Annmarie’s Top 10 Most Popular Blogs and Why

When it comes to business-to-business marketing, blogging is considered a must for what marketing experts call “inbound” marketing. According to Hubspot.com, the goal of inbound marketing is to convert strangers into customers and promoters of your business.

My blog has been very successful at inbound marketing. I like to think of it as encouraging potential clients to come to you instead of the other way around. That’s different from traditional marketing, which is when you reach out directly to customers through emails, brochures, cold calling and, well, you get the idea.

Hubspot publishes that since 2006, inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Inbound marketing, however, is not easy. It requires strategic thinking to figure out what kind of quality content will attract potential clients to your website and, ultimately, to boost your business results.

Blogging is a primary tool for inbound marketing. Effective blogs should incorporate the idea of brand journalism.

What is brand journalism? It’s a newer term of art that describes what successful public relations professionals have always done. That is, providing useful and quality content to attract readers to your brand. I did this years ago for a client’s newsletter. I produced newsletters that had more focus on news readers can use instead of marketing hype. As a result, potential customers approached my client for its services.

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Effective inbound marketing is both an art and science.
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When it comes to successful blogging, brand journalism and inbound marketing, I have an advantage. Since I have a journalism background, I am used to thinking about information through the lens of what will attract and retain readers. I also write about technical subjects in a non-technical way to reach broader audiences.

If you are thinking about blogging, you should be clear on the purpose of your blog. Mine is to reach insurance professionals looking for writing and public relations services. That is why you will find a mix of insurance information and marketing advice in my blog posts. (For more on successful blogging, please check out the “blogging” tag.)

Effective inbound marketing is both an art and science. There is a lot of great advice out there on anticipating search terms, considering search engine algorithms and profiling potential customers and readers. Since I am too busy servicing my clients, I just stick to writing what I think will interest readers. (For more on knowing your audience, click here.)

So why has my blog worked? To determine this, I reviewed the 10 most popular blogs I’ve run since I started blogging two years ago. By offering what has worked for me and why, I am hoping my blog can inspire greater blogging success for others.

1)   Discovering the Power of F#. This blog is based on an article I wrote for Contingencies magazine. It generated most hits, was the most tweeted, reached readers from all over the world and helped me to reach a new market. Why it works: Everyone is looking for innovation that will boost their competitive prowess.

2)   Workers Need to Know the Truth About Workers Compensation. Why it works: It offers practical advice and information non-workers’ compensation experts need to know.

3)   Ten Ways to Improve Workplace Safety. This blog consistently attracts readers every single day. In fact, if you type “ways to improve workplace safety,” my blog is the third on the Google page. Why it works: The title mirrors wording that searchers are likely to use and delivers on its promises.

4)   Why Injured Workers Hire Attorneys. Why it works: The title is search engine friendly and the information usefully distills research by the well-respected Workers Compensation Research Institute to make it practical for employers.

5) 21 Lessons From My First Year of Blogging. Why it works: Because it provides helpful insight for new and future bloggers.

6)   Converting the CEO to the Cause of Workers’ Compensation. This blog was shared and commented on extensively in workers’ compensation LinkedIn groups and is the top Google listing for “convincing the CEO about workers’ compensation.” Why it works: Convincing the CEO to invest in workers’ compensation programs is a major pain point for professionals in the field. The blog offers internal strategies on how to convince the CEO that workers’ comp initiatives are worth the investment.

7)   Reduce Claim Filing Lag time Through Effective Employee Communication Plans. Why it works: Employers are always looking to save on workers’ compensation dollars and claim lag time is a key cost driver. Again, writing headlines that will match search terms is key. Type in “how to reduce workers’ compensation claim lag time” and my blog is the sixth in the list.

8)   What Employers Should Know About Workers’ Compensation Predictive Modeling. Why it works: Employers have heard of predictive modeling, but they need to know how it will affect them.

9)   Opening A Window Into Health Care’s Future. This blog covers an article I wrote for Leader’s Edge magazine that covers the future of health care, its technology, the ethics involved and implications for ObamaCare. Why it works: People like to read cutting edge information and the subject has universal appeal.

