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Trafcom News Podcast 124: Why blogging matters more than ever

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Mark Evans

Mark Evans

In this 22-minute podcast you’ll hear an interview with blogging expert Mark Evans, principal with ME Consulting, who works with startups and entrepreneurs looking to jump-start their marketing. Mark writes a blog about startup marketing at markevans.ca, as well as a popular startup newsletter. Before launching his own business in 2008, Mark worked for three startups and spent more than 10 years as a technology journalist with the National Post, the Globe and Mail and Bloomberg News.

Yes, blogging still matters – maybe even more than ever, in light of Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm, which loves fresh content. Blogging can be an effective way to display thought leadership, curate content, boost your search engine optimization, and much more. Listen to what Mark has to say.

Please note these show notes also contain a transcript of the interview with Mark (scroll down).

Here are the show notes:

00:01 Welcome and introduction; this podcast came about because of Mark’s tweet about his Slideshare deck on business blogging.

02:54 Interview with Mark Evans begins.

04:00 Why blogging is important even if you’re active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks.

05:00 Your blog as a hub; the “rent vs. own” digital landscape.

06:01 Mark’s tips for the reluctant blogger. Exercise your blogging muscle; blog for a purpose; brainstorm blog ideas; look at your FAQ; track your progress, and more.

10:45 The value of multimedia on your blog.

12:55 Why you should not abandon your blog in favour of Google+.

15:15 The many benefits of choosing a self-hosted WordPress blog.

18:17 There are many benefits to blogging. Although it’s not shiny and new anymore, the blog is really the workhorse of the social media and digital landscape.

19:17 Interview ends.

19:39 Comment from Dan York on Trafcom News Podcast 123 re: content marketing.

20:40 Where to send comments; email Donna AT trafcom DOT com. Or use the Speakpipe feature on the Trafcom News Podcast page. Or comment below.

21:11 Donna’s Hands-on Social Media workshop early-bird pricing is available until December 17

Transcript of interview with Mark Evans

Donna Papacosta:
It’s interesting. When I talk to people about social media and I mention blogging, sometimes they look at me kind of funny, like “Blogging? Are we still blogging? Is that still important?” And when I saw your slide deck, I was nodding my head in agreement all the way through it, because you really did a great job of pointing to the benefits of blogging for business. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Mark Evans:
Yeah, happy to be here and happy to talk about blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2004, and it’s not a long time ago, but I think a lot of people forget the fact that it was sort of the sexy social vehicle that got a lot of people really excited, and over the years, blogging has lost its luster in the wake of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and YouTube and other social media platforms, but the reality is there’s a lot of value to blogging, and there’s a lot of really good reasons to be blogging as businesses and individuals, and I’m always happy to talk about blogging and get people excited about what blogging can do for them.

Donna Papacosta:
So if someone said to you “Well, what about if I use Twitter and I use Facebook and maybe even G+, why would I blog?” I mean, I know what my answer would be, but what would you say to them Mark?

Mark Evans:
Well, social media platforms like Google and Twitter and Facebook are really great for engagement and for curating content, but a blog is really your content engine and it’s one of the key things that actually fuels social media. So when a brand or individual can provide their own content, and then use social media as a way to that content, that’s a really powerful one-two punch. And I think one of the things that brands, in particular, have to be aware of is that, you know, “Why do you use social media?” At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is drive your business. You’re trying to get people inbound via digital, and blog content, really good, high-quality blog content, is a great way to do that, leveraging the power of social media.

Donna Papacosta:
Exactly. And I like to think of the blog as a hub, and after all, you own your blog, right? So when you’re using Facebook, for example, as a place to spread your content, it’s not yours. You’re not owning that platform, and I think that’s a big distinction too.

