New jam-packed blogging eBook available

As you’ve probably noticed, there have been quite a few changes here at {grow}. I hope you like the new design and features.

Over the next few weeks I’ll continue to add new content and services that I think you’ll really like but I’m kicking things off with a new FREE eBook on corporate blogging.

The first edition of this book was made available in May and it received rave reviews.  Michele Linn of the Content Marketing Institute and Jamie Wallace of Suddenly Marketing recently described this as one of the best eBooks on the web.  The new edition has twice as much content and is jammed with practical tips to get the most from your company blog.

Many thanks to Billy Mitchell and the talented crew at MLT Creative for the exciting design in this publication.

The new blog design comes from Patrick Molter and Clint Barnes of Red Goat Creative.  The first time I saw the “paint splat concept” I wasn’t wild about it, but it grew on me.  I think it represents the content on {grow} pretty well — colorful, edgy and sometimes a little wild. And, it’s obviously a work in progress!  That’s why we’re all here I guess — to push each other and GROW.  I also think it is a fitting symbol that this is a vibrant community and not just about me. There are lots of colorful splashes (your comments) that make this blog and community so cool.

So paint splash it is.

I also hope you like the Gini Dietrich Memorial Comment Section.  Gini has been pushing me to get a state-of the art comment area for months, and specifically to use Livefyre.  This technology is still in beta and frankly took longer than needed to implement but I hope it will be a reliable vessel for the most important part of the blog — your comments.

We’re still working out a few bugs, but I hope you enjoy the new and improved {grow}.  I would value your comments and ideas for further improvement.

Thanks for creating this community with me!

How to become a Google whore

This week I wrote about my struggles to balance the time needed for SEO with the organic attention I might get through the social web. Through the encouragement of others, I’ve decided I need to get on board with SEO and aggressively populate my posts with key words to drive hoards of people to my blog. This is my first attempt — let me know what you think <send me cash >.

One of the things I learned < brilliance personified > is that keywords should be near the top of your blog < son of zeus >.  This tempts the search engines < bing makes me tingly > to pump up your jams.

If blogs are going to be mere vessels for sales pitches < “mark schaefer + george clooney + einstein” >.   I can play that game as well as anybody <mark schaefer thought of the Old Spice campaign>.

I’ve tried to stay above the fray < I’m too sexy for my blog, too sexy for my blog > but you know, I’ve got a family to feed too < now accepting credit cards > so I’m all in now.  Prepare for battle Mr. Google <man I wish I had a real light saber that would be so cool > .

However dear reader < both of you > you’ll hardly notice a difference <megan fox please stop ignoring me >.  I’m committed to doing this in a classy and respectful manner <lady gaga steals all my best ideas > that puts the focus on excellence <a nice change> and integrity <I am simply a google whore>.

This blog means something to me <and usually only me > and I must find a way to be tasteful < mark schaefer +whipped cream + Bay Watch > intelligent and uplifting < like those new Victoria Secret bras. Damn how many things can you do to underwear?  I mean really. They are the Taco Bell of lingerie.>

So thanks for the encouragement < mom > and please keep the feedback coming < no send me money instead I really mean it >.

As always, thanks for caring and sharing < your ATM PIN numbers >.

How do you Survive the SEO Cyclone?

I don’t know about you, but just thinking about Search Engine Optimization makes me dizzy. Occasionally, nauseous.

I have admittedly done a lousy job promoting this blog with SEO (or anything else!) primarily because I’m the only cowboy on this round-up and whatever time I have to spend on blogging is devoted to content and lovin’ on my community. There is no time for keyword sleuthing, begging for back links, or investigating indexes.

But I realize I need to strike at least SOME balance and asked my brilliant friend Eric Pratum (<= follow!) to set out a few basic tactics.  Here are a few of Eric’s suggestions based on industry best practices:

1) Using the Google Keyword Tool, analyze your post for relevant keywords.

When I used this method on a recent post, one of the top three keywords was “radio advertising.”

And at this point we’re all saying, “Huh?  Radio advertising?”  Me?  So how much am I supposed to trust these applications?  What if I spend my precious time plugging keywords that ultimately have no return for the business?

2) Using your new-found keywords, drive search to your site by aiming for a keyword density in your posts of about 7%.

Based on the average length of a sentence, this would mean you would have to use approximately one keyword per sentence.  Are there people out there really writing this way? How many times can you use “radio advertising” in a sentence and still get people to read your blog post?

3) Get relevant websites to link to your pages using the keywords as the anchor text.

To me, this seems like an impossible and depressing task.  OK, so I call up my favorite blogger Jay Baer and beg him to link to my blog. And oh yeah, Jay, could you somehow position your post around me and my expertise in “radio advertising?” And how many times am I supposed to do that?  With what measurable result?

I get a lot of “organic” links because people are kind enough to blog about my blog. But the idea of trying to negotiate with another blogger or website to link to me using my precise keywords (radio advertising!) seems like a huge waste of time.  I just don’t see myself doing this. I frequently receive emails requesting link trades and it all seems a bit illicit and creepy.

