article marketing

What's the Difference Between Articles and Corporate Blogs?

corporate blogsThis is a question we got from one of our leads, and we think its one that's worth answering in a blog post. Our lead was planning on having an article database on his website, and wanted to know how different that was from a blog, and if a blog was better. Essentially, they are two different things, and we would suggest that both be done as the articles and the blog can serve different purposes.

The Article Database

The article database our lead was talking about was something like a resource center, where visitors can view a series of 10, 15, 20 articles at their leisure. A resource center doesn't have to be just articles, but an article database is essentially a resource center (resource center is also a much better name, and might get you more traffic because of it. People don't necessarily want articles, but they do want resources.) The biggest difference between this and a business blog is that the article database/resource center is, for the most part, static. You'll put all your articles, white papers, ebooks and what not there, and that's it. You might add something new to it every now and then, but visitors don't go there with the expectation that there will be something new for them. However, with the resource center, you can much more easily convert the traffic into leads by having them fill out a form before they can view the article or read the white paper.

The Business Blog

However, a business blog has that exact expectation, as a good business blog ought to be publishing at least twice a week. People visit regularly hoping to find fresh content and to learn something new. A business blog can also promote those articles and other resources in that database, while expanding on those topics in new ways. For example, our business blog could cover some new statistics or research about business blogging, and at the end of the post, we can talk about our "How to Blog" ebook or our list of 101 business blog ideas. That way, those who want the news can get the news, while those who want to learn more can learn more. Also, business blogging is better for SEO since is fresh, quality content on a regular basis (which search engines love) versus the resource center, which is better for lead generation.

But, I Can't Do Both!

If taking care of a resource center and business blog seems like too much, then start with the business blog. The main reason is that with the business blog, you can over time create the content that can become part of the resource center. Take 10 to 20 blog posts and turn them into an ebook, or use the business blog to build your own knowledge base, so that this knowledge can be turned into case studies and white papers that go more in-depth into topics. As previously stated, a business blog is better for SEO and getting found online, so make sure that you are doing those well, before trying to do something with all that traffic, like turning them into leads.

That's essentially the difference between an article database and a business blog. Yes, in a sense, a business blog is also an article database, but because it's always changing, there's flexibility there to cover topics that may need to be covered right away. An article database can't cover breaking news quickly, or address a customer pain point like a business blog can. However, an article database is much more evergreen, and the content that should be there should be as good and relevant today as it is a year from now or even five years from now. That's the difference, and because of the difference, do both if you can. If not, then start with the business blog and work your way up.

Want help in building your business blog, your resource center, or both? Then contact Stirring Media, LLC today for a free consultation! Click the button below to get started!


Want Inbound Links? Then Just Blog Already!

business bloggingIt's clear that most businesses understand the value of inbound links, and what they can do for search engine optimization and referral traffic. What isn't clear with businesses is finding the best way to get those inbound links. It seems that many businesses believe the best way to get those inbound links is to have other, better ranking, websites link to you, either through guest posting, article marketing, link exchanges, and other similar techniques.

Guest Posting for Links? You're Doing it Wrong.

Although those are ways to get inbound links, they certainly aren't the best and the easiest ways to get inbound links. First of all, link exchanges are frowned upon by the search engines, and doing it for the sake of building inbound links and trying to game the search engines is an absolute no-no. Second of all, while guest posting and article marketing are legitimate, they are costly and time-consuming. You have to find appropriate websites to write/pitch articles to. You have to write those articles and those pitches. You then have to wait for a reply, or make corrections based upon that website's guidelines, and that's if you actually get a reply (or a reply in a timely manner). Even if the article is ready for publication right away, there's still the time between acceptance and publication, which could easily be days or weeks. On top of that, if your goal in all this is to get links, you could pay anywhere from $25 to $250 and up to publish an article that has includes back to your site.

What a hassle! And to think that these shenanigans are what some businesses consider their primary method of getting inbound links! With business blogging, a company can skip all those hoops and hassle. In the matter of a few hours, they can write an article and get it published on their business blog for a fraction of the cost. No need to please a third party. No need to wait for replies and approvals. No risk of duplicating content. No more months of back and forth of trying to get one specific article on one specific website.

Business Blogging is Way Better!

