Archive for May, 2010

Bad Blogging Down at the Old Content Mill

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing, writing well on May 28th, 2010 by liz – 2 Comments

Blogging is a great way to boost your company’s Google rankings. It’s also a good way to hurt your company’s image. Like a bad paint job on your house, bad blogging can hurt, not enhance, your image.

It looked a lot better after a few cocktails...

Companies online are now offering customized blog content to clients. One site I visited promises better Google rankings and quality blog posts from all English-speaking bloggers, and the package prices aren’t bad. Hm. Sounds okay so far.

So I went to their own blog to see examples of their bloggers’ writing. Well. I use the term “writing” loosely. As Truman Capote once said, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Here’s a snippet:

Therefore, we see that blogs are a very important tool in the hands of a businessperson. It is the latest and very significant weapon in the web2.0 armory. It is the best marketing method available. They help in spreading your business and draws in people who are excited about your business venture. If you are interested in making your business succeed, then you have to be serious about blogging. Blogging is the medium on which you have to bank upon to be a successful businessperson. Do not overlook it; you will regret for doing so. Realize the value of blogging and there will be no looking back.

How do I hate this? Let me count the ways.

• Subjects and verbs disagree violently
• Whoops. Missed a space.
• “the medium on which you have to bank upon???” Really?
• “you will regret for doing so.” I regret having to read that.
• “Realize the value of blogging and there will be no looking back.” To what? How about a more harmonious wedding of the first independent clause and the second? (And how about the required comma in between?)

Or how about using conversational English. Like, “Blogging may sound like a lot of extra work, but as your Google ranking rises higher and higher, you’ll know it’s worth it.”

The blog content mill site claims all the blog writers are English speakers. But they don’t say whether English is their first or second language. The language is so stilted and awkward, I’d bet on the latter. Either that or the writer is a robot. I’m not kidding. Some companies are literally using copy written by robots. How?

BTW, the post was two long, gray, unbroken paragraphs, a no-no in blogging. The text should be broken up into smaller units and bulleted whenever possible. I admit I violate the rule sometimes, but I feel my writing is so darned captivating I can get away with it. :-D

When you hire a professional blogger, you should be able to talk to him or her directly. You should be sure that he or she speaks good English — including casual, everyday English — and can communicate your message in a smooth, easily read style. If so, his or her blog posts can help your business be noticed and followed by your target audience.

But make no mistake, badly written, poorly focused blogs can do you harm. So beware blog content mills. Their package deals might contain content that’s toxic to your business. Too bad the EPA can’t require a skull-and-crossbones label on bad blogging packages. Be careful out there. “Buy American.”

Squarespace, a cool Web/blog platform

Posted in Helpful Hints, social media marketing on May 27th, 2010 by liz – 1 Comment

WordPress has been the front-runner among easy-to-build, easy-to-use websites for some time now. But Squarespace is coming up fast on the inside. I’m thinking of trying it, because what I see and hear about it is pretty cool.

According to their website, Squarespace gives you a designy-looking site with the convenience and control of WP, plus better integration with social media platforms and mobile devices. And you can do it all starting at $8 a month. (Note the “starting at” part. Wonder what it covers.)

You can post lots of photos (or samples), see built-in analytics, and use intuitive editing. And best of all, if you’re on a WP site now, they claim transferring all your content and images to Squarespace is seamless.

They offer a free trial for two weeks. Go to their site and discover “The secret behind exceptional websites.” I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried it or is now running a Squarespace blog or website. Is it as great as it seems?

Bungled Blogs? Unbungle Them!

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing, writing well on May 27th, 2010 by liz – Be the first to comment

Occasionally, at a networking event, you meet someone you click with — someone who is right on the same page with you. That’s what happened when I met David Soxman, a KC area marketing consultant. He knows his business, and he’s also quite a good writer (Dang it!). But he did give me props in a recent blog post. So I will follow his suggestion and give credit where it’s due.

In this post, he gives you some good tips about blog writing. Here’s an excerpt:

    2. Give People Credit Where Credit Is Due

As was once said, “when you steal from one person it is called plagiarism, yet when you steal from many, it’s called research.” (I can’t remember who to give credit to for this quote) It is really easy to put links into your blogs that will take readers to your source’s website if they would like to learn more. It helps their website by having an inbound link and it is the right thing to do.

Do yourself a favor and drop in to David’s blog to read his insights into Web marketing. It’ll be well worth your time.

Using Social Media to Sell

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing on May 26th, 2010 by liz – Be the first to comment

On a LinkedIn group, a writer asked how she could get people to know about her book. She didn’t like Twitter or Facebook (though a “Like” page actually would be a good idea for her). She was wondering how to get her book noticed with social media: a website, or blogging, or ???. Here’s my response:

To get people to your site, the very best way to get a high Google ranking is to have useful, fresh, frequently changing content. And the best way to do that — by far — is by blogging regularly. Heck, you’re a writer. How tough could that be? I don’t mean blog about what your cute kitty did today — make it about what you think the audience for your book is interested in. You can’t blog constantly about your book and try to sell it. You have to have blog content that’s useful to your potential book buyers (or critiquers). You can stick in details about your book to intrigue people every third time (or fifth).

