Business & Technology

5 Business Blogging Best Practices

With Google's recent algorithm changes, the business blogging best practices of a year ago aren't quite the same as the business blogging best practices of today. These changes may have affected your search engine rankings, so if you don't follow the best practices of today, you business blogging may not have the impact that you hoped for or used to have. Here are the five business blogging best practices of 2012:  

  1. One Topic Per Article - Don't try to do much with any one blog post like optimize for multiple keywords or cover several different topics at once. By doing so, you're only competing with yourself because this post is now competing with itself on these multiple keywords. Keep each post to one topic, and one keyword. Google is more likely to rank higher blog posts that go in-depth on one topic, and provide really authoritative content to web visitors.
  2. Focus on Educating Your Audience - The purpose of your blog is to be a place for potential customers to find the information they need to move through the buying process. It's one of the few places on your website that's actually for web visitors, and not for the company. The types of posts that make great educational content include "how-tos", "X things you need to know", and "Y Ways to Do Z." These types of posts are also very popular with readers because they are so educational.
  3. Publish consistently and Frequently - At a minimum, you should be blogging two times per week. If you can blog more frequently, and still maintain a high quality in every single piece you write, then go for it. The reason business blogging needs to be consistent and frequent is because it keeps readers (and Google bots) coming back on a regular basis. No one is going to come back to a blog that only publishes once a month or every other week.
  4. Offer a Variety of Content - This one can be the toughest best practice to uphold. It's easy for a small business blog to get into a rut, and most small business owners aren't in the business of writing. Offering a variety of content keeps your blog fresh, and will also serve all the different tastes and preferences. Instead of just writing informative articles, try writing a list article, or an infographic, or posting a video (it doesn't have to be one you record yourself). A change of pace is always nice.
  5. Publishing Content That's On Topic - A variety of content doesn't necessarily mean writing about marketing one week, weddings the next, and summer travel plans the week after. If you're a green home cleaning company, for example, and you have a company blog, keep it to things relevant to your industry and customers. They don't necessarily want to know about the trials and tribulations of running a franchise, but they might want to know a success story or two with your customers, or what sort of techniques constitute a green home cleaning. Business blogging needs to be specific to the people who will buy your stuff, addressing their needs and pain points.

These may be the business blogging best practices, but there's much more to blogging than that. If you want to learn more about how to blog, then download our 'How to Blog' guide below!

Tech Tool of the Week: LastPass

As a content marketer, you have to deal with a lot of logins and passwords, especially if you do a lot of blogging work for your clients. I have five separate accounts just for Wordpress, each with their own unique login and password. How do you keep track? Well, I do it with this week's Tech Tool of the Week: LastPass.

LastPass is a password management software that autofills every login screen name, so you don't have to tell the computer to "remember me" or look up a password. It's also much more secure than using the same one or two passwords for everything. After all, if your computer, or even one of your networks, gets hacked into, then everything can easily be jeopardized. That can easily be avoided with LastPass. The best part: LastPass is completely free.

I've been using LastPass for about a week now and I absolutely love it. I only have to remember one password, and that's the one that gets into LastPass itself. If I ever set up a new account with whatever it may be, LastPass records it and the program will do the autofill like it does for everything else. If I ever need a new password for anything, LastPass will generate that for me and save it. This program has been incredibly helpful, remembering all my different Wordpress, social networking, and other online accounts. Wordpress is especially key since someone else sets up those logins and passwords for me. Now, there's no need to save the emails so I have the information, and no need to go in and change the password to something easy to remember. I just use LastPass.

The software works on just about any platform, including mobile platforms. It'll also switch between browsers easily. I just switched from Firefox to Chrome. Firefox was getting way too buggy. Anyway, LastPass moved over with me with no problems. And I recommend that you move over to LastPass.

Non-Tech Tips and Tricks to Improving Productivity

If you are aware of my work on, you may have noticed that I've written about office productivity more than once. Since it is a tech blog, I tend to cover different types of software that improve productivity, or ways to use technology to improve productivity. As cool and helpful as technology is, let's not forget how helpful those non-tech tools can be.

