Make Your Blog Stand Out from the Crowd

By Mickie Kennedy

There are a ton of resources and websites all devoted to the same thing: helping bloggers make their content stand out from the crowd (you’re on one right now — one of the best, as a matter of fact). The end result, however, will all depend on how much work you are willing to put into building a community and making them aware of what you are doing.

Jenny Lawson, the mind behind The Bloggess, is a perfect example of a blogger who promotes her content, her books, and herself without seeming to promote her content, her books, or herself.

This is because she has built a loyal community that follows her posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, read her books, and eagerly await her next Pin. She is genuine and kind to all of her fans no matter how long she has been signing books or answering yet another fan email.

She also readily admits her failings, like her sometimes-losing battles with depression, which only encourages her fans to root for her all the more.

This is something all bloggers need to do in order to achieve maximum success for their work. They need to reach out and start building a community of people interested in work similar to what they are doing. As part of this, bloggers should:

1. Start a webstore

If you haven’t already started expanding your site, consider yet another lesson from Jenny Lawson: add a shop. Have any catchphrases? A cool logo? Put it on a shirt or a mug and capitalize. Not only will this throw some spare change your way, but when a fan goes out of their way to buy something from you, you know you’ve got a fan for life.

2. Social Media

Join groups on Facebook, start tweeting, or build a Google+ network in order to start talking with fellow writers and potential readers. If you blog in a niche, you may also find that certain fan forums or other, lesser-known social media platforms work best for you.

3. Email Marketing

Encourage fans to opt-in to your email marketing campaigns. Give them a reason to opt-in, such as exclusive content, giveaways, or discounts to your webstore.

4. Guest Blog

Once you are up and running, look into guest blog opportunities and then share a good story with another group of readers.

5. Speak

Never pass up an opportunity to speak at conferences, to local groups, or at workshops.

Remember that with all of these publicity options, you want to treat your readers, fans, and followers like you would a friend. Would you spam a friend? Not likely. Keep the message genuine to inspire more people to want to follow you.

Any other tips to help bloggers? Let us know in the comments!

Author’s Bio: Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases, offers free ebooks and white papers for anyone looking to take their PR game to a new level.

5 hot call to action tips for business bloggers



You’re blogging for a reason, right?

If your blog is part of your business strategy, it’s time to do a check-up on your call to action (CTA).

A call to action is something that is intended to provoke a response in your reader.

It could be a bright red box that says “click here,” it could be a pretty picture of the cover of your e-book saying, “download now,” or it could be “set an appointment today.” Those are overt calls to action.

call to action


It could be more subtle, like a series of recommended blog posts. Those are calling the reader to read more, to explore your useful content.

Without any call to action, your blog posts are just spaghetti tossed against the wall.

Read these five tips that will help you clarify and enhance your calls to action right now (see what I did there?):

  1. First, consider what action you want to provoke. It should be obvious to your audience what they’re supposed to do when they land on your blog. Do you sell a product? Are you a consultant? Are you a thought leader/speaker? Your purpose must be clear in your own mind before you can communicate it to your visitors.

    And if you don’t know why you’re blogging, that might be ok (you’re just a writer who needs to write), just don’t expect to be getting revenue from your blog.

  2. Color me beautiful. Color theory is its own course of study, but there are some basic tenets you can apply. The folks at crazyegg.com produced a great infographic that summarizes the psychology of different color choices. Your CTA should be differentiated and appealing.
  3. Location, location, location. The human eye tends to read a web page in a zig-zag pattern, starting at the top left corner. We know that images and videos attract the eye, too. Consider putting your CTA in an attractive image that sits above the “fold”.
  4. Copywriting 101. Be brief.
  5. Track success and change it up if necessary. Know in advance what success looks like. Is it number of e-books downloaded? Is it number of paid consulting gigs? Is it number of unique visitors to your site? Think about using a unique link identifier on your CTA so that you can see it in your Google Analytics as a goal completion.

If I visited your blog today, would I know what you want me to do?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the Hoop.la community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee


Head Smacking Realities: Why Blogging Isn’t Doing a Thing for Your Business

By Tracy Vides

“Have a blog and you’ll start getting inbound leads.”