Mark Evans:
Yes. I think that a lot of people forget the fact that we live in an own versus rent digital landscape, and that everything we do on social media is on somebody else’s platform. So while you may own your user name, you don’t actually own the real estate, and Facebook, for example, can, and does, change the rules whenever they want, even though what they’re doing may not work for you or your brand. The thing about a blog is that it’s your corporate asset, or your personal asset, and you can do what you want with it. You can change it. You can keep it the same. It’s not going to disappear as long as you maintain your domain, and protect your content, and at the end of the day it’s a very valuable asset that you can leverage in many, many different ways.

Donna Papacosta:
I know you work with a lot of start-ups, Mark. What would you do in a situation, suppose you were working with a start-up company and they have a great team, they’re really smart, maybe great products and services, whatever it is that they’re starting up, and you really believe that a blog would be just perfect for them as a way to do their content marketing, get exposure and all that. How would you persuade them if they were reluctant to start blogging?

Mark Evans:
Well, there’s a couple of ways that you can get start-ups to get their heads around a blog, and it is a challenge because creating content isn’t part of their corporate DNA. These are engineers and developers. And so I sort of frame it in this way. One is that you, if you’re a start-up and you have no marketing budget, what you’ve got to do is, number one, establish yourself as a thought leader or a domain expert, and that’s the way that you rise above the noise, because there’s tons of competition. So, a blog is a great way of showing people how smart you are, or it’s a great way of creating that perception that you’re smart, because often perception is reality. The second thing is that you emphasize the benefits of SEO, and this is something that start-ups understand because it’s a technology-based structure, and you say to them: “Listen, if you do one blog post a week, and we’re only talking maybe 300 to 400 words, that’s 50 pieces of content a year, that Google and the other search engines can index,” and Google, especially with Hummingbird, the new algorithm, loves fresh content. So if you are a start-up with a limited marketing budget, isn’t that a great way to sort of drive up your digital street cred?

Donna Papacosta:
Exactly, and as you say, once a week, 300 to 400 words, is not too daunting at all. What other tips would you give to someone, whether it’s a start-up or an independent or solo practitioner, or even a small to mid-size business, tips to get started in blogging?

Mark Evans:
Well, there’s a long list of tips that can help you, but number one would be not to be afraid of blogging. I think a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of writing on a regular basis, because, for the most part, we’re not writers, or most people don’t think of themselves as being good writers, so that’s the place to start, to realize that a blog is actually a really great medium, and once you get into it, it becomes sort of part of your personal lifestyle. It’s like exercise. A lot of people are concerned about getting into an exercise program, but once you go to the gym on a regular basis, it just becomes easier and easier. Number two would be to have a goal. Blog for a purpose; establish what you want to get out of a blog. So it could be thought leadership or it could be domain expertise, or it could be just simply being part of the overall community, or it may be more business-focused in terms of leads and business. So, it’s good to have goals and it’s good to establish those goals so that you can measure your progress. Number three would be to do a massive brainstorming session, and I think what that does is make people realize that it’s not that hard to come up with dozens and dozens of really good blog posts, and the best way to start is simply create a list of all the questions that your customers or potential customers and your partners and your investors might be asking you, the company, and what you’ll find is that all these questions can be turned into blog posts. And then I think number four would be simply to track your progress and to see what’s working for you and what’s not. What kind of blog posts are getting a lot of traffic and a lot of comments, and what get no traction at all, and then tweak your strategy and your tactics based on the response that you’re getting.

Donna Papacosta:
Those are great suggestions. I agree with you 100%, the idea of routine, when it becomes part of your daily practice, or every other day practice, whatever the timing might be, and also, of course, to have a goal. That’s the thing about all of this stuff, right? If you don’t have a goal, how can you focus and how can you even measure your progress? And I love the idea of the brainstorming and the questions. I find, sometimes, if I have questions that I routinely get from people, or from clients, I think “Well, that’s obviously a blog post,” because that’s a question that people have, and that’s a question that people ask, and you’ll see that in your analytics, right? You’ll see the search terms that people are looking for, although I find that Google keeps restricting a lot of that, and it’s harder and harder to find that data. But that’s another story. So the idea of answering the questions is terrific. And another thing I wanted to talk to you about is the use of multimedia in blog posts. Because, of course, we’re talking about writing and we still need those words, especially for search engines – we have to have some text there – but the idea of adding audio, like we are today, or video, or infographics, or photos, or whatever, can you talk a bit about that, Mark?