Blogger is okay, but the recommendation to get your own website is a good one. Then you can have some static info about yourself and the book, and your blog posts — daily or at least weekly — will get your site found by Google more often.

There are a number of ways you can get a free website. I recommend getting someone to set you up with a WordPress site (I paid only $200 to get it set up), and you can buy domains fairly cheaply. Search and purchase domains at GoDaddy.com. Get a unique one that says what you’re about. Don’t just get the “com,” go ahead and get the “org” and “net” ones while you’re at it. They’re pretty cheap.

WordPress is great because they have a lot of free templates, and once it’s set up, you can put your blog on it, samples of other work, info about you, or whatever you want your audience to know. Also, you can change things anytime you want without calling a Web person. WordPress rocks! You’ll really like it.

Facebook, Twitter and maybe some other sites have search functions where you can find people in the right interest groups. Join them and participate in discussions (like this) with people who might buy your book (or critique it; not sure which you were in the market for). Social media marketing is all about conversations. LinkedIn has a lot of different groups with people who might be buyers for your book. Also, a lot of writers’ groups, with writers who might want to critique. And it’s all FREE!

Good luck!

Blog Writer for Hire Here

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, social media marketing, writing well on May 22nd, 2010 by liz – 1 Comment

“I know I should be blogging for my company, but I just don’t have the time!”

How often have you either heard or thought that? I’ve heard it several times just this week.

It’s true — many companies should now realize they need to be blogging at least once a week to get high Google rankings. Because if your company is on the first page of search results, you get the first opportunity to make them your customers. Second page isn’t too bad, either. No page is bad. It means your company (gulp) doesn’t exist as far as those Google searchers are concerned.

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If a company doesn’t have a good Web presence via Google, does it exist?

bloggingGood question. The answer is, if you intend to get business via the Web, you’d need to be visible on Google. Because there are lots of potential customers out there Googling for your product or service, and you’ll miss them if you’re not there. So –

Here are the criteria Google uses for ranking sites and posts:

• Is the content new? (Just posting a link to another blog or article won’t count as “new.”)

• Is it valuable and relevant? A post called “My musings about clouds” won’t get ranked highly, unless a lot of poets are in the market for jackhammers or whatever product you sell.

• Does the site offer frequently changing content? You say your last blog post was dated six months ago? Google doesn’t even see your post anymore, unless you keep getting lots of hits on it because it’s so useful, relevant and attractive.

By attracting subscribers to your company blog, you can gain a base of potential customers — by subscribing, they identify themselves as qualified buyers. That would be great! But you say you don’t have the time to write blog posts. Hmm. Since you know how important regular, relevant blogging is, you hire a professional blog writer to do it for you.

Every week you’ll have a new, relevant, useful post up, and it’ll be taken care of. You simply chat with your blog writer about what topics you could cover in four blog posts for the month. Settle on a mutually agreeable fee. Then get back to your real work and leave the blog writing in good hands.

If you could pay $XX or even $XXX per month for weekly blog posts that bring your prospects right to your door, so to speak, would you do it? Darn tootin’.. Especially if you could make up the cost with just one sale you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. What if you don’t pay the money, don’t have a strong Web presence, and don’t get the sale?

Before you decide, take a look at some of the other things your blog writer can do for your business:

• Provide compelling content for your website
• Tweet to draw readers to your blog
• Set up and maintain your company’s Facebook “like” page
• Set you up on LinkedIn and post regular updates
• Write a monthly e-newsletter and send it out to your list
• Write advertorials for trade magazines and local publications (online or print)
• Interview customers to get glowing testimonials for your website, blog and newsletter

All of which serves to keep your company’s name and services topmost in prospective and current customers’ minds.

Business owners naturally know their business very well, but social media marketing is a whole different ball game. I don’t know of a business owner with enough idle time to learn all about social media marketing and do it all himself or herself. When it comes to making all the parts work together to produce business, it pays to hire a specialist — a social media-savvy, professional writer.

If this makes sense to you, please call me at 913-236-7595. Let’s discuss what you need and how I can help you get the Google ranking and business you deserve.

English is craaaazy.

Posted in writing well on May 17th, 2010 by liz – Be the first to comment

A friend sent me a long e-mail detailing a lot of the tricky, unpredictable switcheroos in the English language. Here’s part of it, for your puzzlement and enjoyment.
Homograph-472
You think English is easy? Read this.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum…

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row …

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Learning English as a second language must be mind-blowing. My son lives in China and is employed teaching English to Japanese people. We are truly a global community.

Obsessive about proper grammar? You may have G.O.D.

Posted in Helpful Hints, writing well on May 15th, 2010 by liz – Be the first to comment

G.O.D. (Grammar Obsessive Disorder) is a common condition among writers, editors and others who were raised by English teachers or others who were picky about grammar. And unfortunately, there’s no easy cure. If you are one of these unfortunates, you’ll recognize the symptoms in this video.

How to use words: There, Their and They’re

Posted in Helpful Hints, writing well on May 13th, 2010 by liz – Be the first to comment

Cruising around the Internets (that “series of tubes” the Alaskan ex-Senator mentioned), you see some pretty awful writing. People get confused by sound-alike words, as I’ve mentioned before — and probably will again. Like “there,” “their” and “they’re.” Thanks to Bill for the suggestion.

The mistake you often see is “there” where “their” should be. As in, “They picked up there socks and shoes.” There’s a sentence that stops you dead in your tracks. “Huh?” Maybe the writer meant “them-thar socks and shoes.” Maybe if the writer was Gabby Hayes. But no. The writer ought to say, “They went ‘there’ and picked up ‘their’ shoes.”

Roy, ya look real pretty. Too pretty.

Roy, ya look real pretty. Too pretty.

Memory trick: “Where” and “there” are spelled alike. “Where are they? Over there.” Not “over their.”

“Their” is a possessive, meaning something belongs to “them.” “There” is a location, e.g., “over there.” (BTW, “e.g.” stands for the Latin “exempli gratia.” It means “for example.” Don’t confuse it with “i.e.,” which means, “in other words.”)

Each of those words is obviously a single word. But “they’re” is actually two words disguised as one. Yup. “They’re” is a contraction of “they” and “are,” with the “a” replaced by an apostrophe. Other contractions are “it’s,” “aren’t, and won’t.” And that last word is a perfect example of the contrariness of the English language. If it were a normal contraction, it would be “willn’t,” wouldn’t it? But nooooo… It has to be “abby normal,” as Igor would say.

OK, let’s use ‘em all together now: “They’re going over there to get their deathray guns!” So let’s get out of here!

Hung, Hanged, Sneak, Snuck, Lay, Lie

Posted in Helpful Hints, writing well on May 12th, 2010 by liz – 2 Comments

Today someone sent me a funny post about the historic origins of some familiar sayings. One had to do with a pre-execution ritual. Before a hanging, the condemned would be conveyed to the gallows in a cart or wagon. If he wanted one last drink on the way, they said he was having “one for the road.” If he didn’t want one, they said he was “on the wagon.” Interesting. But what really caught my attention was the phrase (in my friend’s version), “…the man was hung.” Whoa.

If a man was executed by hanging, then he was “hanged.” If you say a man was “hung,” well, that’s a rather crude anatomical observation, one seldom heard in polite company.

Here’s my pet peeve: the ugly word, “snuck.” Meant as past tense of “sneak.” I’ve always thought of “snuck” as a back-alley expression used only by uneducated people. But these days, you can hardly flip on a TV or radio without hearing a news reporter saying (authoritatively) that someone “snuck” somewhere. Yuck. What happened to “sneaked?” It’s the natural past tense of “sneak.” I still maintain it’s correct. sneaked-you-a-file

I thought I was going to be proven right one day, when a couple of editors from a compendium of English usage were on Walt Bodine’s show. During the call-in segment, I called in to complain about “snuck,” hoping these language gurus would wag a finger and say, “No, no, NEVER say ‘snuck!’” But instead, I got a verbal shrug: “I don’t see anything wrong with it.” The pro’s position was that if people were commonly using “snuck,” then it was a legitimate part of the English language. WHAT? A lot of people say “ain’t,” too, but it still ain’t right!

Finally, “lay” and “lie” seem to give lots of people trouble. Probably because they’re irregular verbs. Like the sale clothing marked “IRR” in the store, there’s something a little wacky about them. Regular verbs make their past tenses and past participles simply by adding “d” or “ed.” But irregular verbs are, well, irregular. Not to get too wonky about it, but here is some good info courtesy of KU:

The principal parts (most-common verb forms) of lie are:

lie (present,) lay (past) and lain (past participle).

[Me: Present, "I lie here every night." Past, "I lay in bed for hours last night trying to get to sleep." Past Participle, "I had lain there for over three hours before I gave up and watched TV."]

The principal parts of lay are:

lay (present), laid (past) and laid (past participle).

[Me: Present: "Will you lay the tablecloth on the grass?" Past: "I've laid the cloth on the grass." Past Participle: "I had laid the cloth on the grass before the food arrived."]

As an aid in choosing the correct verb forms, remember that lie means to recline, whereas lay means to place something, to put something on something.

Lie means that the actor (subject) is doing something to himself or herself. It’s what grammarians call a complete verb. When accompanied by subjects, complete verbs tell the whole story.

Lay, on the other hand, means that the subject is acting on something or someone else; therefore, it requires a complement to make sense. Thus lay always takes a direct object. Lie never does.

English sure is a peculiar language.

If you want to put all of this to use right now, here’s a sentence: “The dog sneaked away from the mess on the floor, hung his head in shame, then lay down at his master’s feet looking pathetic.”

Here’s another: “When sheep lie in the pasture unattended, thieves can sneak in and steal them, and if they’re caught, they’ll be hanged.”

Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh)

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints on May 12th, 2010 by liz – Be the first to comment

If you saw the first version, your mind was probably boggled by the stats on how popular social media sites are. Prepare to be even more blown away by this new version with current stats. Oh, no. Social media is not a fad. It’s going to evolve, but it won’t go away anytime soon.