“Blogging helps you gain traction and develop a community.”

“Companies that have blogs make more sales than those that don’t have one.”

If you did hear one (or all) of those statements but are often wondering why nothing seems to be happening, you aren’t alone. There are millions of blogs that do nothing but exist.

Corporate or business blogging is even more difficult as it’s like asking businesses to set aside resources to make it happen (compared to individual bloggers who are intrinsically motivated). Nothing happens without a reason and there are plenty of reasons why your blogging efforts aren’t doing anything to meet your goals yet. Here are some of them:

No plans, no gains

Remember those days when everyone used to carry around business cards? You’d get yourself a set of cards too. Then, everyone and their neighbor got themselves a website and a bunch of social accounts and followed suit. Blogging, more or less, seems to have been bitten by the same bug. You blog because blogging apparently is the “baby steps” of inbound marketing.

Starting to do something is good, and I won’t bite you for that. Not having a plan in the sense of not knowing why you blog for your business in the first place is a sore wound.

Do you blog purely to drive sales? Or do you blog to become a thought leader? Do you blog to proliferate your brand name or do you engage in all-out blogging efforts? (Hope you end up getting inspired by How Jon Morrow Writes, as narrated by Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger.)

Figure out why you think you have to blog in the first place. What’s all this trouble for? Write it down and think about it over a cup of coffee.

You pay attention to worthless stuff

Driven by the incredible amount of information available on digital marketing (most of it is farce, unjustifiable, or maybe just hype), your mind starts to nibble at things that don’t matter at all: all the drive for “SEO domination” lets you believe that keywords should guide your content creation.

The truth is that keywords won’t matter because the bots don’t buy; people do. All that time spent on social media takes your time away from creating awesome posts. Your blogs are way too short or perhaps way too long. Instead of thinking about your readers, you worry about Meta information, alt text, and backlinks.

There are many of those little gears that have to click in place to make your inbound marketing strategy work, starting with your blog.

Are you doing it right?

It’s not about words, links, or technobabble; it’s about people.

Bloggers often forget that they are writing for people. Companies are even quicker when it comes to forgetting that blogging is an effort to promote brands, establish credibility, engage with potential and current customers.

David Silverman, author of Typo, and professor of business writing at Harvard, gives this test to his students:

Can you rewrite this bunch of babble into a word or two?

“It is the opinion of the group assembled for the purpose of determining a probability of the likelihood of the meteorological-related results and outcome for the period encompassing the next working day that the odds of precipitation in the near-term are positive and reasonably expected.”

Businesses just worry about tools used, platforms that blogs should be based on, and the kind of voice, words, or personality that they expect blog posts to express. Of course, all this counts; individuality does matter, and these are what make blogs different from academic articles. Yet, you shouldn’t forget that you are writing for people. Relationships still matter. You’ll need to get off the screen and meet actual people. You should be able to sell at a flea market before you can sell online.

Self-centered content strategy

First, your content strategy is self-centered. All that you blog about is how great that vacation has been, how life changing your moving to paradise was, how Venture Capitalists are now trying to break down the doors just so that they can invest, and how you grew your blog from 0 to 67,987 subscribers in 3 months.

What are some of the best examples of narcissistic and self-centered blogs, you ask? Go pick any of those nomadic vagabonds who try to sell you location independence and travel while working. It’s not to say that there’s no value from such blogs. But more often than not, there’s the “me syndrome” creeping in with “Where I Was Last Week” and “Exotic Destinations I’ve Been To.”

Stand back for a moment. No one cares about you. Your customers – you know, the ones reading your blog – wouldn’t care if you just signed up a million dollar deal, bought another company, merged with a bigger one, or if you now float on $4 billion of excess cash balance in the bank.

All that your customers care about is what you can do for them. How many of your blog posts talk about your customers really? Can you actually count the number of blog posts that share something that doesn’t have anything to do with you, your business, the brand, the products or services?

Crappy content

Your content qualifies as crappy if there’s no value given to your readers by the end of the post. There’s nothing it for them to ruminate, chew dry bread on, or ponder about. Your blog posts have nothing new to say.

