October 2008


RSS Series from Better Business BloggingWe’ve seen how beneficial RSS can be to both publishers and readers alike earlier in this series so, with that in mind, it’s going to be important to encourage as many people as possible to subscribe to your feed so that they receive your latest posts automatically.

To help start this process, here are 14 ways which will give the best chance of encouraging subscribers and help you to promote all of the information that you’re providing at the same time:

1. Promote your feed prominently on your blog

It’s important to make sure that the RSS icon / feed link is displayed in a prominent position at the top of your blog – as with anything, the placement on the page is very important and, in general, the higher up the page you place it, the more attention and clicks it will attract. What some blogs do is have the feed link appearing down in the footer of the page – don’t make that mistake yourselves!

2. Offer an email option to receive RSS

While we can talk about how useful RSS is (and it is!), that will not overcome the fact that a lot of people remain much more comfortable with email and slightly hesitant in the face of technology they’re not totally familiar with. So give them what they want. Offer the option to receive your blog updates automatically via email (ssshh – it’s still using RSS really) – Feedburner, Feedblitz and Aweber all have systems to help you to do this.

3. Remind them after each post

They’ve read your post – they’ve loved what you’ve written – so what better time to remind them that they can get all your articles delivered to them automatically than by adding a link to your feed at the bottom of each post together with a (Attention: marketing term!) call to action. They need never miss a thing you write again.

4. Sign up reminder in your email

Most of us have a “signature” at the bottom of every email we send – usually it contains our contact details and perhaps a short tagline for the business. Well, what better place to get your RSS feed information out to people you’re in contact with. You can do this either as a link or, if you use Feedburner, then you can use their “headline animator” and have the titles of your last 5 posts appear to help encourage people along.

5. Tell people about it offline

In business, we are in contact with potential customers on a constant basis, whether that’s when we give presentations, run seminars, participate in exhibitions etc. Here’s a great opportunity to help them get all your latest news and really get to know what you’re all about by making sure they are clear where to find your feed and what to do with it.

6. Make people aware what RSS is and how useful it can be

As I mentioned above, there are still many people who remain unclear of what RSS is and the benefits that it can offer them. Help them to find out. Put together a page which gives details of what RSS is and how they can use it to keep up with all the information they look at on a daily basis. To make it easy, if you’d like to use the introduction to RSS page I put together then please do – and if you could mention where you found it then that would be even better.

7. Full Feeds or Partial Feeds

Not all feeds are created equal. You can send out the complete post (full feed) or just an excerpt of it (partial feed) in your RSS - the general consensus seems to indicate that you are more likely to keep the subscribers if you offer them a full feed. The downside is that it does make it easier for scrapers to reproduce your content. I still say, “Go for full feed!”.

8. Give them an incentive to subscribe

You can always give an incentive (reward, giveaway, thank you … call it what you want) for people to sign up – something like an ebook focusing on a subject of particular relevance to your readers would probably work well. The easiest way to achieve this is to create a special link within your RSS feed which appears at the bottom of each post and takes subscribers through to a page where the download can be accessed.

9. Use other online marketing methods

Don’t forget to use the other online marketing methods to promote your feed as well – email marketing, online PR, SEO, social networks even Pay Per Click all have their place to encourage new subscribers to follow you, should you decide that they are relevant.

10. Feeds to feed directories

Alongside general web directories and the blog directories, there are also RSS directories where you can submit your feed. Make the most of them and submit your feed to all the relevant ones you can find – making it visible to as many people as possible through them is only going to be of benefit and may encourage further syndication of your content.

11. Network elsewhere? Promote the feed there too

The likelihood is that you network on certain sites and also participate in forums where there are people who would be interested in the information your feed contains. Make sure that if your profile offers the chance to promote your feed that you use it and, perhaps more importantly, include it in your signature on posts or comments you make.

12. Encourage people to recommend your feed

This might be done simply through basic referral marketing by asking current subscribers to pass on details of your feed to colleagues and friends – if you want to help them to do this, then include an email a friend option or encourage social bookmarking if you feel that would be appropriate.

