. What? So soon?Daily blogging ending soon

This weekend also brings an end to my Blogathon 2012 Best of the Blogathon 2012 roundups. You might be glad. You might be sad.

I hope you, like me, have learned something and subscribed to a few of these outstanding blogs on your Google Reader.

Here are my choices from this week:

Hands Off Your Cell! by the Gadget Girl. This lighthearted entry offers tips on how to game-fully leave those phones at the door (literally). This seemed especially appropriate since I joined the smart phone ranks just this week.

Business Writing Elmore Leonard Style at Write Better Faster. I love practical. And practical is what you get with these wisdom gems from Jodi Torpey’s fortuitous meeting with a best-selling author.

How to Brand Content on a Budget by Sara Lancaster at No. 2 Pencil. Sara offers consistently great advice for small businesses. Branding is such a soon-to-be-overused buzz word/concept right now, don’t you want to join the bandwagon, too?

The Cheesiest Jingle and Cutest Monkey Writers Ever. Because she made me laugh so hard, Sara Lancaster made my list twice this week. But please, swallow your coffee before watching her video or it’ll be coming out of your nose.

5 Newbie Mistakes I’d Avoid if I Started Blogging Today… by Michelle Rafter. Wednesday was our If I started blogging today theme day and, of course, when experts speak, it is wise to listen. Considering Michelle is our Blogathon Mama, though she has never claimed to be the expert, she does have the chops to prove she knows what she is talking about. Worth reading, for sure.

That’s it. Have a great weekend. Let me know what you think of these in the comments below.

Content Marketing. What it is and What it Isn’t

You’ve probably heard the term content marketing thrown around. But what is it exactly?

Old school marketing relied on outbound strategies. We put our messages out there via billboards, newspapers, television ads and direct mail letters and postcards. Our hope was that if we got our message in front of enough people, we could entice a response from some.

Inbound marketing for the birds

Content marketing defined

"This feeder has top-notch content."

New marketing relies on inbound strategies. Think of inbound and content marketing as a hummingbird feeder where sweet smelling nectar draws prospects in. The feeder offers free tastes of your offerings and birds can decide to hang around or move on. You refill your feeder daily or weekly and offer different nectars each time. Your consistency and ability to feed their needs trains the birds to come to your when they are really hungry. They know you’ll deliver.

Your feeder is your content. A content marketing strategy offers relevant and educational…er…content that, if valuable enough, will move readers to want more. They will come to know you as an expert in your field–a helpful one, at that.

But I’m giving free stuff!

Yes you are. Ever hovered around a Costco lady waiting for your bite-sized sample of Dubliner cheese or Orange Chicken? How many times have you then tossed the box of whatever into your cart? Sampling works. Inbound marketing is all about give and you shall receive.

Focused and targeted engagement

Inbound marketing has evolved largely due to social media and automated tools such as Mail Chimp and Evernote. With Mail Chimp, for instance, you can automate newsletters, emails and curate your RSS feed at regular intervals. The program merges your contact list with your content and off it goes, implementing your inbound marketing program behind the scenes.

The beauty of Mail Chimp is that you can customize content to different groups. For instance, your messages will be slightly different for prospects and current customers. With the former, you’ll want to offer more informational content that gently reminds readers of their pains and ways to solve them. With current customers, your focus may be on alerting them to trends and value-added features of your service.

In other words, you can engage readers where they are in the sales process.

Content Marketing vehicle options

Blogging is probably the most important vehicle for offering content. For one thing, it is as immediate as you need it to be. Editorial calendars allow you to plan future blog entries but you can post your entry as soon as you press Publish. This morning’s industry breakthrough can be news on your blog to your followers by this afternoon.

Email letters can be curations (listing all your blog posts from the week or month) or custom built. Use custom emails to announce a new product, but don’t just push the product, write a newsy piece showing why you developed it and who needed it. Add quotes from your CEO or, even better, an early user. Make it a conversation, not a sales pitch.

Newsletters are a holdout from outbound marketing but they still work as long as they aren’t loosely disguised “we’re so awesome” regals. Give readers something they can really use–even without you or your product.

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and the rest of social media outlets allow you immediate opportunities to be human. Offer content by sharing links to relevant videos, articles and interesting news bits. Scatter your own comments in between–projects you are working on or excited about, photos of happy customers using your product or simple questions and polls.

The oh-so-magical secret ingredient

All of this activity is nothing if you’ve got no way to seal the deal. Calls to action are your doorbells. No doorbell, no permanent visitor. Be sure you’ve got a contact form, a phone number, a link to your Facebook page…something and some way a reader could, if inclined, find you.

To learn more about content marketing and how a strategy might help your business, contact the Bizziwriter at 530.638.3580.


If I started blogging today I would…

Experience is the best teacher.