I will repeat that. Your content is dry, sounds like a term paper, and makes readers scroll faster than ever. They won’t read most of it – they’ll just scroll through and escape. And you’ll never see them again!

Stop wasting time with blogs that don’t make an impact. Stop hiding behind words. Show up with some guts and talk to your customers like they were your best friends. Be afraid to own up, accept your mistakes, speak your heart, and get bolder.

Great companies go to the extent of admitting their faux pas. Online marketing firm SEER Interactive admitted screwing up in their link building methods. AirBnB’s Brian Chesky wrote up a self-deprecating post to own up the apparent horror that a customer had to face.

Doing this takes guts. Can you do it too?

Blogging needs you to post awesomeness regularly. It requires you to show up and be real. It demands that you use the fact that you are human to get other humans to buy from you, believe you, or accept your point of view. It requires you to multi-task. Blogging requires your belief to be brought to fruition by your determination and will.

As long as you produce blog posts because you should, your customers or readers will make it a point to leave because they can.

Author’s Bio: Tracy Vides is a content creator and marketer, who loves to blog about subjects as diverse as fashion, technology, and finance. She’s always raring to have a discussion on startups and entrepreneurship. Say “Hi” to her on Twitter @TracyVides. You can also find her on G+ at gplus.to/TracyVides.

Three Blogging Tricks That Will Save Your Sanity

Bloggers are always “on deadline.”

No matter what the posting schedule is like (daily, weekly, monthly), there is always another deadline looming. It can feel like one of those hamster wheels where you can’t get off.

With several years of blogging under my belt, I have accumulated some tricks that keep me from losing my mind.

Keep These Blogging Tricks Up Your Sleeve

Rainy Day Posts

The next time you’re feeling especially productive and the words are flowing easily, sock away an extra post that can be “evergreen.” Even better if you have 2-3 extras. Put them in a special folder or Evernote notebook. Break glass in case of emergency.

rainy day blog posts

Writing “Stubs”

Many bloggers keep a running list of topic ideas, which is very useful. However, I like to take it a step further and flesh out the ideas as I have time. Whenever you have a spare moment, add to your “stubs,” without paying too much attention to grammar, structure, etc. Just jot down the bones of the post in a free-flowing way.

If you get bored with one of the “stubs,” move on to another one that’s more inspiring in that moment. No pressure to complete it, add URLs, etc., just get the ideas out of your brain and into the “stub” bucket.

Over time, you’ll have a fertile ground for picking up “stub” posts and completing them when you’re not feeling able to punch out an entire post from scratch. No more blank page staring at you.

Set up a Series

Establishing a series on your blog is one of the best ways to “have an ace in the hole.” If you establish a certain day of the week that is focused on a specific subject, then you aren’t grappling with that aspect of writing.

This also helps your guest bloggers. It’s much easier to find someone to write on a specific topic than to just say “write anything.”

The best part of running a series is that your audience will return to see the next post in the series too. It’s a great way to build audience attention over time, once they become invested in the subject.

What do you do to keep from losing your blogging mind?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee


Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

It’s All “About Us”

By Myrna Vaca

The “About Us” page on your website provides a great way to give your potential customers the lowdown on why they should be doing business with you and to remind your current customers why they are purchasing your products and services. Unfortunately, some companies pass up this golden opportunity to tell the world how great they are.

Other than your home page, “About Us” is probably the most widely read section of your website. Visitors go there to find out more about your company and to decide if they want to continue searching your website for additional information. Don’t disappoint them.

Tell Your Tale

Your initial goal in creating your “About Us” page should be to grab the visitors’ attention and encourage them to stay a while. The story you tell should be interesting and well-written; if you’re not a writer, consider hiring one to turn your thoughts into a literary masterpiece – or at least into an engaging narrative.

Here are some ways to give people some insight into who you are and why they should trust you enough to do business with you. This is especially important for online stores because your customers don’t see you face-to-face.

  • Include a short bio about your background, education, experience and credentials, along with a photograph of yourself. If you have employees, include information and photos to introduce them to your potential customers as well.
  • Offer information concerning the products and services you provide.
  • Put together a statement that tells your potential customers what sets you apart from your competition.
  • Explain how and why you started the business.
  • If there’s an interesting story about the products you sell, tell it. And don’t be afraid or too humble to tell people about what motivates you. Tell them why you can’t wait to wake up every morning and get to work.
  • Do you have a vision for your business? If you do, tell your potential customers about your dreams and where you’d like the company to be in a decade or so.