13. Include on key documents you distribute

Mention your feed as part of the information that you send out with ebooks, white papers etc. In my own case, there is a pdf which forms part of each section of my Business Blogging eCourse. This includes a link through to this blog’s RSS feed so that people taking the course can also keep up on new posts at the same time.

14. In your Newsletters

Newsletters and blogs work really well together – very complementary! So make sure that you promote your RSS feed in your own newsletter and readers will be able to follow your blog inbetween the newsletters. You can then return the compliment and promote your newsletter via blog posts, distributed automatically by your feed.

What about you – do you have any ways that you recommend to increase your RSS subscribers that you’d like to share?

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RSS Series:
1. RSS - An Introduction: So, what is RSS all about then?
2. RSS Benefits for businesses, bloggers and publishers
3. Business benefits of RSS to subscribers & readers
4. Ways to increase your RSS subscribers

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Well, according to Comscore’s latest report, YouTube has now overtaken Yahoo and sits in second position (behind Google of course) when it comes to online search. Quite an achievement! But, to be honest, it some respects, it really doesn’t matter where they are in the rankings – the fact is that the 60m+ visitors it attracts on a monthly basis speaks volumes on its own. It also begs the question – how are you using video to benefit your blog and your business?

Where videos prove their worth

Video, together with the increasing use of social media such as blogs, social networking and podcasts in marketing, has been winning new fans because of the extra dimension that it can give to our marketing activities. Using video not only helps to differentiate you from your competitors, it also allows you to convey your message in a different way.

The use of video has had a huge rise in popularity over recent years, with steeply rising user numbers. YouTube, with its estimated 64 million visitors every month leads the way, (more…)

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Today, I am focusing not solely on blogging but also on WordPress which, as regular followers will already be aware, is my blogging software of choice for business blogs. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well simply because it lets you run a fully fledged blog on your own website which is easy of use, has great functionality and is expandable. For me, that’s the best way to make sure that your investment in your blogging and your online presence in general is effectively future proofed.

So where did it start?

Wordpress started life as simply an open source personal publishing tool used by people wanting to run a personal diary on the web. However, since then, both the use of blogs in business and WordPress itself have developed at a frantic pace – for me, a blog is now an essential tool for businesses and WordPress fills the role of blogging tool of choice for individuals, small businesses and more and more large businesses too.

What has also happened, though, is that it has also developed beyond being a simple blogging system and is now also an excellent CMS - Content Management System perfect for creating complete websites which business owners can then develop and update themselves as they require. Along with this it still has great Search Engine attractiveness and of course extends our ability to interact with customers and prospects from just the blog area to all parts of the site. This helps immeasurably to improve customer relations which are going to be more and more key for businesses in today’s environment.

Ideal solution as money gets tight

If this is starting to sound like a sales pitch for WordPress then my apologies, its really not meant to be. My goal is more to show the benefits that you can achieve by using WordPresss to create your online presence rather than a simple static website – all this at a time when costs are having to be shaved wherever possible and yet a strong presence on the internet is still going to be crucial for developing new business.

Having a standard website is often the route that small businesses take as they first create their online presence and often its a decision which is taken on cost. The trouble is that it doesnt take into account ongoing costs cost of their web developer to add new pages or change text, cost for further development, or even the costs to add the interaction that customers are not only demanding but now coming to expect.

Given this is the case, the advantages you can gain are:

  • the ability to add pages as and when you require which develops your web presence and your website content for both customers and search engines alike (which in turn adds to your web promotion opportunities);

  • the chance to interact with your prospects and demonstrate why you are the partner of choice;

  • the ability to modify text on the pages as and when you want to without additional costs or any delay waiting for someone to do so for you;

  • the chance, with appropriate knowledge, to run your own ecommerce section directly from the blog as well as link in with your enewsletter subscribers etc.

  • the opportunity to differentiate your business. When theres less business about to be had the need to stand out and be able to adapt quickly is important;

  • easy and instant dissemination of key information out to sites and subscribers intereested in what you offer.