Business blogging accomplishes the goal of inbound links, and much more! With business blogging, every blog post is one more opportunity to rank for a keyword and to get found online. Sure, article marketing can kind of accomplish keyword rankings and getting found online, but readers aren't necessarily finding you. They are finding Blog X and Online Publication Y, with no guarantee readers will click on those links that you paid so much to have. There's also no guarantee that they'll associate that article you wrote with your company, especially if your links have keywords as anchor text.

Besides, business blogging ensures that when people do find your site and do click on your links, there's something of quality for them to read and to engage with. What good are the inbound links if you are leading them to promotional pages and other pages that readers don't want to go to or won't find interesting? What good are those increased rankings if all web visitors find is poor quality content and a horrible web experience? Business blogging eliminates this problem by being a place of value, by being a place that has something for readers and web visitors, instead of being one more place to make a sale.

How Does Business Blogging Get Inbound Links?

Simple! Creating quality, engaging content encourages people to share it, to link to it, to quote it in their own blogs. Over time, you get more and more inbound links because people will figure out that you are worth linking too. This may seem harder than the other way of doing things, but business blogging is the organic way of getting inbound links. You're not paying anyone for links. You're not wasting valuable time that could be spent writing more quality content or working on other projects. You're not trying to game the search engines. You're doing what you're supposed to be doing: providing the information your readers and potential customers need and want to move through the buying process.

If you want inbound links, then get business blogging! If you're already doing the other inbound link methods, then you are already producing content that can go on a business blog instead of other thankless websites. These inbound links are organic, and if you are consistent with your business blogging, you will get more of them in the long run.

Need help coming up with business blog ideas? Then download our list of 101 Business Blog Ideas! Not only could you use these ideas right now, but there's enough here to fill your blog for one full year!


Should You Have to Pay for Guest Posts?

guest postingGuest posting is an important aspect of article marketing, and is a great way to build inbound links and to attract new traffic to your website or blog. But, should you have to pay to put a guest post? If so, how much?

I ask because I wanted to have a guest post published on a blog for personal purposes. It wasn't a sponsored post. It was merely something I wrote to have published on a site other than my own. When I submitted this guest post, the blog owner not only agreed to publish it, but wanted $150 for it since it included a link in the text. This link wasn't a backlink, but merely a way to cite a statistic that I used in the article. I thought the price was outrageous since it wasn't a sponsored post, and that the blog has a separate form for sponsored posts and guests posts (neither of which mention any price on the page, mind you). I asked the blog owner if the fee would be waived if I removed the link. I also clarified that the link is there as a citation, not to build an inbound link for a company. I never got a response.

I definitely think that sponsored posts should be paid for, since they are slanted to favor a particular standpoint or company product. They should also be paid for because they would include additional inbound links beyond what's in the byline. Guest posts, however, shouldn't be paid for, especially if the only inbound link will be in the byline. If it was the norm for guest posts to be paid for, then it wouldn't be touted as an excellent way to do inbound marketing. Granted, inbound marketing isn't for free, but no business would want to engage in something that had to be paid for twice. I just can't see how this $150 fee is somehow industry standard in blogging or in inbound marketing.

What do you think? Should you have to pay a blog to publish your guest post just like you would a sponsored post? If so, is $150 too much, too little, or just right?

Good Content Writers are Cheaper than Good Link Builders. NOT.

content marketingSearch Engine Watch published a great article about seven reasons why content marketing is better than link building. Although I do agree with six of the seven reasons, I have to disagree with reason number three: 

Good Content Writers are Cheaper than Good Link Builders

This is an issue that a growing number of writers and blog writing companies have to deal with. Since there's increased competition in the global economy that's pushing price points downward, good writers are having to compete with equally competent, and less competent, writers who will work for equal or less. Many businesses that are looking for writers want to get them as cheaply as possible, and don't consider the fact that if you want a quality writer, you have to pay more for that quality. Thus, depending on your definition of 'good', a good content writer isn't necessarily cheaper than a good link builder.

Besides, Search Engine Watch argues that great content will do a better job of building inbound links than submitting to link exchange sites and what not. If that's the case, then shouldn't the content writer be more expensive? That person is providing a better return on value. That person's work is much more scalable than straight link building, meaning that there's a long-term investment involved. That person ought to be writing quality content that engages people and encourages them to link and to refer to that blog post or white paper or whatever it is. If anything, a higher price should be called for to ensure a higher quality post. Granted, more money doesn't always mean more quality, but I don't know of too many instances where paying less go you more, especially some of these $5, $10 price points that I've seen on job boards.