10) Ten Attributes of Quality Content. Why it works: People want to write better content and this blog offers ways to do it.

 

The Latest Trends in B2B Content

More evidence that providing quality content is the name of the social media marketing game.

This is a great infographic available on a Hubspot blog, How Does Your Company Stack Up? The Latest Trends in B2B Content. To check it out, click here.

Here’s the beginning of the blog:

One of my favorite things in grade school was that whole “gold star” system. Remember it? You do something well in the classroom and you get a shiny gold star next to your name on a chart of your whole classmates. So, at any given time, you can look around and see how you’re stacking up against the rest of the class.

But once you get out of that grade-school classroom, the gold-star system often goes away. You can’t see how you stack up against your competitors and peers because you don’t have access to their data.

That’s why benchmark studies, like one recently released by Content Marketing Institute, Marketing Profs, and Brightcove about the current state of content marketing, are just so darn awesome.

Take a look at the latest trends to find out if your company deserves a gold star or not. Trust me — it’ll be just as exciting as the time you got a gold star in the fourth grade.

Blogging Quality Content: Do You Have What It Takes?

Blogs are an essential marketing tool, but simply having one on your company’s website is not enough.

To draw readers and build brand credibility, you need to consistently publish quality content that drives readers to come back for more.

After spending the past couple years blogging, along with 25 years of publishing experience, I can tell you that blogging content worth reading is a steady commitment of time and energy. It’s also not easy.

So before publishing a single online keystroke, ask yourself: Do you have what it takes to blog quality content?

Here is my list of the characteristics of effective bloggers. Effective bloggers are:

  • writers who enjoy writing and can express themselves clearly. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? If you don’t like to write, your product will show it. Therefore, for the sake of your sanity, do not blog.
  • experts. Any idiot can cut and paste material from other blogs and re-package it into blogs. You, however, confidently know your stuff and can offer original content. You are also an expert at knowing your audience (click here) and understanding their needs (click here).
  • critical and creative thinkers. Effective bloggers are constantly thinking. You think while sleeping in an unending quest for better solutions and approaches and/or understanding and perspective.
  • curious. You watch TV with you tablet to learn more about actors, plots and topics.
  • readers. And I don’t just mean Internet surfing. You read books about topics that have nothing to do with work because you want to learn.
  • ideas people. When you attend events, you unwittingly go from small talk to substantive issues within a two-sentence conversation. You thrive on applying concepts from other disciplines to introduce innovative solutions to another.
  • disciplined. Earning online traction requires consistently producing new content at least once a week.
  • thick skinned. You can handle constructive disagreement online for the world to see.
  • givers. You do not mind contributing useful information to help others and understand that sharing really means caring about your audience.
  • personalities. There’s no boresville because you take chances and engage in an interesting manner.

Of course, great bloggers have other characteristics as well. What characteristics would you add?

Like what you see? Then follow me!

Brainstorming Ideas for Blogs, Articles and Other Written Materials

With so many opportunities to showcase expertise online, sooner or later, you will probably need to write something. It could be a blog, a newsletter article or a thought piece. Perhaps the marketing department approaches you  for content or you want to build your reputation through Internet or print publishing.

Whatever the case, you need ideas but do not know where to find them. You’ve tried freethinking — the exercise of writing whatever comes to mind on screen or paper — but it goes nowhere. Your brainstorm becomes a drizzle.

It might surprise you to learn have more ideas than you realize. You just need to train yourself to see them.  You can become so good at it that you have my dilemma of more ideas than time!

From whence will inspiration come?

1)   Conversations. Many of my blog and article ideas come from conversations with colleagues or customers. It can be an unrelated remark, a question or a story.

2)   Reading. News, blogs, social media discussion groups and other sources mention issues that you can give more attention. Take time to discover your unique approach to it.

  • Did someone miss an important aspect of a problem or story?
  • Do you have a totally different perspective?
  • Is there another angle to cover?
  • Is there a different way to approach the subject?
  • Did you reach different conclusions?
  • Is there any new research or conditions that will affect your clients?
  • What questions are left unanswered?

