June 29, 2012

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

I’ve been so busy with running my company that I’ve hardly had time to share great links, so today’s update is a bit long. Before I get to it, I wanted to tell you that one of my favorite biz coaches, Sarah Shaw, is doing a free conference call on July 10th about how to get your business to $1 million. You can sign up for it here.

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January 3, 2012

4 Ways to Keep Your Website Fresh & Get Tons of Traffic from Google

Filed under: Ecommerce,SEO — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 6:28 am

Fresh content is a valuable ingredient in search engine optimization (more on how that works here). Google wants your site to continuously evolve and grow and be updated. Search engines want to send their users to the best websites, and if your site appears to be a ghost town, it’s going to be tough to get love from search engines.

Churning out new content regularly can be demanding, especially on an ecommerce site. So here are some suggestions for areas of your site that you can easily add content to:

Customer-Generated Content
Customer-generated content is a great way to add new content to your site without having to do a ton of work. You can share product reviews customers have written or testimonials. You can have a page featuring photos of your customers using your products. The beauty of customer-generated content is that it doesn’t require much writing on your part and it lends social proof to your business.

New Products
Adding new products to your line is a no-brainer way to add new content. It gives you something to tell wholesale clients, press contacts and retail customers about too.

New Site Features
Be sure to add some new widgets to your site now and then. Think about things like seasonal gift guides, free downloads, or other tools and gizmos your customers might enjoy. (For example my conversion calculator or Cry Wolf’s online games.)

Blog Posts
Updating a blog is a great way to keep your site updated. You can blog about your latest media placements (be sure to update your press page with these), upcoming events (update your events page if you have one), promotions (update your coupons page with these if you have one) or just a little fun chit chat (we do this often on the Ex-Boyfriend blog).

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November 11, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Filed under: Link Love — Tags: , , , , , , — Meredith @ 1:20 pm

Happy 11/11/11 everyone! And it’s Friday, woot!

Here’s the best stuff I saw around the business blogosphere this week:

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October 28, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Happy Friday! I’m sure you’ve all got awesome Halloween’ish plans for the weekend. Before you get gussied up and OD on candy, check out my suggested reads from around the web this week:

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October 14, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Just got back from an awesome vacation in Australia! I’m now super busy catching up on stuff, but more blog jamz will be forthcoming. In the meantime, check out my suggested reads from around the web this week.

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September 23, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Hooray it’s Friday! Don’t forget we’ve just opened up I Shop Indie for holiday season members, get more details here. Now on with the links…

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August 16, 2011

Is Your Blog Being Junked Up By Comment Spammers?

Filed under: Blogging — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 2:40 pm

One of the biggest problems with having a website or blogs is dealing with spammers. These semi-literate bottom feeders are out to junk up the web and they want to use your web presence to do it. Comment spammers go around the web in search of blogs to leave comments on, or in many cases, have bots that do this. They have nothing of value to add to your blog’s conversation, they just want to get a link from your site to their site, for their own half-assed attempted at search engine optimization.

So first, here are the signs you are dealing with a comment spammer:
– The leave vague comments like “nice post” without actually referring to anything specific about your post.
– They fill in their “name” as something like “Treatment For Teeth Grinding”
– They are a hit and run commenter, they stop by once, leave a comment with no substantive value and never return.

Why you should delete their comments:
– They are junking up your comments section with no value to contribute
– You’re rewarding their spammy behavior by even allowing them to use your site for their gain
– It makes it look like you don’t have truly engaged readers on your site
– It gives more spammers the idea that your blog is spam-friendly and gives search engines the idea that your site is a haven for spam.

How to keep their comments off your blog:
– Use askimet, it’s the best comment spam blocker out there. Installing askimet means your blog will delete most of the spam comments for you, without your having to even see them.
– Don’t auto-approve comments on your blog. Hold comments for moderation and delete any that look like spam.