Good content writers are professionals, and ought to get a professionals price for their work. I dislike the notion that a content writer is cheaper because all you really need is someone who can read and write in English, while a link builder is more expensive since it requires a more specialized skill set. A great content writer is much more than someone who can read and write in English. A great content writer is someone who brings a unique voice and personality to each piece written, someone who's willing to do a little bit of legwork to find statistics and websites that can add crediblity to arguments, someone who creates a work of art with each word strung with the next.

Good content writers are NOT cheaper than good link builders. If you want a cheap content writer, then you probably won't get a good one, meaning you are better off spending your money on the link builder. If you actually want a great content writer who will be worth every dollar, then check out our content marketing services page to learn how to get more bang for your buck.

Why More Blogs and Online Publications Should Allow Sponsored Posts

article marketing guest postingAs part of our article marketing services and our brand journalism package, we offer our clients guest posting, where we'll write an article, include a link or two back to websites of the client's choice, and get the article published. In case it's unclear, when it comes to blogs, a sponsored post is a post "that contain links that point to the home page or specific product pages of the website of the sponsor for which the blogger receives compensation in the form of money, products, services or in other ways." These sponsored posts are what clients get with the guest posting, since these posts are designed to appear on the blogs and online publications of others.

We admit that we're running into a bit of a problem, one where blog and online publications simply aren't interested in these posts, which makes delivering on these services tough. Most of the them aren't interested because they don't want posts that are sponsored. We've previously written on why brand journalism isn't such a bad thing, and sponsored posts in our humble opinion are a form of brand journalism that isn't such a bad thing either. Here's why more blogs and online publication should allow sponsored posts on their sites:

Sponsored Posts Can Be Valuable Content

Who said that because something is paid for that it must advertising garbage that no one wants to read? Is fruit suddenly bad because it was bought from the store instead of grown in the backyard? No, and the fact that money was involved shouldn't automatically discount a sponsored post as something that won't be worthwhile for your audience. Take the time to read a sponsored post, as you would any other guest post or submission from one of your writers, and see if its up to standard. If it is, should it matter that it was sponsored?

Sponsored Posts Can Bring Traffic to Your Site

Think about it, if you let a company sponsor a post, they'll tell everyone about it once it's published. If you want to increase traffic and reach out to new people, then letting in a sponsored post may be a good way to go. They'll post a link on their website (giving you a backlink), share it on their social networks, and maybe send it via email in a newsletter. That's a lot of potential new audience you're throwing away because you don't like sponsored posts. You don't have to make every single post on your site sponsored, but allowing one or two in there a month wouldn't hurt.

Sponsored Posts Can Monetize Your Blog

If you're looking for a new revenue stream, or a way to monetize your blog and make some money from it, then accepting sponsored posts is the way to go. For a flat fee, you can say you'll accept sponsored posts that are on certain topics and meet certain guidelines. You could encourage companies to pay that fee by showing them what kind of reach they can have (number of visitors, unique views, time on site etc.) by getting the post published.

Sponsored Posts Can Enable You to Pay for Writers, or Pay Them More

With this brand new revenue stream, you can then offer writers more than just the Google Adsense revenue or a pithy "pays per hit" formula. When you can offer writers more money, you can better retain those writers, or bring on better writers, all meaning that your site will improve over time with more content and more better content. Being able to pay writers well adds credibility as well, as it makes it seem like you've been in the business a while and that you know what you're doing (versus those new startup sites that can't pay anything cause they have no revenue. Stupid noobs).

How to Pitch an Editor or Blog Owner

pitching an editorPitching an editor or blog owner is much trickier than one would think. Some websites have a specific form where you can submit an article, but most won't have any such form. If you want to write a guest post for a blog or online publication, you will have to pitch a specific person with a query letter. A query letter is a short letter that outlines your article idea, why you should write it, and why the article should be accepted. The letter is only about a page long, but it must include the right info in order to make the right impact with the editor or blog owner. A query letter is the best and the most appropriate way to reach an editor or blog owner.