3)   Just doing your job. So many potential topics arise when you are just doing your day-to-day job.

  • Did you find a creative way to solve a problem?
  • Did you hear about a new issue that calls for further exploration?
  • Can you address a customer pain point in a new way?
  • How did a new law, regulation or process change create new opportunities or headaches?

Generating ideas boil down to being curious. Think critically about everything you see and hear.

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Generating ideas boil down to being curious.
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Consider information as reporters do. Ask yourself if the information matters and if so, to whom? Consider its impact, usefulness and limitations. Practice these suggestions and the ideas will start flowing.

Make sure you do not forget all these great ideas. Keep a file, perhaps in your smart phone memo, to jot ideas down as you go.

As the ideas lead to others, develop a file and keep them. You will be surprised how quickly it will fit up. Categorize them by topic and you might just develop the key points of your written piece. You might even realize a new product or service for your company to boost its uniqueness in the marketplace.

This should get you started. If you have other great brainstorming ideas, please share below.

Ten Attributes of Quality Content

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 1.00.32 PMDo you find that too many bloggers publish more for their own edification than yours?

How about blogs and web content that are just trying to sell you something?

Readers like me are demanding better content — and rightly so. You are busy and do not want to waste precious time reading lousy blogs. If someone is reading your blog, you should feel honored.

If you want to build credibility for your business, everything published should be top quality. Put it another way, it should pass the news editor’s smell test. Editors have to be very picky about what they publish. Editors know publishing garbage is bad for business. This is applies to any organization.

I was also thinking about quality content when I recently worked tirelessly on a magazine feature article. I am paid by the article so I could have made more money by not putting in so many hours. However, I need to be proud of it, so I dig deeper to give my readers the value-added. My byline is my brand, so publishing good stuff is important for my professional reputation. (If you want to see some of my magazine articles, please visit the “Work Samples” page.)

Given this, my simple rule for quality content is: Don’t write anything you would not want to read.

Here are, in my opinion, the attributes of quality content:

1)     Value. If you cannot answer the reader’s “what is in it for me?” question, stop writing until you can.

2)     Uniqueness. I wrote a blog on tweeting quality content for live events because other blogs focused more on the technical aspects of tweeting than on the content. What good are technical skills with lousy content?

3)     Newness. Provide new information or offer a new perspective.

4)     Show, don’t just tell. Give readers a picture of what you are communicating. Explain how a concept or product works. Give examples.

5)     Cleanliness. Meaningful content obeys the rules of grammar. It is not wordy or redundant. Use a fog index to find sentences that are too long.

6)     Easy-to-understand. The old journalism rule of writing on an 8th grade level is still a good one. Microsoft Word offers a readability index. Use it.

7)     Use graphics to reinforce your point.

8)     Accuracy. Your readers should feel they can take what you said to the bank. If not, you are not building credibility and trust.

9)     Be real. Don’t blog like you are writing a term paper. Your genuine voice makes for much better reading.

10)  Conversation starter. Don’t just write into a vortex. We all benefit from the conversation social media offers and nobody knows everything.

Here’s the truth: quality blogs take time. Do not start blogging until you can make time to dedicate to it. I’ve been blogging for about 18 months. I’ve learned that writing quality blogs once a week and keeping up with comments takes about four hours a week. Blogging is a discipline and consistent posting is necessary to attract Google’s attention.

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Editors know publishing garbage is bad for business.
This applies to any organization.
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Here are the hallmarks of bad blogging:

1)     Poor writing.

2)     Blatant marketing pitches. Social media is about contributing to the Internet community. People are not stupid. They will see through your intentions pretty quickly.

3)     Sensationalism. Some bloggers in the insurance industry would be better fodder for “News of the Weird.” I’ve seen too many blogs relating to sex or bizarre circumstances. It’s unprofessional and insulting, so don’t do it.

4)     Blogs that do not deliver what headlines promise.