I get the feeling that productivity is the newest buzzword. That might be because school has just started, so there's now a lot more focus and hype on time management and getting things done. Or, it could be that the final quarter of the year is coming up (October is next week, can you believe it?), so more people are focusing on meeting goals and quota before the third quarter and the year are up. Whatever the case, if you have a few things that you need to get done, here are a few tips and tricks that I personally use to get things done:

  1. Set a Daily Quota - Hopefully, you already make a daily to-do list. If you don't, consider that Tip #0. If you do already make a daily to-do list, then set a daily quota for the number of tasks you will do from the list. I used to set mine at 50 percent. So, whether I have 20, 40, or 60 tasks on the list, I set a quota of completing half of those tasks. That was a bit of an easy quota, so I upped it to two-thirds. I'm doing well with that new quota, but there have been a few days where I didn't quite make it. Once that number gets too easy, then I'll up it 75 percent. This works because this keeps me from getting overwhelmed by a lengthy to-do list.
  2. Select the Tasks That Meet the Quota - After you set the quota, then select the tasks that you will do in order to meet the quota. For example, if your list has 30 tasks, and you've set your quota at 50 percent, then you need to do 15 tasks to meet that quota. Once you know that you need to do 15 tasks, pick the 15 tasks from the list that you will do. I've just started doing this, but I've found that this saves me the time from deciding which of my many things to do next and prevents me from losing motivation because I've lost interest in doing any of the remaining tasks. Selecting tasks also organizes your priorities, so you may find that you're doing the important things first, and reducing your stress in the meantime.
  3. Develop a Routine - I like when things are orderly and predictable, so developing a routine in performing certain task has been helpful for me. When I wake up in the morning, I do my emails, marketing, and follow ups with my cup of coffee. I do this every morning. At 2 p.m., I do the work I need to do for, since that's when the Google Alerts come it. It's a natural launchpad to getting some work done. I read what I need to over lunch, which I usually take at around 12 p.m. Since I've paired behaviors and tasks together, it's come to a point where something is wrong if I am not working on certain things at certain times.
  4. Eat Lunch - I don't understand how folks can go without eating lunch. Eventually, my hunger gets distracting, and I can't work unless I get something to eat. Please eat lunch. It not only gives you a break and a chance to work on easier tasks, but it's also good for your health. Good breaks and good health can make it easier to work when you need to. Plus, lunch breaks give you the chance to get out of the office. I usually take that time to run to the bank or pick up some groceries.

Overall, technology is helpful for productivity, but we certainly shouldn't forget about the things that we do offline and off the computer. Those things can be equally as helpful, or as destructive, to our productivity as we allow them to be.

Content Marketing Tech Tool of the Week: Google Places

Sorry that this week's Tech Tool is coming on Wednesday instead of Monday. Monday got really hectic for me all of a sudden. It was a pizza and red velvet whoopie lunch kind of day.

Anyway, the Tech Tool of the Week is Google Places. No, this is not because it's really really fun to write reviews. It's this week's tech tool because it's a great way to find contacts for an email marketing or a direct mail marketing campaign. Google Places makes it easy to find valid, quality contacts that could lead to some quality business for you, much easier than web surfing yourself or going through the phone book.

To use Google Places to find businesses to pitch, go the the rating page where you would normally start if you wanted to write a review. Next, go to the search bar, and type in a specific type of business with which you want to work. If you want to do work for clothing boutiques, then type in "clothing boutiques". If law firms, then maybe type in "law" or "lawyers." Since I have a lot of experience covering technology, I typed in "technology."

After that, peruse through the results, clicking on the businesses that interest you. If you are doing a direct mail campaign, then an address is right there for you. If you are doing an email campaign, or would like to see if there's a specific person you could send your direct mail to, click the web address to find this information. You may not always find an email or a company directory. If you want, you could call the business to find the information, or you could skip the business all together.

From my perspective, I think that the results from Google Places are very trustworthy. If they happen to have a recent review, then it's very likely the business is still operating and that the contact information is valid. This is a problem you can run into if you pull information from the phone book or an online directory. Also, many of these listings are put there by the businesses themselves, so these companies are hoping to be found. Maybe they didn't intend to be found by someone who's offering writing and editing services, but you never know. That might be something the company needs!