As an adult, I look back on my late adolescence and know how things could have been better or different for me if only I knew then what I know now.

Same goes for anything really. Take blogging, for instance. In my early blogs (this is my third topical blog), I thought I was the cat’s meow just to get my words published on a page.

As a teenaged blogger, I’ve learned there is so much more. I’ve had this knocking awareness that there are things I don’t know but want to avoid for as long as possible because they are challenging things to know. Or they mean I’ll have to take more responsibility. Or I just don’t want to know because I want my blog’s performance to be someone else’s fault.

Participating in the Blogathon 2012 has forced me into college and made me decide whether or not I want to be serious about making my blog do the work intended. That is, educate small businesses in the art of copywriting and, ultimately, attract prospects.

So, among the things I’ve learned, now know or would do differently are these…

1. Make sure Google Analytics and Tools are on board

Lucky for me, I’ve formed a working relationship with Matt Morgan from Optimize Worldwide. He has shown me that though WordPress does much of the SEO work for me, there is still much to be done to get found.  While blogging daily, I’ve been working through pages of detailed homework, setting up Webmaster Tools, correcting crawl errors, submitting sites and learning  what my daily analysis means. I wish I had done this work before May. On the upside, now I know that it takes a combination of masterful content AND SEO expertise to make a content strategy really sing.

2. Be a Twitter pro.

I’ll admit I’ve been a Twitter holdout. Michelle Rafter, gotta love her, has been moving me toward a relationship and with her Blogathon 2012, forced me to stop being a hater. I had to learn how to access our “list”–#blog2012–to stay up on Blogathon happenings. I stepped in with a toe and now find myself wading to my knees. The beauty of Twitter is its ability for quick and simple communication. Through it I connected with my guest post partner, Jennifer Fink, and a few others.

 3. Know how to use Evernote.

Every weekend I curate the best of both the Blogathon and the rest of the blogosphere. These, to me, are the most difficult posts. Seems easy–to grab what others have already written and post. But trying to track the best of what I’ve read when I read 40-50 blogs each day is cumbersome. Another blogger mentioned Evernote and I’m trying it. So far I’ve mostly failed but with each failure I learn. Using tags to keep topics separate has been helpful but my goal is to be better organized within the program. I know there is so much more.

4. Have Mail Chimp RSS to email ready to go.

 My To Do list has included “Learn Mail Chimp” for at least a full quarter of the year. My buddy Matt, again, encouraged me to learn it, both for myself and a mutual client. Wow. What power! On Thursday, my mailing list will receive a curated summary of my week’s posts. And all I had to do was choose a template, add a few basic directions and enter my list. Mail Chimp will do the rest. The power in this tool is that it offers an additional delivery system to busy prospects who, frankly, are often too busy or uninterested to click on my blog link and read my daily post. (It can do the same for you.)

5. Write about high schoolers and parenting issues.

Why are there no parenting magazines catering to this audience? Have we all checked out?

Writing my guest post about raising boys who might be criminally clueless, I was reminded I have much to say about this stage of life. With one star pupil, one above average boy and one struggling learner, I’ve been to the rodeo and can empathize, question and offer wisdom. But would anyone read it?

What about you? What would you blog about? What has been your greatest lesson from blogging?


Oldies but Goodies: Trottin’ out Best Bizziwriter Blogs

It’s always surprising (to me) to browse old files and see what I’ve written. At times I am astounded by my wisdom–I wrote that? Other times, I cringe–I wrote that? You’d think I’d remember every word. But I don’t. So I figure, neither do you. Which brings me to today’s offering of oldies but goodies. I’ve combed the annals to bring you the best of Bizziwriter.

Best blogs

Blue Ribbon Blog Entrees

Branding: What it Isn’t: Discover the truth about branding. You might have it very right or very wrong. Find out here.

In Copywriting, Simplicity Rules: If I renamed this today, it would be 3 Ways to Help Your Prospect Get the Message or When Saying Less is More. Advertising neophytes often make the mistake of stuffing  every product, every service, hours and payment options into a postage stamp sized space.

Why Web Designers Need Writers (and Likewise): If I renamed this today, I would title it, Your website is really cool but then I started reading. In this entry, learn how a writer/designer partnership can be a winning combination.

How 7th grade ruined our writing: Let’s get back to basics. And let’s debunk some of our early writing nightmares. It’ll make for better copywriting.

4 Ways to Have Them at Hello: Does your site read like a wee-wee convention? We are a company who… We would like to help you… We are glad you found us… Get off the wee wagon and find your reader’s pain. Find out how.

And my personal favorite.

Hobo Marketing: 6 Things Panhandlers Get Very Right: So I can’t do anything about the invasion of panhandling in my town. At least I can learn something from these enterprising corner-dwellers.

Do you have a personal favorite from the Bizziwriter archives? What is it?