Below is a sample query letter that I've sent to a publication and landed us the assignment. I've changed the name of the editor and the publication for privacy's sake. For another great sample, check out Kelly James-Enger's blog and her great query letter (complete with comments):

“With nitrogen, we use less tires and gas and it saves money,” Dave Kuppler, Group Manager of Health and Environmental Services for the City of St. Peters, Mo.. “The tire pressure is better, which is also better for safety.”
Nitrogen tire inflation is the practice of filling your tires with nitrogen instead of regular air, and I've noticed that XYZ Magazine has covered this issue in the past, most recently in June 2010. However, I've noticed that there has yet to be an evaluative piece on how this practice benefits government fleets, including the voices of those like Kuppler, who's government fleet has been using nitrogen for the past five years. I imagine this piece to be about 800 words, where I will speak to other government fleets and nitrogen tire inflation dealers who specifically cater to managed fleets.
Would you consider this story for an upcoming issue of XYZ Magazine? I am a full time freelance writer with four years writing and editing experience. In that time, I’ve done blog writing for a variety of companies, such as Nitrofleet99, Wonderfully Clean LLC, and iAMscientist. My work has also appeared in over a dozen print and online publications including, Industry Leaders, Transport Topics and St. Louis Commerce Magazine.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
What do you think? To help you to be on your way to pitching editors and blog owners successfully, here are some quick tips:
  1. Make sure the blog or site hasn't already covered your idea recently (which was done in the example above). If your idea is too similar to something already done, then it won't be accepted.
  2. Take the time to look at previous posts and article. This will give you a sense of the style of writing, the topics they cover, and the type of audience the site caters to. In the example above, taking a look at previous articles also provided the idea for how to take a different angle on the subject.
  3. When pitching, never send a completed article, unless it's specified that it's okay. You waste your time writing the article if it ends up being rejected.
  4. Proofread your query letter, as it is considered a sample of your writing as well as a pitch. Spelling and grammar errors will put your query in the trash bin.
  5. Don't simply send your query to a general info or editor email. If at all possible, find a specific person to pitch, especially if it's someone who manages or edits the section you wish to write for. If all else fails, send an email to a managing editor or the editor-in-chief.
Pitching an editor or blog owner on your own will create article marketing opportunities on your own, instead of just finding them or waiting for someone to approach you. It also shows a bit of initiative and could be a relief to a blog or online publication that's hard pressed for content.

The 5 Ws and H of an Article Marketing Strategy

article marketing strategyPreviously, I covered the five Ws and the H of a content marketing strategy, and the same ought to be explained for an article marketing strategy. Although a subset of content marketing, article marketing also must have a strategy since it often involves pleasing a third party such as a blog owner or a magazine editor) and requires consideration of factors that don't apply to other aspects of content marketing. Here are the five Ws and the H of article marketing strategy:

Who - Who is your audience? By figuring out who your audience is, the rest of your article marketing strategy will fall into place. In article marketing, you must narrow your audience to something very specific, such as commercial fleet managers, website owners, or doctors who own their own practice. Even though, for example, you may serve website owners and IT managers, they may not read the same things or have the same pain points. This affects how you organize your article marketing strategy.

What - What are you going to write about? The obvious answer may be your business or your services, but that is not wise in an article marketing strategy. Most other blogs and publications won't publish advertorials or articles that only promote you. You have to consider topics that are related to your industry, but would be of interest and value to your customer base.

When - When will you do these articles? Some may ask for them right away, while others may give you a few weeks or months to work on them. The point of this part of the article marketing strategy is to set deadlines for your article and to agree to deadlines that you will be able to meet. Missing deadlines will only prevent you from being able to write for these sites in the future. 

Where - Where will you publish articles? This is where the segmented audience comes in. Since website owners and IT managers read different sites and have different needs, you will have to find places to publish articles that cater to one audience or the other, or both if you can manage. You may also want to consider industry-related publications where you can make a splash in front of your competitors.

Why - Why are you doing this? You need to figure out the goals of your article marketing strategy. Are you trying to build brand awareness? SEO? Inbound links? A combination? If you don't have a goal (or goals) for your strategy then you won't be able to know whether or not it's successful.

How - How will you implement your article marketing strategy? Will one person be in charge of the whole thing? Or will several people be tasked with writing articles and finding guest posting opportunities? Over what period of time will you conduct your strategy, and how many articles and/or publications are you hoping to achieve? All those are details that need to be worked out in the strategy, as it's easy to get overwhelmed with other work and to not have the time necessary to write articles, to find the right publications, and to make those third parties happy.

