Top

Business Blogging

Business Blogging Blunder

Have you been blogging professionally for your business or employer? Have you kept up with the goals you set and the pace you expected? It’s tough, huh?

I can admit that I have a hard time as well. It’s natural. Like anything, enthusiasm can wane over time. But don’t let all that effort be wasted.

Take the example of my friend, Pete Aldin. Periodically, he invites guest bloggers to post an article on his site, Great Circle. It’s an excellent way to keep up with your publishing schedule, freshen the content and bring an alternative perspective to the ongoing conversation.

-Roland

Resources for Your Twitter/Jaiku Habit

Okay, I’ve become addicted to Twitter and Jaiku. I like Twitter for the simplicity and the breadth of friends I have. I like Jaiku for the feed aggregation. Plus, I enjoy the convenience of publishing my presence from the desktop or my smart phone.

Here are some helpful resources to fuel your addiction (guess that makes me an enabler) …

  • “Refuse to choose!” is the motto for TwitKu. I learned about this from BerniesWorld. You can use TwitKu to monitor your Twitter and Jaiku accounts via a single Web page. Very convenient since there’s no software to install. They even have a mobile-friendly browser version.
  • There are a variety of add-ons for the Firefox Web Browser worth looking at. I like Twitbin.
  • Twitterrific is a desktop application for Mac OS X users that allows you to monitor and respond to your friends in a very elegant user interface. This is a must have for Mac owners.
  • Tweetr is a desktop application for either Windows or Mac users, similar to Twitterrific.
  • EmailTwitter allows you to send and receive by email on your phone, helping you avoid incurring SMS charges.

Related Links…

I hope you find this useful.

Please let me know what your favorite application is:

Use Twitter, Tumblr and Jaiku To Build Your Personal Brand

I’ve been playing with Twitter, Tumblr and Jaiku.

These are relatively new social media tools. I informally polled my colleagues to gauge their awareness of these applications.

Twitter

Tumblr

Jaiku

No, I’ve never heard of it and never used it.

65%

88%

76%

Yes, I’ve heard of it, but I don’t use it.

29%

12%

18%

Yes, I’ve heard of it and post to my own account.

6%

0%

6%

Sample size (n = 17)

These are three Web applications that are quickly growing in popularity. Essentially, they allow anyone to post thoughts immediately, in real time, and share with a community they associate themselves with. These are supposed to be short posts, typically under 140 characters, to share a thought, observation, learning, news. Some people post what they happen to be doing at the moment. It enables a community to follow a popular person, and create a more intimate relationship/understanding.

Essentially, with one of these accounts you are creating/publishing an RSS feed. The user has a great range of flexibility to publish from a phone, a wireless PDA, an instant messenger application or via a Web page. Likewise, the user can receive posts from others where, when and how he/she wants it.

Tumblr takes Twitter a step further and allows the user to post images and longer test posts on their Tumblog.

Jaiku does the same as Twitter, but the really nice feature is that the user can aggregate all the RSS feeds associated with him/herself into one feed for anyone wanting to follow that user. For example, a user posts on two blogs, publishes a podcast, publishes photos to Flickr, bookmarks favorite videos on YouTube and still posts to Twitter. With Jaiku, others can see every place that user is active online.

From my research/experience, Twitter is the most popular, having been growing in popularity since last year. I find most of the popular personalities in technology, podcasting and social media posting on their Twitter accounts. But they are beginning to migrate to Jaiku, often citing frustrations with Twitter server outages, delays and lost posts.

It can be fun and addicting. There is also a voyeuristic nature to this. It can also be frustrating to see a string of useless posts, such as: “Going to sleep now” or “At home with family.”

So how is this useful from a marketing perspective?

I’ve observed…

  • People who are busy building themselves as subject matter experts and personal brands use this to share insights.
  • Various software companies creating posts to get news out to the tech/podcasting community.

Would it make sense to have a fictional brand character make friends and post daily? It’s hard to say whether that would be successful or stir backlash. But having a brand’s Ask the Expert feature posting a tip a day or some useful nugget of advice might make sense.

Feel free to check out my Jaiku where I’ve aggregated some feeds together.

You should create your own accounts to test drive for yourself:
www.twitter.com
www.tumblr.com
www.jaiku.com

I hope you find this mini-brief useful.

Please share your thoughts.
Thank you.
-Roland

Tips to stop blog comment spam on WordPress blogs

I enjoy publishing my blogs using WordPress. A few short months after switching to WordPress from Blogger, I began to get a steady trickle of comment spam. Just plain garbage not related to any of my articles. These comments contain URLs for porn, prescription medication, online casinos, loan providers, insurance providers and more. Some just have random characters and a URL, while others might have eight rows of URLs.

Still others include fake compliments in broken English, such as “Great site. I like you say. Go pornpalace123.xhfshds.com.”

I get annoyed and frustrated because I would like legitimate reader feedback and I don’t want to turn off real visitors who see these junk links. So my writing hobby also requires constant vigilance.

Also, this nonsense messes with my traffic stats. I want to have reliable numbers, not artificially inflated with spammer visits.

What’s most bizarre is that the guys/gals posting this crap don’t know that comment spam is no longer effective in improving their Web site’s natural search results, because it’s typically not relevant and the no-follow tag tells the major search engines not to index hyperlinks in comments. These spammers are not following current Search Engine Optimization methodology and tactics. I guess they didn’t get the memo at the last Spammer-con.

Tips for WordPress blog publishers:

  • Regularly update the Comment Moderation filter with keywords you want to screen for and temporarily hold in a queue for your review.
  • Regularly update the Comment Blacklist filter — extreme foul language or comment spam subjects like casino, prescription names, sex acts, etc.
  • Temporarily block IP address ranges that repeatedly post spam over time. (Warning! Only advanced users should consider this extreme tactic.)
  • Install a plug-in that challenges the comment poster to either answer a math problem or type in the text displayed in an image. That helps slow down automated spambots.
  • Activate Akismet plug-in to move possible comment spam into a queue for your review.
  • Install and activate Bad Behavior plug-in to block known spammers from accessing your blog.

I regularly update the built-in WordPress Comment Moderation filter (“Options > Discussion”) with various keywords and domain names to help flag comment spam and put it in a review queue.

While I’m doing that, I also update the Comment Blacklist with every dirty word and spelling/misspelling variation I find in comment spam.

At times I’d turn off the comments function for a few days to see if I could make the spammers give up and move on. But after I turned the function on again, the spam returned quickly. Presumably automated spam bots are the cause.

I tried implementing a challenge mechanism that requires the comment poster to type in the letters/numbers displayed in a unique image. But that didn’t have much affect and broke unexpectedly a few times.

I activated the WordPress Akismet plug-in about 3 months ago. Since then, Askimet has caught 977 and 351 spam posts on Chaos365.com and NewMediaSandbox.com, respectively. It automatically puts comments in it’s own queue (“Manage > Akismet Spam”) and I review to confirm there are no legitimate reader posts. What’s nice about this tool is that it draws from a library of data to help flag possible spam posts. Then when I submit what I consider to be spam, it combines with other user-provided data so all users benefit.

Akismet has caught 977 spam for you since you first installed it.
You have no spam currently in the queue. Must be your lucky day. 🙂

Suddenly, the first week of November I got several hundred spam messages in my Akismet queue in less than a weeks time. I decided it was time to find a tool to block spammers before they could even post.

I’ve carefully used the Comment Blacklist to restrict specific IP address ranges that repeatedly abuse my blog. I’ve even updated .htaccess file a few times. But realizing that IP addresses may change, I edit these only temporarily as a short-term solution to try to make spammers/spam bots move on.

Obviously, this is becoming to much work. I needed an automated solution. The plug-in I found is called Bad Behavior. It essentially prevents identified spammers from accessing the blog. Period.

I installed Bad Behavior on a Sunday morning on my two primary blogs. By Friday morning (5 days later), it reported that it had blocked 2,381 access attempts on Chaos365.com and 198 access attempts on NewMediaSandbox.com. I can check (“Options > Bad Behavior”) to see how many attempts are reported for the past 7 days.

In the same period since installing Bad Behavior, each day I also checked the Akismet plug-in to see if anything is in my queue awaiting confirmation and I am happy to report it has been zero each day for both blogs.

There are other popular WordPress plug-in solutions, such as Spam Karma, that work well for many bloggers. But your best strategy to get started should be trial and tweak, and add on additional tactics carefully. Research these solutions I’ve mentioned (Akismet, Bad Behavior, Spam Karma), check out other options available at WordPress.org, and decide what may be right for you. Just don’t activate too many simultaneously because you might create unexpected conflicts that could prevent legitimate visitors from accessing or contributing to your Web site.

In summary, WordPress owners should:

  • Carefully identify keywords not related to your blog content that you want to moderate or block altogether.
  • Install and activate the latest Akismet and Bad Behavior plug-ins.
  • Fine tune as necessary so you keep the good posts in and the garbage out.
  • Keep publishing!

I hope you find this useful.
Good luck!
-Roland

Choose wisely when you register a domain name

Choosing a domain name is always a challenge. It can be frustrating to think of a clever name only to discover it has been registered by someone else.

Here are some general guidelines when selecting a domain name:

  • Get a “.com” name whenever possible. (It’s simply more intuitive than .net, .org, .us, etc.)
  • Choose a name that is meaningful. and easy to remember (i.e. www.businessweek.com, www.executive-coach.com)
  • Include your major keyword(s) that describe your business, industry or subject of expertise. (i.e. www.mr-seo.com, www.searchenginewatch.com, www.executive-coach.com)
  • Avoid using a hyphen, if possible, only because consumers are more likely to forget to include them.