Spreading the Word

There should be other important information on your “About Us” page besides your personal story and the story of your business. Here are some other important details for you to include.

  • Testimonials – These will help you establish credibility. Your satisfied customers are your best advertising.
  • Awards – If you’ve been cited by a professional or community organization, tell people about it.
  • Media coverage – If the local newspaper or an online magazine has published a story about you or your business, provide a link on your “About Us” page.
  • Press releases – If you aren’t a writer, hire one to put together press releases about your business. You can send them to print and online publications, and you should have them available on your site as well.
  • Newsletter – If you don’t have a newsletter that you send to customers and potential customers on a regular basis, maybe you should consider establishing one. The “About Us” page is a good place for a link that allows visitors to sign up for the newsletter.
  • Blogs – If you or your employees are blogging about your products or services, it’s a good idea to provide a link from your “About Us” page.
  • Social media – Make it easy for people to interact with you with links to your Facebook page and other social media platforms.
  • Picture this – Photos are great, but only if they are of real people and places.

Consider Your Customers

Now that you’ve put together all the important information about you and your business, you should dedicate some of the space on the “About Us” page to your customers and those that you hope will someday be your customers.

  • Facts are important – Boast about it if you know that your products are shipped on time 100 percent of the time and that you ship the right product 99.5 percent of the time.
  • But don’t make stuff up – If you don’t have statistics that make your business look reliable, don’t fabricate them. Instead, explain what your goals are and how you intend to meet them.
  • Congratulate yourself – Tell your potential customers about the important certifications you’ve earned and awards you’ve won. You’ll have to decide which ones are important and which ones aren’t.

Your “About Us” page can serve as a great marketing tool, but just because you’re happy with the page you create today doesn’t mean you should be satisfied with it tomorrow. You should continually update the page, especially when you enhance your education or experience, obtain major customers or gain a foothold in new markets.

Author’s Bio: Myrna Vaca is the Head of Marketing and Communications at Lyoness America, where she directs media relations, branding, advertising and website development. Lyoness is an international shopping community and loyalty rewards program, where businesses and consumers benefit with free membership and money back with every purchase. Check out Lyoness on Twitter.

How to Make Your Blog Stand Out in the Crowd

By Tracy Vides

To err on the side of diplomacy has always been a safer bet than being blunt. Diplomacy is everywhere. Being nice is an all-pervasive disease. To be boring, just like diplomacy, works for a lot of people.

As long as you don’t stand out, you don’t ask for trouble. To stay out of trouble is a global requirement.

People start blogs just as they start political parties, form governments, and start businesses. Since most people try to stay safe, their blogs will reflect that ‘safe’ vibe. As a result, the content is usually trite.

Rehashed, over-used, and boring blog posts are the staple of the blogosphere, as this slide deck from Velocity Partners makes painfully clear. It’s tiring to see just another blog out there.

We agree that there’s only so much information that can be shared on a topic. But who said that you’d have to keep it bland?

Popular blogs share the same content, but they do it differently.

Only a few bloggers stand out. They are different. Their voice is powerful. Their content is engaging. How do they manage to do that? What’s the secret sauce?

They are bold. They are beautiful. They write what they want to.

Here are some ways to make your own blog stand out from the rest:

Stick to Your Opinion, Don’t Waffle

Pick up a few facts, put your brain to this data, and craft your own opinion (rolled into a blog post). While you use your own voice, personality, and writing style to express your justified opinion, take a vow (in writing, if you can) that once the blog post goes live, you won’t budge from your opinion. Even if the string of virulent comments might want to make you think about your initial stand, don’t bother updating your blog post with the new school of thought.

Blogs get their mojo from opinionated writing. There’s no place for you to waffle here. No changing shoes once you wear them.

One caveat here:

One danger, when you’re writing lots of quick, opinionated blog items about the latest developments, is that you never get around to stating fully, in one place, what you think about a particular topic.