Overall, article marketing must have a strategy as well, even if you already have a content marketing strategy in place that's working well for you. There are elements involved in article marketing that don't apply to other forms of content marketing, like business blogging and ebooks and webinars. If you need some help finding some good places to write articles, then check out our white paper of the best website for article marketing:


4 Content Marketing Ideas You Probably Never Thought Of

content marketingThe most obvious of content marketing techniques include business blogging, ebooks, white papers, and email newsletters. But, that's not the full extent of content marketing. If you're able to get creative and to think outside the box, then you can come up with a lot of content marketing ideas that your competition would have wished they thought of! Here are four content marketing ideas that you probably never thought of, and that you can use right now:  

  1. Guest posting - A form of article marketing, guest posting is the opportunity to write an article or two for another's blog or online publication. It's a great way to build brand awareness while creating inbound links for your website. Plus, in a guest post, you could use your previous blog posts and other content marketing pieces as samples and resources to create a new article for your guest posting opportunity.
  2. Lists - Simple lists, like an idea list or checklist, is an easy way to create something new for your content marketing efforts. For example, I have checklist for creating blog article headlines, which outlines a step-by-step process to make sure you have a great blog article headline. Lists are easily digestible for readers while providing great information quickly and succinctly.
  3. Pinterest - So, this one isn't really so much about creating your content, but what's now the third biggest social network is also a great way to showcase you and your brand's ideas, likes, products etc. in a very visual way. Pinterest is a great place to put up your pics as well as the pics of others. After all, photos are content too!
  4. Slideshow Presentations - Presentations don't always have to be about sales numbers or the next big project, or even for the boss or an investor. Get creative with your slideshows by using them to create content that would be of value to your customers. I have a slideshow on my homepage to showcase different offers. I also have one about how writing's tough. Instead of filling it with charts and bullet points, make it eye-popping and engaging, something that most presentations aren't.

Already doing content marketing? Then maybe our list of 101 business blog ideas may be of help to you. Check out these 101 business blog ideas that you could use right now by clicking the button below:


How to Blog: The Future of Business Blogging

business bloggingThere's been a lot of talk about whether business blogging is on its way out, how business blogging is trending, and whether or not business blogging is something that small businesses should be doing. The practice has certainly come a long way from the journaling of teenage drama. But, where will it go from here?

Well, it's certainly not going away. In 2011, it was predicted that 43% of businesses will be blogging by 2012. Now that it is 2012, let the record show that 62% of companies are blogging. The practice growing much faster than previously expected while showing remarkable success as a marketing tactic. Not only are a majority of businesses blogging, but a majority of those that are blogging (57%) have gained a new customer and/or revenue from their blog. That level of growth and success means that at the very least, those businesses that are blogging will continue blogging. Most likely what will happen is that more companies will engage in business blogging.

Will there be any changes to the way businesses blog? I think with the most recent changes in the Google algorithm, more businesses will focus on producing quality content and writing articles that are meant to educate and to inform their customer base. With the recent changes, it no longer works to write for the search engines or to use article spinning and article rewriters to produce tons of content for the sake of search engine rankings and getting found. Business blogging will have to emphasize the reader/customer in order to be rewarded. Business blogging will also have to be done well, and do more than meet a few criteria in order to appear on the first page of search engine rankings.

The Sales Lion, Marcus Sheridan, puts it best when he wrote on his website:

I recently had a nice gentleman call me from Minnesota who was just beginning to catch the vision of what Web 2.0 is all about. One of the questions he asked me was about blogging and if I was still doing it after having established my company’s website as the industry leader (through blogging). Honestly, I had to snicker a little bit at the question because blogging, i.e. content marketing, is not a quick fix. It’s not something to ever check off of your ‘to-do’ list. Frankly, blogging should be to a business what breathing is to man—done, almost without thought, because of one’s need for survival.

This is the great misunderstanding that so many businesses have. Content Marketing is not static. Search engines, as well as consumers, simply appreciate web sites that are constantly evolving and being added upon. This way they’ll keep coming back and also the scope and influence of the site itself will just grow and grow, line upon line, with every new bit of valuable content that’s added.

The future of business blogging is that all businesses that want to succeed will need to be blogging and content marketing. Whether you are a swimming pool company, or a green home cleaning company, or an online security company, business blogging and content marketing need to be used in order get the word out there about your brand and what you offer.

If you already have a business blog, and just need a few ideas to get things rolling, then check out of list of 101 business blog ideas that you can use right now: