November 2007
November 28, 2007

The Value / Cost of a Business Blog

If you're a small business owner or entrepreneur you should be asking the question: should I blog?

While I'm a big proponent of blogging, I don't believe that any marketing campaign is right for all businesses or all people.

There's a value vs. cost equation that only you can answer. Will the time and effort you put into blogging be returned in business gained? Can the time you spend on blogging be better spent elsewhere? How can you measure success with blogging?

The Costs of Blogging:

  • Time. That's the big one. Especially when you get started you need to carve out time every week to post multiple times. I also recommend budgeting time for reading and commenting on other blogs. While there's no hard and fast rule on this, you might want to budget 2 - 4 hours/week for the first 1 - 2 months.
  • Stress. I've had those weeks where I can't figure out what I'm going to blog about. Or I look back and realize I only put up one or two good, non-self-serving posts in a month. Sometimes it can feel like just another thing on your plate.
  • Money. This isn't a big one. Blogging is an extremely affordable marketing campaign. If you can't afford a TypePad or WordPress blog you've probably got bigger problems.

The Value of Blogging:

  • Establishes Your Expertise. People are always searching for help on the Internet. As I look at my flyte blog stats I can see that people have found me while searching on "business blog ppt," "why can't I find myself on Google," and "hardware and software for creating podcasts" among hundreds of others each day. If you've written a blog post that answers their question, they're more likely to listen to what you have to say.
  • Increases Your Search Engine Visibility. See above. Every blog post is a new Web page ready to be indexed by the search engines.
  • Warms / Generates Online Leads. I have set up some Google Analytic Goals that helps me determine which traffic converts at the highest rate. My flyte blog and my Internet Marketing 101 blog consistently convert at the highest rates.
  • Leads the Media to Your Door. I've been interviewed by local newscasts, local newspapers, and national magazines (Inc. and BusinessWeek Small Biz) for different stories. Almost always it's because they were doing research for a story and found my blog.

Whether blogging is right for you is a decision you have to make on your own. Luckily, you can get started pretty easily. Unfortunately, so can your competition.

If you'd like to learn more about blogging check out our upcoming workshop: How to Plan, Build and Promote a Business Blog.

Date: 12/12/07
Time: 8:00 - 9:30am
Place: flyte's offices (directions)
Cost: $50 (includes continental breakfast!)
Registration Required!

Rich Brooks
Business Blog Consultant

Posted by at 05:22 PM
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November 26, 2007

Will Buying Text Links Help or Hurt You at Google?

Two important statements came out of Google recently, and as Google goes, so does the search engine market. Make sure your search engine marketer knows about these two items.

Buying and Selling Text Links Are Evil

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of
Googles webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a sites
ranking in search results.

In the past, one way to get more incoming links--and thus improve your standing in the search engines--was to buy text links from other Web sites. Besides the traffic that you might receive, search engines saw these incoming links as "votes of confidence." However, Google has ruled that these links are there to artificially raise a Web site's ranking, so they will be penalized.

To reduce the incentive to use text links Google is penalizing both the sellers and buyers of these links.

More info >>

Shared IPs Are as Good as Dedicated IPs

Lots of sites are hosted on shared IPs. If this had a negative effect
on ranking, it would harm most of the sites on the web--and that's not
good for small webmasters or for our users. So, understandably, sharing
an IP should not have an effect your ability to rank.

My advice: don't worry about it. Host your site however you think
is best, and instead spend your time focusing on the content--making
sure your pages are easy to navigate for users regardless of their
browser or hardware, and ensuring that the content you provide is
informative and unique.

This is a confirmation that Google has made several times before. So, if you're getting pressure from your search engine marketer or your hosting company to upgrade to a dedicated IP, just tell 'em to take a hike.

If you have no idea what this means, the upshot is that you don't HAVE to know.

More info >>

Now, get back to writing targeted, keyword-rich content to improve your search engine rankings!

Rich Brooks
SEO for Small Businesses

Posted by at 09:03 AM
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November 23, 2007

NFL Cares About All the Fans...Who Subscribe to the NFL Network

I'm down in a magical place that the NFL recognizes as the sole home market of the Patriots: Greater Boston.

Even in this place, where fans will be able to watch the final game of the Patriots season--on local affiliate WCVB--there's stories in the press about fans' frustration with the NFL and cable carriers.