– Mickey Kaus

Write for the Emotion Connect, Not the Spider’s Web

Google is powerful. Bloggers all over the world love a continuous, incoming stream of traffic from search listings. Yet, you have to let go of the obsession to rank in search. I’m not knocking down SEO or SEM, do what you have to do. Just don’t assume that your blog promotions or marketing for your blog depends wholly and completely on Google.

Stop writing for search engines, because that makes your blogs read like school textbooks or poorly maintained journals of manipulative keyword-stuffing maniacs. Or worse, like The Dullest Blog in the
World
.

If you ever have to create a blog post, do it for the reader. Google search takes care of itself. Your readers will thank you for it.

Bring in the Fun

Whether it’s a blog post or the copy (long-form or short-form), you need to use interesting and engaging content to market your products or services. Work hard to bring in the fun in your writing.

Your ultimate goal: bring that smile on your readers’ face, convince and convert.

While your blog post should have facts and opinion rolled together, your sales copy would have to be brief. Yet, make sure you bring in the humor when you are writing.

Stop being a bore.

Plant the ‘Feel’

Marketers now need to don the role of publishers through blogging. All marketers must work to ‘plant the feel.’

What do I mean by that? By making customers ‘feel,’ you bring a string of emotions, desires, needs and wants to the fore. Your customers almost visualize what you are writing about. The ‘feel’ factor can do wonders to your blogging efforts whether you are a physics teacher blogging about quantum mechanics or a tiny mom & pop e-commerce store that sells handcrafts online.

Stay Consistent

Add blogging into your lifetime to-do list. Blogging ought to happen every single day (or whatever frequency you like to blog with). While you might think that this was probably the first lesson you learnt about blogging, it’s one of those things that will help you stand out from millions of other blogs.

Why?

Most other blogs are dead. Most bloggers don’t update regularly. Some lose steam, while others just aren’t blessed with the commitment it takes to see a blog through success.

By blogging regularly, you are already in the top percentile of bloggers who are real, professional and serious.

Hook Up with Readers Personally, the Human Way

Forget about building relationships through your blog the usual way. If it’s usual, then everyone does it. You’d still have to build relationships with your regular readers, but how do you make a difference? It’s called ‘The insane reach out plan.’

The Insane Reach out Plan for the time-starved reader (that’s you):

  • Got a comment? Go hunt that commenter down and then follow his or her blog. Leave comments to reciprocate.
  • Find out who your readers are and then connect with them on social media to continue the =93small talk=94 that forms the bridge between your relationships.
  • Find opportunities to highlight some of your readers. There’s a reason why widgets that show ‘recent comments’ or ‘top comments’ or ‘most active contributors’ are downloaded by the thousands.
  • Sit down and send out emails to some of your regular users. Most popular bloggers tend to get high volumes of emails from readers, most of which end up unanswered. Turn this practice upside down. Actively send out emails instead.
  • Whenever possible, call or meet your readers.

Hard work? Yes.

Payoffs? That’ll require another blog post.

Necessary? No. But mandatory.

The only blogs that’ll work today are those that continuously produce content that gives something to readers that they can think about. Your blog is like a public kitchen giving food for thought to your readers.

That’s a grim challenge, yes, but others are doing it already!

It’s useless to worry about word counts, SEO, the size of your social media network, the platform you use for blogging, and the hosting account your blog depends on.

Worry about value. Lose sleep over how to make your content better. Brainstorm ways you can make your blog engaging.

Write with your heart, not your fingers.

Author’s Bio: Tracy Vides is a content creator and marketer, who loves to blog about subjects as diverse as fashion, technology, and finance. She’s always raring to have a discussion on startups and entrepreneurship. Say “Hi” to her on Twitter @TracyVides. You can also find her on G+ at gplus.to/TracyVides.

Blogging Conference Guide for 2014

By Jessy Troy

Bloggers unite! The year 2014 is going to be a huge one for conferences where we can all get together, learn about current trends, improve marketing results, boost content and make plenty of valuable friends along the way.

Some of the events going on are truly exciting, as they are some of the biggest series around. If you are planning on attending any conferences within the next twelve months, here are some you should really consider.