5)     Plagiarism. When I got behind on my blogging, a writer friend of mine suggested I lift the works of others and run that. That is called plagiarism and it is one of the deadly sins of writers. If others have covered the topic, do it better. If you can’t, refer your readers to the better blog.

Why is there so much crappy content out there? I blame it on communications and marketing professionals who emphasize blogging as a marketing tool. Consistent blogging with great content should attract customers by building credibility, but bad blogging does the opposite. For the sake of your credibility, do it right or don’t do it at all.

What do you think?

Are You Too Obsessed with Google Algorithm Changes?

Here’s a cute blog for the first day of summer on a Friday afternoon. It relates to my recent post on appropriate blog length.  –Annmarie

The Simple Cure for Google Algorithm Update Anxiety

by Chad Pollitt

Google Algorithm Update Anxiety (GAUA) is a serious disorder that afflicts many marketers around the world. The condition was first discovered by scientists in April of 2003 when Google released its Cassandra algorithm update. Since then, the GAUA disorder has become a pandemic.

Its most recent outbreak occurred on May 22nd after Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, announced the release of Penguin 2.0. Today, doctors have announced they’ve discovered the cure for this marketing plague.

Google Algorithm Update Anxiety Overview 

GAUA symptoms include: Headache, upset stomach, nausea, back pain, muscle pain, nasal stuffiness, shortness of breath, flushing, pain in arms or legs, dizziness, reduced organic search traffic, and angry clients.

Marketers have a greater chance of developing this disorder if they repeat the same keywords over and over, manually build inbound links, meticulously keyword-sculpt every aspect of every web page, calculate and track keyword saturation rates, participate in link farms, buy links, publish lots of on-site ads, duplicate content, publish infrequently, or generally just publish useless and boring content.

To read more, go to http://blog.hubspot.com/cure-for-google-algorithm-update-anxiety

Are Longer Blogs Better Than Shorter Ones?

If there is one thing you can count on when it comes to social media it is this: Nobody is really an expert.

It’s impossible. New opportunities to reach your audience are constantly coming online. And the rules change.Quality-Content is King!

The big chatter among social media professionals is that Google has changed its algorithms in an attempt to give quality content and context more traffic. As a result, some blogs and websites are offering longer posts to boost search engine optimization.

I rejoice that Google is constantly trying to give quality content its due. There is just too much garbage online. I think it is insulting to readers to publish material that is not insightful, informative or helpful.

Nevertheless, it happens all the time. There are still people out there playing old games such as obnoxiously using the same terms repeatedly to get Google’s attention. Thankfully, Google caught up with that silliness a long time ago.

The rule of thumb has been that the best size for blog posts is 300 to 500 words. This assumes that readers do not have a lot of time to read beyond that. It makes sense given the decline of attention spans. The experts are now advocating blogs that run 600 to 900 words.

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We get in trouble when we are writing more for Google algorithms
than the audience we intend to reach.
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Pithy writing is nothing new. Even when I was a public relations professional more than twenty years ago, the sage advice was to provide information in bite-sized pieces. Advice on web writing encourages information sharing based on a shorter version of the inverted pyramid, which remains the basis of news writing.

With some exceptions, I have tried to follow the blog below 500 words rule. I often write-up 1,200 words and cover my bases. Then, I divide my blog into a series. It is also more practical for me. Blogging can be a real time killer.

But now Google is rewarding longer blogs. This is based on the idea that quality content is longer because it means the author is getting into more details. This assumption is hilarious. Quality and quantity are not necessarily interrelated. Google’s approach runs the risk of rewarding posts that are longer than they should be. Many an editor can tell you that most pieces can be cut back by at least 25 percent without losing important content.

We get in trouble when we are writing more for Google algorithms than the audience we intend to reach. For business-to-business communication, the best content is written for real people who are seeking information.

What to do? Write your blog for what it is really worth. Make sure it is about answering the “what’s in it for the reader” question. If you are producing quality and meaningful content, length should not matter and followers will come. Readers who really want to read your stuff will do so. If they are busy, they might bookmark or print it.