If you read my previous post on the NFL's inability to read a map, Maine fans of the NEW ENGLAND Patriots will not be watching the final--possibly historic--game of the Patriots' season. This is because the NFL is showing it on their own NFL Network, which isn't currently available on Time Warner.

Seth Palansky, communications director of the NFL, commented on the post, saying:

I'm sorry the point is being missed in this story. The NFL feels the same way the fans do. NFL games should be made available broadly and affordably. The games should be available to ALL the fans who want to see them, not just the fortunate few who can afford the 400% markup the cable company wants to charge you.

Unfortunately, this just isn't true. If the NFL wanted the games to be available to "ALL the fans who want to see them" the NFL Network wouldn't exist and the games would be broadcast on NBC, CBS or FOX. The NFL Network only exists to make more money for the NFL. As Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reported in the Boston Globe:

Rodge Goodell...made the point several times that he was sticking up for the fans. He said it was important to make NFL games as accessible as possible to the widest audience.

Seems like Goodell and Palansky are reading off the same playbook. Marrapese-Burrell goes on to say:

Let's say that's true and he actually believes that. One longtime TV insider who requested anonymity said Goodell has the ability to take the Patriots-Giants game off The NFL Network and give it to the rest of the country for free.

"If it's all about taking care of the fans, they should turn around and say, 'We're going to do something brilliant; we'll give it to NBC and let them dump the Kansas City-Jets game,' " the insider said. "If the NFL really cared, let NBC flex do that [Patriots] game on Saturday night, let the entire country see it, and put Jets-Kansas City [Sunday] on The NFL Network.

Don't get me wrong. I want the NFL to make money. It's a business, providing what I and millions of others think is a superior product. Even when the Pats aren't good (not that long ago), football is still a sport worth watching.

I realize I'm arguing against my own best interests
by saying that the cable companies should have the right to make the NFL Network an option. It would be cheaper for me if they force the NFL Network on everybody, basically subsidizing my costs.

However, Goodell, Palasnky, and the rest of the NFL should stop pretending they have the fans' best interest at heart. They want to force the NFL Network down the cable companies' collective throats, and the Patriots game is the best leverage they've had so far. Down the road you can be sure the Superbowl will be available to everyone...who has the NFL Network.

The NFL should do the right thing and allow the local markets to show the game. That includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey in this I forgetting anyone? These are our teams. We support them. We buy their products, their t-shirts, their hats, their toilet paper. We sit through their commercials. Some of us buy season tickets. We're not freeloaders, we're supporting your business and we're your customers.

Start treating us like we matter.

Rich Brooks
Part of the Local Market

Posted by at 02:07 PM
Comments (6) | Permalink

November 21, 2007

Maine Not Part of New England Says NFL

I'm reading with a heavy heart today that what might be a historic game for my beloved Patriots won't be shown on TV here in Maine.

Why? Because two giant corporations--the NFL and Time Warner--are having a pissing match over who's the bigger dog. The NFL has placed the December 29th match up between the Pats and the NY Giants on their own NFL Network in their grand plan of trying to make it more difficult for the average fan to watch their local teams.

The NFL wants its fledging network on Time Warner's basic cable...basically forcing everyone who gets cable in Maine to pay for football whether they like it or not. If the NFL had faith in it's product it would allow Time Warner to carry the NFL network as part of a premium package and let those of us who are willing to pay for it pay for it.

Seth Palansky, the communications director of the NFL Network, and a man who obviously has never looked at a map, said,

The sad truth in this case is that if your outside the home market, regardless of whether you get the channel (on cable) or not, you won't see it.

Ummm...they're the freaking NEW ENGLAND Patriots.

It's rare for me to get on the side of giant cable companies--just check out any of my posts on Net Neutrality--but the NFL is dead wrong on this deal. The last time they did something this bone-headed and fan-unfriendly is when they gave exclusive rights for the NFL video game EA, killing competition and reducing EA's need to improve their product.

I know this post won't do any good; I know that if the Pats go 15-0 I'll be heading down to Boston to watch the game with my brother Doug.

However, the league should know that the only reason they make so much freaking money is because of the fans; fans they seem to be going out of their way to gouge. If enough of us get tired of being treated like the children in a messy divorce, we'll go elsewhere. Hell, I'm just about ready to try and figure out NASCAR.