1. SOBCon Chicago 2014

SOBCon Chicago 2014

SOBCon comes back stronger in 2014! Please read the official updates here. Even though the event in Portland was canceled, we will all be looking forward to Chicago SOBCon this year!

To be updated on the details, speakers and official venue, please subscribe to the newsletter!

2. Content Marketing World

Content Marketing World

Content Marketing Institute is one of the most popular marketing sites on the web. Their annual conference is huge, and a huge boost for any career to be seen speaking there. The speaker proposal deadline has passed, but it’s still a great place to network!

Where and When: Cleveland, Ohio. The Conference is September 8-11th, 2014.

3. BlogHer

BlogHer

For the women bloggers out there, you can attend a conference aimed directly at you and the special considerations to females in the blogosphere. Founded in 2005 by Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone, BlogHer is a great site for educating, spreading awareness and assisting women online in their content and marketing.

Their annual event is always very informative and a lot of fun. Sign up early, because these tickets sell very fast. Also check out Pathfinder, the pre-conference set of workshops only open to a few hundred attendees on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets are on sale now.

Where and When: Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 8:00 AM – Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 11:00 PM (PDT) in
San Jose, CA

4. Now What?

Now What?

Still rather new on the conference circuit, Now What is still managing to attract a lot of attention from industry leaders and members of the public alike. Focused on web content, management and marketing, it is a great opportunity to keep up with the latest trends in the market. All while having plenty of chances to network with others and meet with representatives from dozens of well known brands in the expo hall. They are currently accepting submissions for speakers and workshops.

Where and When: Sioux Falls, South Dakota – Washington Pavilion in
April 23-24, 2014. The official venue hasn’t been announced yet.

5. Lifestyle Bloggers Conference

Lifestyle Bloggers Conference

For the fourth year in a row, Lifestyle Bloggers Conference is coming to Los Angeles. Aimed at female and Latina bloggers in particular, it is a great chance to learn about how social media is changing the face of blogs through greater community interaction.

There will be three keynotes, two sponsored lunches, a tour behind the scenes of LA Mart, and various panels and workshops. Unlike many other conferences, this one tries to cover all topics relevant to bloggers, from copyright law to SEO. If you want a well rounded conference targeted at women, you will love this event.

Where and When: March 27-29. 2014 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT), Los Angeles, CA. Be sure to book a hotel closer to the venue which is Cooper Design Place this time. One of the sites that has a convenient search and a huge database is LosAngelesHotels.

6. Design Bloggers Conference

Design Bloggers Conference

A great place to meet other designers, Design Bloggers Conference has the distinction of being just as much about inspiring creativity as it does learning about an industry. This time they will have two keynotes at the two day event: Jeffrey Alan Marks and Candice Olson. There will also be a fantastic expo there you won’t want to miss, held by the dozens of sponsors who will be showing off the latest in interior design products and ideas.

Where and When: This year the conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, 3300 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, Georgia, March 2-4.

Why Should I Attend A Blogger Conference?

This is a common question, and an understandable one. When your work is primarily done online, and social media becomes the backbone of that work, it is easy to forget how important one on one interaction can be. Sure, you can learn a lot of what is offered online during webinars or posted presentations. But you lose the human element.

Meeting up face to face with other bloggers is a great way to forge lasting working relationships. Not to mention it is a fun and exciting way to spark innovation, collaborate on project ideas, and just get away from the computer for a couple of days.

It also lets you interact more directly with experts and industry leaders in a way that leaves a lasting impression. You know you are more likely to remember someone you speak with over drinks than someone you tweet back and forth to.

Conclusion

When you work online it can be easy to forget to leave the web behind and really speak to others. These conferences are a great reminder that will have some serious benefits along the way.

Jessy Troy is the self-made marketer blogging at Viral Mom, the established blog for WAHMs. You can follow Jessy on Twitter as @jessytroy.

Site Crash: What’s Your Response Plan?

By Michelle Rebecca

Website crashes can be detrimental to a company’s operation. If your host goes down, your software fails or your internet provider encounters a problem, it is your business that suffers. When these situations occur you are no longer able to conduct e-business or to monitor your site’s feedback.