Avoid long content for the sake of search engine optimization. Frankly, few people are good at writing long content that keep readers interested. It’s hard work. My ability to write feature articles for national magazines is the direct result of years of practice. Longer pieces require different skill sets, especially for organizing content and offering transitions that encourage readers to continue. (To see some of my feature articles, please visit the work samples section.)

How do you know you have a quality blog? I’ll cover that soon.

Do you think of longer blogs encourage search engine optimization?

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How to Tweet Live Events – with Quality Content

Much of the online content about tweeting live events covers the technical considerations. What is missing, ironically, is quality content on — well — tweeting quality content.

So before you go atweetin’, check out my tips on tweeting live events:twitter-logo-hashtag

1) Knowing your audience is numero uno for tweeting and any type of communication. Being aware of what readers care about should guide your content. (For more on knowing your audience, click here. Another past blog covers getting your message out. To see it, click here.)

2) Be or become a subject expert. If you want to attract and maintain followers, know your stuff and its proper context. Otherwise, your tweets risk ringing hollow and being difficult to understand. Since I had expertise in workers’ compensation, I was also able to add insight to my conference coverage.

3) Build and expand your audience. Let the world know you will be tweeting an event to encourage interest and new followers. I recommend posting the announcement two to three weeks in advance and then re-announcing the week before and then a couple of days before the event.

I gained several new followers after posting announcements on my blog, Twitter and subject-based LinkedIn groups. During and after my tweets, I gained even more. Next time, I will also announce the hash tags I am using.

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Think of tweeting conferences, speeches and presentations as taking notes
 and sharing them with your audience in real time.

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4) Prepare in advance. Get the names of the speakers, follow them on Twitter when possible and have all their names pre-typed in so you just copy and paste it when you need it. I also looked at the supporting material and copied it into my Notes app so I was ready when the speaker mentioned it.

5) Consider using a portable device such as an IPad. I took a chance on bringing the IPad instead of my laptop. Since I am not sold on any of the word processing programs for IPad, I used the Notes app to cut and paste my already typed in names and quotes for future tweets.

6) Give the reader a flavor of the event. Not just how many people are there, but how they responded. In one tweet, I mentioned the hearty laughter resulting from a speaker’s comment.

7) Do not be intimidated. Think of tweeting conferences, speeches and presentations as taking notes and sharing them with your audience in real time.

6) Write Attention-Getting Tweets. You can never go wrong with statistics and facts (please attribute responsibly), new information, insights, and relevant story summaries.

8) Tweet now, write later. Don’t worry about blogging or writing more information until later. Excellent live tweets can be lost to the writing process.

9) Use hash tags. No mystery here. Try to anticipate subjects and enter those, #pound sign first, into your prepared notes for future cutting and pasting.

10) Don’t be sloppy. Poor grammar, punctuation and spelling kill credibility.

(To see or follow my tweets, check out annmariegedbaribeau@twitter.com.)

What’s your best advice for tweeting live events? Please comment below.

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21 Lessons Learned from My First Year of Blogging (Part 3)

This is the last installment of the 21 Lessons Learned from My First Year of Blogging. To read part 1, please click here. To read Part 2, please click here.

Here’s the rest of what I learned.

1)     Lighten up and have fun. The blog I posted in June about what Benjamin Franklin would tweet still generates hits. Another blog on social media by the numbers broadened my audience, especially on Twitter.

2)     Spare your readers the marketing hype. The idea of blogging is to contribute to a greater community. Market your expertise and you will generate leads.

3)     It’s all about content. It should be no surprise that the blogs that generate tips and advice are more successful. Stick to what you know well and your expertise will come through.

4)     Don’t give up. It took several months before I was seeing Google hits on a regular basis. At the beginning, I would get traffic when the blog was posted but then it would taper off to nothing. Now, my blog generates hits every day. This came from being consistent with blogging (which attracts Google and providing enough content to attract new readers who did not discover you the first time you covered a topic.

Blogging should be a labor of love. Remember that there are no social media experts. We are all learning as we go and new innovations in social media are dizzying. If your company does not blog, you are missing out on opportunities to build your business and network.

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by Annmarie Geddes Baribeau