And just when I think I am starting to figure this out, some experts think SEO is ineffective for individual bloggers anyway and that we should rely almost entirely on social media to build traffic. What’s a time-starved blogging boy to do?

To make the heresy complete, I’m not even sure I WANT to “build traffic.”  Have you looked at the stats for visitors who come to your site from Google? How much time do they spend on your site?  Usually “0 seconds.” How often do they return?  “0 times.”

Now I realize I have opened myself up for a shellacking because I’ve taken an overly-simple view of SEO, primarily because I am an overly-simple person.  I am convinced that SEO is a powerhouse strategy for many products and companies.  But if you are an entrepreneur or small business blogger and can’t afford to have an SEO team backing you up, what is a reasonable, time-effective, measurable approach that will result in new blog residents, not tourists?

Here’s the good news — Eric is thinking about this and working on a guest post to help us all cut through the clutter. But in the mean time, I think I will just focus on interesting content and count on y’all to spread the word. It has worked so far.

How are you dealing with SEO for your blog?   Are you are as frustrated by time-consuming SEO alchemy as I am or have you cracked the code?

Why Chris Brogan is invincible

Chris Brogan

I am fascinated with uber-blogger Chris Brogan as a cultural icon of the social media revolution.  Whether it’s trying new business models or pioneering sponsored posts, he is our canary in the coal mine, exploring the leading edges of our field.

But  a post this week established a new milestone even for Chris. For your edification and entertainment, I am re-printing the entire post. Under a hand-drawn picture of a stick figure at a podium, he wrote:

“Okay, don’t do this. If you’re going to speak to people, speak TO (or even better WITH) them. Don’t look at your slides, read your slides, and tell me what’s on your slides. I know how to read. Stop it. Okay?”

… That’s it — 41 words.

What is remarkable about this?  Nothing until you see this: 

For you math majors out there, that is 6.7 tweets per word.  Further, Chris received nearly 50 comments, so there were nine more comments than total words in the post.  Ladies and gentlemen, that has to be a new world record.

The comments were uniformly positive and even included words like “brilliant!!!!” and “awesome.”

I’m going to go WAY out on a limb here.  This is not a brilliant post.  In fact, this is pretty standard presentation advice that has been delivered since the days of flip charts and transparencies. If somebody told you this in a company training program you might roll your eyes and yawn.   I’ll even hypothesize that Chris would admit this does not teeter into his category of “brilliant” posts.

So why the big buzz over 41 not-awesome words?  Taken only at face value, this might indicate the social web is not a meritocracy.  But in this world, what really is?  So there is something else going on here. If we examine this post as a case study, what are the lessons we can learn as mere human bloggers?

Be the brand

Chris is more than a blogger, he is a brand … a big brand in social media terms.  This is an important lesson for two reasons.

1) Yes, you have a brand too. Everything you say — and don’t say — on the social web contributes to your cumulative image, your brand promise. Chris has very carefully curated a powerful image of authentic helpfulness that has endeared him to many loyal fans no matter what he writes.

2) On the blogosphere, people are bigger than the brands they have created. If the CEO of Coke left, Coke would survive. But if Chris turned his blog over to somebody else, the brand would shrivel up.  Here’s the unique opportunity: As a blogger, you ARE the brand.

Blogger as celebrity

Chris gets beaten up a lot by critics but among his loyal fans he has earned a cloak of invincibility associated with celebrity.  In this rarefied status, even the mundane becomes special and true fans are fascinated by his every word. If Chris wrote a post titled “I’m feeling a little gassy today” it would also be tweeted 300 times. (Chris — Please do this. I will PAY you to do this).

The lesson for us?  Unless you are a celebrity, and I’m pretty sure you’re not, you do not have a cloak of invincibility. Your content does matter and it better be compelling and entertaining to earn your reader engagement. Reader loyalty is not an entitlement, it’s a hard-earned honor.

Showing up, not showing off

One of the most important lessons you can learn from Chris’s success is that the guy is committed. Blogging is not an after-thought. It is not something delegated to guest bloggers. You show up and you work it — in his case, for years. He did not get to be our social media teddy bear by blogging once a month. Chris averages 7.5 posts a freaking week.

Chris shows up in other ways, too. Look down Ad Age list of top marketing blogs and he is one of the few who engages in a meaningful way across the social channels. Despite his enormous following, he still pays attention and is humble enough to learn from his tribe.

Simple can be good enough

This post demonstrates that an effective blog post does not have to be a PhD thesis. It doesn’t have to be edited to death.  Write about what’s happening now, what’s in your heart and mind in the moment.  Just do it.

I don’t think Chris intentionally writes for a target demographic.  He writes for himself and obviously has some fun doing it.  He loves to blog and it shows. By writing about what is interesting to him, he didn’t find his audience, his audience found him.

He can be a polarizing figure and I have been a Chris Brogan critic too, but I think we also have to give the guy credit. He has found his formula, he has stuck to it with tenacity and passion and he can now claim success in 50 words or less.

What lessons do you draw from this strange little blog post?

P.S. This post was 804 words long. If I don’t get 804 comments, there is going to be trouble around here. ;-)

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