In order to decrease the impact of site crashes it is important to have an emergency response plan. Below is a list of tips for helping your organization navigate a site malfunction.

Investigate the Issue

Once you have been alerted to an issue with your website, the first step is to look for yourself. While a customer or employee may have encountered a problem with your website, this issue could be related to their network connection or a number of other external causes.

Accessing your website and attempting to navigate the pages will determine whether or not this is an actual issue with the website or simply a problem on someone else’s end. For instance, if you were to check your site’s XML management page and find that it was down, then you would know you have an internal problem to manage.

Once you’ve established that there is a real problem, you need to find out exactly what the issue is. This issue may be related to your website’s host, a programming error or a network problem. Identifying the cause for the site crash will allow you to make a plan for contacting the necessary individuals and getting your site back up as soon as possible.

Programming Error

You can determine whether or not a site has a programming error by checking the status bar at the bottom of the page as suggested by Smashing Magazine. If this bar reads “loaded” or “done” then you can be sure that the issue is not related to the site’s software or server.

On the other hand, the terms “waiting” or “connecting” designate that the problem is in fact a programming error. Having identified this problem, you now know to alert your tech team in order to locate the error in the coding for your site.

Web Server Software

If programming is not an issue, then web server software may be the culprit. By logging onto your website’s server you can determine whether the server has run out of space, run out of memory or whether there is another situation of that nature.

Also, when you log in, many servers take you to a control panel that may indicate the problem for you. As for disk space and memory concerns, there are a series of commands you can utilize while logged into your server to view available space as noted in Smashing Magazine’s article.

Hard Disk Space

By inputing “admin@server$ df” in the command line of your server its disk space allocation will be displayed. This will display your site’s file systems and the percentage to which they are currently being used. If this percentage is 100 percent then you’ve found your issue and need to free up some space.

Memory

Considering the small likelihood that your server’s hard disk space is taken up, you should proceed to check the memory. Utilizing the “free” command will allow you to view how much memory is currently in use. From there you can determine whether a particular piece of software is slowing down your server and proceed to solve the issue accordingly.

Getting to the bottom of a website issue can be a time consuming and stressful situation. Use the aforementioned steps and tips to help identify website problems and to determine how to solve them.

Author’s Bio: Michelle is a blogger and freelancer with a passion for social media and blogging. She loves how social media connects people across the globe, and appreciates that blogging gives her the opportunity to voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Savvy Blog Growth Tips for Small Businesses

By Christopher McMurphy

The phrase “adapt or die” has proved true in the animal kingdom, and it has a place in the wild world of marketing as well. Monumental shifts in the advertising landscape since the advent of the Internet have only served to buttress this point. And while larger organizations often have the full weight of entire marketing departments at their disposal, it can be difficult for smaller operations to keep up with the trends. And failing to move with the times can spell certain death for any outfit.

But those small businesses that feel they lack the means to mount an effective online marketing campaign are sorely mistaken. Any organization, big or small, can utilize modern, proven methods to convert leads into customers and generate that attractive ROI. Here’s how.

Set a schedule

Those running an operation themselves may rightly feel they don’t have much time to commit to crafting and posting regular blog posts. That said, there’s no need for the frazzled business owner to overextend him or herself. Owners should commit to a preliminary schedule that involves making at least one post per week. Once a firm schedule has been set, owners can then focus on increasing the output over a period of time, such as to multiple blog posts per week.

Hire out

Some owners may simply be too busy to even commit to one or two posts per week, and that is understandable. However, that is no reason to forgo a blogging strategy entirely. Time-strapped owners can outsource their needs and hire writers from across the web. There are plenty of quality guest bloggers out there, all with the skill and expertise required to contribute authoritative, original blog posts on a variety of subjects.

Engage

In the world of blogging, the hard sell is anathema to success. The most successful bloggers reach large audiences by getting personal with their readers. When it comes to small businesses, owners are going to want to craft an overall theme to their blog posts (helpful DIY tips, Top-5 lists, etc., etc.) and engage while staying on message. Oftentimes owners find success in this manner by adding personal details and experiences within the content.