Every domain registrar has a search tool. But here is a third-party tool I really like: ABAKUS Keyword Domain. I find it useful for adding my key terms and letting it generate available combinations for me.

If you feel strongly about buying an existing domain name, you need to make sure that the domain name you want doesn’t have any negative bagage attached to it:

  • Has it been used for spamming or porn or bad search engine optimization tactics?
  • Has it been used to clutter natural search results to lure people to click on ads?
  • Has the domain been blocked by ISPs or added to email black lists?

If you are confident that the domain name has a good history, then it is worth investing in. SEO folks love to buy old domain names with good history because this is one factor (of many) to help with ranking high in search results.

Good luck!

Tips how to write a professional blog

In my last article, I wrote about Reasons why you should write a professional blog.

Before setting out to write a professional blog, there are many things you should plan first. Here are some blog writing tips to consider.

Decide why you want to write a professional blog?

Is it for personal satisfaction? To share your professional experience? To demonstrate that you are a subject matter expert?

Pick the subject you want to blog about.

Personal experiences? Observations? Criticizms of your industry? Would you read it?

The best advice always seems to be to write about what you know or what you are most passionate about.

Define the audience you are writing for.

A specific niche? An industry? Your clients? Your colleagues?

Decide what you are willing to invest.

How much time a week will you commit? Do you want to own a domain name? Do you want to host yourself?

Commit to publishing your blog for at least 12 weeks. If you get that far, it should become a matter of routine for you and you’ll know whether you’ll stick it out for longer.

Owning your own domain name and hosting yourself provide more control, but come at a nominal annual cost.

Evaluate publishing tools.

There are plenty of free services to get you started: WordPress, Blogger, Live Journal. Compare features and decide what is appropriate for you.

Define a publishing plan.

Publishing quality content, at minimum once or twice a week, is important to keep your content fresh. That will encourage readers to treat you seriously and search engines to come back regularly.

Create your personal publishing rules.

To appear professional you need to act professional. I’ve decided that my two Web sites each have a specific subject matter and focus. Therefore, every time I write, I try to make sure the article topic fits appropriately. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t get published.

Get to the point. I try to write with a problem/solution mindset. If I’m writing about someone else’s article, I try to add solutions in addition to what the original author provided. That way I’m truly providing value.

Give credit where credit is due. The Internet is supposed to be a community to share and spark ideas. So cite your sources. Link to the originating article that gave you an idea. Give credit to where ever you got your artwork or tools from.

Keep it clean. While it may be easy to use profanity, step up to the challenge of getting your point across without profanity. That will make you appear more professional.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Use the pluggins that your publishing tools comes with. There are an amazing variety of free and open source tools available for you to add functionality and manage your blog. Check out Google Analytics for rhobust site statistics. Learn how to generate a feed and submit to Feedburner, Google Site Maps and Yahoo Site Explorer.

Stay objective. Avoid politics.

Keep politics out of the conversation. There’s no reason to polarize your audience. It’s a cheezy way to stir up controversy.

Don’t be cheezy.

The blog/Web site is an extension of you. Think of it as your personal brand. Don’t include amateur things like site counters, animated email icons, or bad usability and design — all of which discredit you as a subject matter expert. There are plenty of elegant and functional blog themes to choose from and modify with care.

Define how you want to monetize the Web site.

I’d suggest to write to define your credibility as a subject matter expert. Don’t worry about adding AdSense or other advertising. Instead, focus on publishing quality content and developing a subscriber base. Then you can evaluate different methods to run sponsor advertising in the future.

So please let me know your thoughts. It’s been quite a liberating experience. You should consider doing the same. Good luck!
-Roland

Reasons why you should write a professional blog

Working at an agency, my clients and colleagues expect me to know how to do just about everything. I believe that in order to be able to talk about something with authority, I have to have practical, hands-on experience in addition to theoretical and anecdotal knowledge.

As a personal experiment for myself, I started to write a professional blog 5 months ago. My reason was to help me understand the ease/complexity and psychology of blogging.

I define a professional blog as a Web site that:
– has focus on a specific area of expertise,
– publishes quality content,
– is relevant and focused,
– is updated frequently (preferably once a week),
– and provides value to the reader.

Along the way, I’ve gained a better appreciation for planning and adapting on the fly. It has forced me to become a bit more disciplined with my work and give it frequent attention.

Perhaps best of all, having direct control over my Web sites has provided me with a test bed for experimenting with many tactics and technologies. (Our clients are rarely willing to experiment.) As a result, I’ve gained a better, hands-on understanding of Search Engine Optimization tactics and analytical tools. I’ve also had to decide how to fight content spammers to keep my posts open for reader input without becoming cluttered with links to obnoxious Web sites.

It’s been quite a liberating experience. I’ve learned quite a lot in a short time. You should consider doing the same. So please let me know your thoughts.

My next article will be “Tips how to write a professional blog.” I hope you’ll come back and check it out.

-Roland

Bottom