Conclusion

The point that I wanted to get across is that, while WordPress opens up huge possibilities as a blogging platform, it offers so much more than this as well. For a small business needing a strong and developing online presence, it is the perfect tool – having it set up correctly at the start gives an interactive, SEO rich website which can be developed by the owner at will. In addition, with a seemingly never ending stream of plugins being developed, the expansion possibilities are also hugely impressive.

So whether you are looking at setting up a standalone blog, integrating one into your current website or looking at a full website for your business, take a look at what WordPress can do for you in this respect. And if you have any questions, why not give me a call?

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London Bloggers EventBelated thanks to all involved in the London Bloggers Meetup last week which was an excellent evening, beautifully organised by Andy Bargery of Marketing Blagger with lots of hard work from a “supporting cast” which included Rax Lakhani, the team at Splendid Communications and from Diageo who sponsored the whole event.

Not only did Diageo kindly provide the venue at their London head office and a regular supply of Moscow Mules (Smirnoff Vodka, Ginger Ale and Lime) but also they had taken the time to create a special cocktail tailored for each blogger based on the content on their blog which their mixologist put together. My own turned out to be a Better Business Blogging Moscow Mule – loved the raspberry in it! When it comes to Blogger Relations then Diageo and Splendid certainly know how to impress.

London Bloggers EventBeing my first time at one of these events (which, by the way, happens monthly on the last Tuesday of the month), I wish that I’d had time to talk to more people – there were, as you might imagine, lots of people to talk to. Of those that I chatted to, in addition to Andy and Lax, a big thank you to Julius Solaris who introduced me to his own Events Blog and pointed me in the direction of two must attend groups – Social Media Club in London (Aka Tuttle) and the Open Coffee Club. I also spoke to Mehrdad from London Media Design and Krista at Londonelicious and Zoe at Shaman UK amongst others.

Following up on Twitter after the event I see there were others that I missed at the time so I feel a quick name check is in order:

Here’s hoping that I get to chat to you at the next event and in the meantime your blogs are there to get me up to speed! And anyone else interested in meeting up, the place to keep your eyes on is the London Bloggers Meet up Group where you’ll get all the details of the future monthly events. See you there!

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Google Blog SearchGoogle Blog Search has just had a bit of a facelift, though it’s not so much of a ‘new look’ as a ‘news look’ given that they have essentially taken the format that they use for Google News and applied it here.

In many respects though, that’s a very sensible route to take. Blogs do tend to fulfil a dual role of providing the latest news on topics where timing is critical as well as being a type of interactive website where good information is always in demand no matter when it was posted. In the case of Google Blog Search, their results are skewed massively towards the most recent information posted – even when sorted in terms of relevance rather than date. Probably better this way or we would simply be looking largely at a rehash of Google’s main index and that’s not what we are after here.

So what Google Blog Search is good at is letting you find the latest information appearing in blogs – does very much what is says on the tin, so to speak – and so the redesign is clearly playing to its strengths. It also benefits from Google’s general uncluttered approach which I sometimes think that Technorati might like to be mindful of again. So check it out and don’t forget to use the RSS feature – will save you masses of time!

A quick run through

So what do you get for your beta now and how can you use it. Well, on the homepage, you now get a pre selected set of blog posts in the main results area and, in the lefthand sidebar, you can select one of 11 other pre-ordained categories to look at. Alternatively you can of course head straight for the search box at the top.



Once you’ve searched on a term, you’ve got the chance to do some filtering, essentially on how recent you want the results to be – you can also sort the results either by relevancy or time, though this makes less difference than you might think. From a business perspective, a really important function sits rather inconspicuously at the bottom of the lefthand sidebar where you can quickly set up either a Google Alert or an RSS Feed for the search terms you’ve just used. Can save you loads of time and keep you up to date!


So overall, it’s a change but not a revolutionary one by any means – more a shuffle forward and to the side rather than a giant leap. I do, however, find myself using it more than Technorati now for general searches, although to track links etc I still return to the Big T.

As an aside, at this time of intense political as well as economic debate over in the US, I like the fact that Google chooses to re-iterate at the bottom of the homepage “The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program”. So that’s all okay then …

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