In the meantime, Doug, fire up the grill and I'll see you on the 29th of December.

Rich Brooks
(Still a) Pats Fan

For more on this story, check out The NFL Cares About All the Fans...Who Subscribe to the NFL Network.

Posted by at 08:13 AM
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November 20, 2007

Get Your Blog On: 12/12/07

After a few months off because of summer break and a busy speaking-filled fall, we're bringing back our Working Lunch Seminars here at flyte. But this time, with a twist. It's during breakfast.

I tried to come up with something clever along the lines of Lunch & Learn, but as you can see, nothing clicked.

  • Nosh & Know
  • Munch & Master
  • Lox & Learn
  • Bagel & Become Able

So, I went back to my list of flyte-related puns and brought back "flyte school." (Jonathan also suggested this to me at one point, but I have documentation...somewhere...that proves I came up w/it first.)

So what's the first class of flyte school?

How to Plan, Build and Promote a Business Blog

Entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes are realizing the benefits
of a business blog to establish their credibility and expertise,
increase their search engine visibility and connect with prospects,
clients and the media.

In this workshop you'll learn:

  • How to get started in blogging
  • How a blog can attract search engine traffic
  • How a blog can deliver leads to your business
  • How to promote your blog and attract prospects and connect with customers

This workshop is limited to just 10 participants!

Date: Wednesday, 12/12/2007

Time: 8am - 9:30am

Place: flyte's offices (directions)

Cost: $50, includes coffee & danish type edibles

Register Now!

How about doing this as a Webinar, Rich?

I've heard this question several times recently, and I am planning on offering Webinars in January. (Hopefully.) Just need to work out some details. Stay tuned!

Rich Brooks
Business Blog Speaker

Posted by at 09:17 AM
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November 19, 2007

Can Social Media Help You Reach New Customers?

Social media is an umbrella term that often covers a lot of the new social networking Web sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn. If you thought these were hangouts for kids and teens who were just wasting time online, you're missing a great opportunity.

Social media sites allow you to connect and communicate with your customers in ways you may have never imagined.

In many ways, social media offers as profound a change in marketing strategy as when the Web first took off. It changes the way we communicate, socialize and perhaps transact online and off.

I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but I've created a primer of what social media is, how to get started with it, and how you might utilize it for your business in "How to Use Social Media to Reach New Customers," this month's featured article in flyte log, our monthly email newsletter. (Yes, I know it's a couple weeks late...I'm blaming jet lag.)

If you've been avoiding Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and the like, this is your chance to join the party. Just don't come empty handed. If you can't bear to join in, be sure to send a co-worker who feels comfortable networking in this Web 2.0 world.

Rich Brooks
Social Media Butterfly

Posted by at 09:12 AM
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November 18, 2007

Burt's Bees, Small Maine Companies, and Going Green

There's a good post over at Maine Adventure Sails by Annie Mahle, who also writes for the Portland Press Herald. It's called "Burt's Bees: Not Local Anymore."

The seed of the story is that Burt's Bees, formerly a Maine-based company, has been sold to Clorox. However, Annie talks about her mixed feelings on the sale, and about giant corporations who have recently found "green" in the way that professional athletes "find God" after a drug-related arrest.

I agree that I have mixed feelings. I think it's ridiculous that Wal-Mart is now waving the green flag, but on the other hand, isn't it better that they're doing something rather than nothing?

What do you think?

Rich Brooks
It's Not Easy Being Green

Posted by at 03:17 PM
Comments (1) | Permalink

November 16, 2007

Promote Your Blog Through Comments

Many bloggers love to get comments on their blog, but they rarely leave them. And that's a missed opportunity.

The blogosphere--the unfortunate name for the world of blogs--is a giant network. Or, it's a series of interconnected smaller networks, depending on your perspective. Like any network, it becomes more powerful with every new connection and every new person who joins it.

When you leave comments on other blogs, you're not only increasing that blog's ecosystem, you're building your own. (This is more true if the blog is related to yours thematically. I may enjoy leaving comments on video game blogs, but they probably won't bring me a whole lot of qualified traffic to my Web marketing blog.)