Although it’s tempting to allow these spammers to leave comments, since it makes it look like your blog is getting interaction, these comments deliver no value to your site and look like junk to legitimate readers. Keep the spammers in the trash where they belong, keep creating good content and the real readers will eventually chime in.

P.S. For those that follow me on Twitter, you may have seen I’ve been working on a viral marketing campaign. You can take a look at what I’ve been up to here. I’ll have a more detailed post on how this is going some time next week — hopefully inspiring you to try some viral marketing of your own.

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June 20, 2011

Why You Should Guest Post and How to Do It

Filed under: Blogging — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 5:11 am

A lot of Smaller Box readers often want ideas on how to market their business for “free”. Before I go any further, let me just dispel the myth of “free” marketing. All marketing is going to cost something, if it doesn’t cost you cash, it is going to cost you time, and your time should have an hourly wage attached to it. As long as we’re clear on that, let’s talk guest blogging, because it is a great marketing tool that doesn’t cost any cash.

The idea with guest blogging is that you write a post on some else’s blog. This is usually unpaid writing work, but the goal is to get a link to your website and awareness for your brand. I’ve personally done guest posts on sites like Design Sponge and Crafting an MBA. It’s a great way to help potential Smaller Box readers find out about this site.

Although guest blogging is especially great for business-to-business brands like Smaller Box, this strategy can also be used by creative entrepreneurs who sell consumer products. Guest blogging is great for brand awareness and link building, which is an important part of search engine optimization (SEO). Below are some guidelines to use as you try to incorporate guest blogging into your marketing mix.

1. Pick the right blog
You want to guest post on a blog that reaches your target market. In my case, I try to guest post on blogs that are popular with creative entrepreneurs, since that’s my target market. Make a list of sites you wish you could advertise on, or sites that you know your customers frequent. Select blogs that have a good amount of traffic. (See compete.com to get an estimate of how much traffic a site gets.)

You’ll also want to make sure it’s a blog that accepts guest blogger submissions. Choose a site that’s got an active readership and updates often. You may be able to get an idea of how engaged a blog’s readers are, based on how often the blog’s posts get comments. A site with a really engaged audience is likely to deliver you quality traffic.

If you need more detailed help on finding blogs to approach about guest blogging, check out Scoring Publicity for Your Small Business. The book has en entire chapter on building a press list, and many of the same techniques described in the book would apply to finding blogs to guest post for. Plus, it’s a must-have resources for DIY publicity.

2. Pick a great blogging topic and pitch
Once you’ve made your list of blogs that you’d like to write for. Select topics to write about for each of your prospects. You want to pick a topic that is highly relevant to the blog you’re trying to write for. For example, if you sell kids clothing, maybe you’d want to write for a parenting blog. You could pitch a guest post about selecting durable back to school clothing for children or a piece about back to school trends for this year.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you want to deliver real value to the blog you want to guest post with. You can’t pitch them a post that’s nothing but a giant ad for your business, and can’t pitch them regurgitated content that you’ve already posted elsewhere. You want to offer to write something fresh and genuinely interesting to the blog’s readers. This is probably the most important take away from this article and I can’t stress it enough. If you can’t produce great content for the blogs you want to work with, don’t waste your time or their time pitching them. I know I turn down several guest post pitches every week here at Smaller Box, because the content submitted to me isn’t up to my standards.

Once you’ve selected blogs to pitch and topics for each, send the blog owner a short but sweet message expressing your interest in guest blogging. Be sure to tell them what you want to post about, and why this topic is a great fit for their blog. (You can find samples of pitch emails within Scoring Publicity for Your Small Business, they are geared to pitching stories to media outlets that they would write, but the samples could be used as references to get ideas on how to pitch a story you want to write.)

3. Maximize the benefits of guest posting
Have an end goal in mind when doing guest posts. You may be trying to introduce a new product, get people to connect with you on social media, or join your mailing list. Make sure you’ve got your guest post linked to landing pages that are suitable for your end goal.