Offer help

The best (and most successful) blogs contain content that is of some use to the reader. The average web surfer is highly likely to bypass all blog posts that contain nothing more than sales pitches on their way to more helpful content. That means the blogger needs to be credible in the field in which they write about. An auto parts business, for example, should consider publishing posts on DIY auto repair, as this is of use to their target audience.

Be honest

One of the best ways small business owners can achieve success through blogging is by being honest. The most successful blogs around are transparent and forthcoming about what it is they represent. Fine print doesn’t translate in the blog world, so business owners should air on the side of prudence and gain trust through total honesty.

In the end, if there’s one thing that all small business owners and operators should take away from this article, it is the need for consistency. All the content in the world won’t matter much unless it is visible on a regular basis. That means being diligent in adhering to a firm blogging schedule is paramount for any successful content strategy.

Author’s Bio: Christopher McMurphy is a seasoned blogger and expert in the field of digital marketing. Among other things, he focuses on SEO, copywriting and social media.

10 Easy Tips to Develop Your Own Writing Style

By Leslie Anglesey

Your writing style is something that is uniquely your own. While you can admire another writer’s voice, it would be a mistake to try to mimic it. You will only end up creating a pale imitation of the work you are trying to master. Stand up, take a deep (virtual) breath and be yourself. Follow these 10 tips to develop your own writing style.

develop your own writing style - inspiration
  1. Read other writers’ work.
    If you want to get a feel for how words fit together, read how other writers use them. Read for enjoyment and with an editor’s eye. Ask yourself why the author would choose to use them.
  2. Start by writing short paragraphs.
    If the idea of crafting a lengthy work makes you feel intimidated, start with something smaller. Try writing a single paragraph describing something that made you laugh or your favorite movie.
  3. Focus on getting your idea down first.
    For a first draft, all you need to be concerned with is getting your basic idea down. You can always edit and revise it later on.
  4. Experiment with some different styles.
    Keep in mind that writing is a solitary activity. You can work at it and choose not to share the content of your latest project with anyone unless you want to. If you are curious about a new genre, find a class or experiment with it on your own.
  5. Make friends with a dictionary.
    Part of developing your own writing style is to make sure that you are using words in the right context. If you are reading something and you aren’t sure of its meaning, take the time to look it up in a dictionary.
  6. Use a thesaurus to add new words to your vocabulary.
    Do you have certain words that you find you are always relying on when you write? If you and your friends tend to use the same phrases, it will be difficult for you to stand out from the crowd. The next time you find yourself using a stock phrase to describe something, stop and look it up in a thesaurus. See if there might be an alternative that will describe it more accurately. If not, you don’t have to use the suggestions, but you will have learned some new words to consider for next time.
  7. Read your work out loud.
    Does your writing sound like the way you talk? If it doesn’t sound like it was written in your spoken voice, you may want to work on it until it does. Keep polishing it until you feel that it reflects your inflection and tone.
  8. Turn off your inner critic.
    As you write, there will always be a part of your brain that will tell you that your work is unfinished or can be improved. You may even feel that other people can or have done it better, so why should you even try to get something down. This inner critic can be very harsh, and will likely judge your work even more severely than a real editor would. To the extent you can, try to shut it down and just focus on letting your work speak for itself.
  9. Take some risks in your writing.
    Once you turn off your inner critic, make a decision to step outside of your comfort zone in your writing. Nothing you write has to be forever. You can choose to delete it and start over if you want to. Think of the blank page like a playground, not something that is scary and intimidating. You can’t hurt yourself, so you really aren’t taking a risk at all. You are always in control of your writing.
  10. Write every day.
    If you think about writing as if it were a muscle, you will appreciate that you need to keep it limber. Work it often and it will reward you by being easier to work with. If you don’t use it, you’ll find that it is stiff and hard to get into the groove. Ideas won’t flow as freely as if you make a habit of writing every day.

Set aside some time to be creative regularly. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a novel, working on essays, blogging, or writing in a personal journal. Take time to explore the world of words regularly to develop your own writing style – and don’t forget to enjoy it.

Author’s Bio: Leslie Anglesey is an editor at Essay Tigers, a website about essay writing tips. She also works as a professor in the University of Southern California and loves teaching others how to improve their writing style.

Image via Flickr CC: Alan Cleaver