Give it a try! Best of all Google Places is completely free, so you don't have to spend any money on contact lists from database companies. Plus, if you run into a business that you want to review, you can do that also.

Freelance Writing Tech Tool of the Week: Freshbooks

One of my niches is technology. I didn't start out my freelance writing career with the intention to specialize in technology. Sort of just happened that way. One of my early gigs, a blog that I still write for by the way, focused on startups and new technology. I've used that gig as a springboard to new gigs, and it seems that technology is a topic that works for me.

Anyway, freelancers, like many other business people, can use technology to increase productivity, to improve efficiency, and to make life easier. So this week's tech tool of the week, of which I recommend to all freelancers is the online expense management program Freshbooks.

I found out about Freshbooks from an ad I saw on a web page. Prior to using Freshbooks, all my invoices were word documents, where with each new invoice I had to go through and change every line item, do my own math, then send it as an attachment. If I was creating an invoice for a new client, I had to change all the personal information myself as well.

With Freshbooks, for just a monthly $20 fee, I get professional-looking invoices that I can choose to send via email or snail mail, and the program does the work for me. The program also saves every line item I've ever used, which is handy for my clients that only pay for me to write blog posts. I don't have to go through and type in everything myself, or change anything from an old invoice to keep formatting consistent. I just have each line item as a blog post, which I pick from a drop down menu, put in all the other information, and it's done. When the client pays the invoice, I can mark off that as well, keeping track of how much the client paid and which method the client used to pay.

Freshbooks also comes with a time tracking feature, which is useful for clients who bill hourly. I haven't had any need for this feature, but it certainly is a better alternative than keeping track of time yourself. It also comes with the ability to do your own bookkeeping online. This is handy if you do all your invoicing through Facebook, but I do have a few clients who use ElanceoDesk, or their own methods for invoicing, so for the time being it's easier for me to use a separate program for bookkeeping.

I would highly recommend Freshbooks if you aren't yet using any time and billing management software for your work. For $20, you can have up to 25 clients on your account. There is a free version, which only allows you to have up to three clients. You can also create custom login pages for certain clients, if necessary.

Have a Contract. Your Content Marketing Business Depends On It.

Courtesy of Clients from Hell:

Me: Right, I’ll send through your invoice now.

Client: Oh, don’t worry about that - I’ve already sent it. Check your email.

Confused, I check my inbox to find an email with a text document attached charging me £800 - the amount I quoted the client.

Me: I still I think I better send an official invoice to you…

Client: What are you talking about? Why would you possibly want to charge me? I’m the one that has put time and effort into managing this project plus I allowed you to design AND code it all - you should feel privileged!

Me: But…

Client: I expect payment within 30 working days.

*Phone cuts off*

Now, if you had a signed contract with this client from hell, you could avoid a situation like this. Well, maybe not avoid, but you could put yourself in a position to be able to hold this client accountable, or to let the client know of the possible legal repercussions of breaching the contract. Obviously, you wouldn't be signing a contract where the client is charging you for services, instead of the other way around.

But, a situation like this highlights why it's so important for independent contractors and the self-employed to have contracts with their clients, and to insist on them with potential clients. A contract is there so either party can hold the other accountable for their side of the contract. Hopefully, it doesn't have to come to going to small claims court and hiring a lawyer. But, you don't want a client like this client from hell to get away with that behavior because you didn't have a contract set up in the first place.

If you're in a situation where a client is breaching contract because he or she hasn't paid, then Kelly James-Enger has an effective "pay-or-die" letter that applies the necessary pressure to get your client to take action. It may not be an action you like, but it's certainly better than having the client ignore your calls and emails as you try to get things settled. I actually used the letter recently with a client, which prompted him to get back to me after several attempts to get in touch in order to clear up the issue.

The moral of the story is: have a contract. If you don't have a legal background or access to an attorney to put one together, you can easily make one yourself by finding quality templates online and using those as models and examples. It doesn't have to be fancy and full of legal jargon. A contract is essentially meant to put your business agreements in written form. In business, it's best to put it on paper, and not to rely on a he said/she said.