The more intelligent, relevant comments you leave, the more connections you make back to your own blog. Each comment creates a hyperlink back to your own site or blog. Although there really isn't a search engine benefit to these comment links, other readers of the blog will see your comments and may follow the link back to your blog to see what else you have to say. Also, the blog owner might take notice and feature your blog in an upcoming post if it's relevant.

How often should you comment? At the BlogWorld expo that I recently came back from, other top bloggers said that they spend almost half of their blogging time "off blog", meaning commenting and doing other related tasks.

Tara Kachaturoff, in a recent post "Commenting on Blogs: Increase Your Visibility and Credibility" at Andy Wibbels blog challenged readers to leave a whopping 10 comments per week! That's 520 comments in a year! (Assuming you blog while on the beach during vacation.)

While that number may seem overwhelming to a small business owner or entrepreneur who is already wearing too many hats, I've seen first hand the benefits of blogging and leaving comments.

So go ahead, leave a comment below. And who knows what traffic it might bring?

Rich Brooks
Business Blog Consultant

Posted by at 07:41 AM
Comments (2) | Permalink

November 06, 2007

Free Wifi at Manchester Boston Regional Airport

I'm sitting at gate 14 at the Manchester airport, waiting for my flight to Las Vegas and the Blogworld and New Media expo. After checking emails on my spanking new iPhone I popped open my laptop and to my surprise Manchester airport offers free wifi! (I guess it's to be expected in the Live Free or Die state.)

It got me thinking about wifi, and how some establishments offer it and others don't. When is it a good business decision to offer free wifi to your patrons? I notice some coffee shops give it away for free, others it's free for people who are actually buying something, and other places make you pay for it.

At Boston's Logan airport wifi costs $10/day. Since that's about $8 less than a tuna sandwich at Logan, it's relatively not a bad deal.

Manchester Boston Regional airport has little incentive to give wifi away for free. After all, the tuna sandwiches here are like $12. It's not like I can go anywhere else for wifi, and I am not going to change airports to get free wifi.

Maybe it's to make up for long security lines (which I've never experienced at Manchester) or the fact I have to take off my shoes before boarding a plane.

Maybe it's like heat, or cooling, or a comfy seat, and it's just something that the good folks here at Manchester feel that should be part of the price of a ticket. (The seats here are really comfortable, and they don't even have those annoying arm rests between them, so you can sack out if there's room.)

Maybe it's to get business bloggers spreading the good word that Manchester airport rocks, and if you're going to fly into northern New England you might want to make Manchester your arrival point, even if it's not the closest airport.

In any case, it makes this blogger's life that much easier. Now, if they could just add more outlets for us laptop jockeys.

Rich Brooks
Travelin' Man

Posted by at 11:09 AM
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November 02, 2007

MESDA's 15th Annual Technology Conference!

It's that time of year again, time for MESDA's 15th annual conference.

MESDA, Maine's Software and Information Technology Industry Association, is holding their "biggest and best annual conference yet" on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 6 & 7, 2007.

Topics include Ruby on Rails, eLearning, outsourcing, prototyping and more. The Wednesday keynote is "Lower Cost Domestic Sourcing," apparently as a response to outsourcing.

People can register for just one or two workshops on Tuesday (starting at $55 for members, $75 for non-members), or for the full day on Wed ($125 for members, $150 for non-members.)

I think.

To be honest, I read the registration page several times and I'm still not sure. The best bet is to just call Joe Kumiszcza at MESDA at 207.857.3003, as listed on the registration page.

I'd strongly recommend NOT using the online registration and payment system, since the page that asks for your credit card number isn't secure! Hopefully, the new Web site, which will be unveiled on Wednesday, will take future transactions securely.

However, don't let this stop you from attending. Use the printed form for individual registration (PDF), or bring a friend and use this registration form (PDF).

Rich Brooks
Fellow Geek

Posted by at 09:00 AM
Comments (2) | Permalink

November 01, 2007

How to Sell from Your Blog

A successful business blog is a delicate balancing act: you want your blog to build your business and help you sell, but a relentless promotion machine will turn off readers and keep you from getting subscribers who may turn out to be your best long-term customers.

Brian Clark over at Copyblogger has written a post that talks about how to balance the needs of five different type of prospects in "The Bloggers Guide to Indirect Selling."

If you've been wondering how to get a return on investment on your business blog, consider this post essential reading.

Rich Brooks
Business Blog Consultant

Posted by at 12:39 PM
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