If you want to get the blog’s readers on your mailing list, be sure to include a link to a squeeze page. (A squeeze page is a page that is designed to get people to sign up for a mailing list — here’s an example of one.) If you want to get people to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, include links to your pages on those sites. If you want people to buy something, link to your product page.

Ideally, your effort to convert traffic (to social media followers, newsletter subscribers, paying customers, etc.) should have a sweetener to really get them interested in converting. If you want them on your mailing list, offer a free useful download when they join. If you want them to like you on Facebook, use a reveal tab with something appealing behind it to get them to click “like”. If you want them to purchase a product, share a limited time coupon code just for the blog’s readers. These extra incentives should help increase conversions from the guest post.

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June 17, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Filed under: Link Love — Tags: , — Meredith @ 1:45 pm

What a busy week here in Smaller Box land! Tons of good conversation about marketplace websites, branding, and picking the best business/marketing blogs to follow. My anti-guru rant had been a long time coming since it’s a subject that irks me and continues to irk me. I’ve wanted to broach this topic for a while, but didn’t want to sound like a jerk.

This has been a bit of a soul searching week for me with blogging about business and marketing. I find myself holding back things I really want to say because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and people seem to like you more when you tell them what they want to hear. That said, Smaller Box started as a hobby for me, and if I say things that make people not like me so much, that’s fine. I make the bulk of my income elsewhere, so I’m not going broke if my readers decide they hate me.

When I say things that aren’t popular, it’s not because I want to be a jerk, it’s because I want to help my readers. That means sometimes I’m going to say “You need to learn SEO” or “You’re under-capitalized” or “Your product photos are unacceptable”. Those things are hard to hear for a lot of people, but fixing those problems is what’s necessary to make your business better. I say these things based on running my own company and seeing what’s worked and what has not.

Running a business is hard. It is a lot of work. It does require capital. It does force you to take on tasks that are challenging or yucky or unnatural for you. I’m never going to promise you a super-fast, super-easy magic bullet to solve your problems because there’s no such thing. What I can promise is I’ll share the tactics and strategies that, in my experience, are effective. I’ll give you concrete direction to help you run your business, but the work part is all you. If you can’t handle a tough love approach to business advice, this blog probably isn’t the right place for you.

So with all that in mind, here’s what I recommend reading this weekend:

  • Good SEO Starts With Smart Purchasing – a lot of readers have asked me if I do SEO for small businesses. The answer is “no” and it’s because SEO is a big job that most of my readers can’t afford to hire for yet. When I tell people they are better off learning SEO than hiring an SEO pro (because a good full-service SEO pro will probably wind up costing like $10,000), they seem to think I am nuts. This article does a great job of explaining why it’s expensive to hire a good full-service SEO consultant and why you need to learn about what SEO involves before you consider hiring a pro.
  • SEO is About Hurry Up and Wait – Great info about how SEO is about making tweaks and waiting
  • How to Build a Simple Mobile Friendly Site for Your Small Business – Nice free resource on doing a mobile device-friendly version of your website
  • DIY SEO: How to Check On Page Ranking Factors Using Google Docs – a bit of a nerdy read but pretty good tips on doing on-page SEO
  • Bloggable Questions – Great list of questions your customers may have about your business, many of which are great prompts for blog posts.

Lastly, if you have not taken a look at Justine Grey’s Wholesale Action Ecourse, do check it out. It’s a really amazing resource if you want to start doing wholesale.

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May 27, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Sorry this week was light on posts. I am on vacation in Berlin right now. In the meantime, here are some links. Also don’t forget to sign up for my 6/8 group coaching session. Space is almost filled, and this is a great, budget-friendly way to try out coaching and pick my brain on any topic you’ve seen me write about. We’ll talk by phone for a full hour! I’ll not only answer your questions, you’ll get to hear me answer questions other entrepreneurs put forth, so everyone will benefit.

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