Mark Evans:
Yes, exactly. I mean, I think one of the ways that you get people and brands to overcome their leeriness about blogging is that you let them know it’s not all about 300 to 400 words once a week. A blog post can be a photograph, a great photograph with a caption. It could be a video. It can be an infographic. It can be audio. It really, I think the magic thing about blogging is that it can be lots of different shapes and sizes, and that, in many respects, that helps get people more comfortable with the concept of blogging. And the other thing that I forgot to mention when we were talking about tips in terms of blogging is – and this is important to recognize – that blogging is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. So, you can’t expect to have overnight blogging success, to have a slew of subscribers and readers and traffic. A more realistic view is to realize that, you keep on doing it, every day, and then over time you get a little more traffic, a little more traffic, a little more traffic. And the other thing to remember: It may not be a quantity game, as opposed to quality. So it really doesn’t matter in some situations that you get a lot of traffic. It’s the type of traffic you get, and if that traffic turns into business, then your blog is successful.

Donna Papacosta:
That’s right. I often remind people of that, that if you only have, say, a couple of hundred readers, but among those couple of hundred readers, half of them are your prospective clients, you’re golden, right? I mean, that’s a lot of prospects to be following you. Now one of the things I’ve been seeing recently, and we’ve already talked about the idea of a blog as your central home on the web, if you will, and then using social media to amplify your blog content, but one of the things I keep seeing is people saying “No, no, no. What you have to do now is just focus on Google+.” I like Google+ and I think it’s a great place to share my content, but I see a lot of people now talking about using G+ as their platform. And I know we’ve touched on this, we’ve mentioned about Facebook, for example, but, and I know that the SEO, especially when you use hashtags on G+, is fantastic, but how do you feel about that, about really focusing on Google+ at this point?

Mark Evans:
Kind of ambivalent about Google+. I think a lot of brands are ambivalent about it as well, because they really can’t see the tangible benefits. The reality is, is that, you know, you have to be on Google+ simply because of the SEO aspects. I would not be a fan of blogging on Google+ because as we talked about earlier, you’re writing on somebody else’s platform. I’m sure Google would be happy to have you blog there, but I’m a big WordPress advocate and I believe that you should control your blog and your content. Now, that said, sharing content on Google+ is an absolute necessity, and, you know, if there’s other types of blogging that you want to do on Google+, just posting photos or videos, then you can do that as well, but I would also cross-post at the same time, to make sure that you’ve got content in both places. But I think one of the big challenges for many brands and individuals is trying to figure out the fact that they need to be on Google+, simply because of the search engine optimization necessity, but beyond that, I mean, I think a lot of people are still trying to figure out what Google+ is.

Donna Papacosta:
I agree. There is a lot of confusion. I was talking to someone, I was at a thing last night, an association I belong to had their holiday dinner and people were asking me about G+ and, like, “Who’s on there?” and I said “Well, for me, it’s mostly my tech friends and my PR and communications people.” So, you’re right. It’s like that expression, “There’s no there, there yet” for a lot of us. But still, it can’t be ignored. I think that’s the point. And you’re right. Google certainly has a history of abandoning things. I don’t see them abandoning G+, but what do I know? Now you mentioned WordPress in passing there, and I agree with you, that it is the place to be, as far as having your online presence, whether that’s just a blog or a blog combined with a website. What tips would you give to people? I hear these questions all the time about getting started, and people say “Well, should I just start with WordPress.com?” and I usually try to persuade them to go with a self-hosted WordPress blog, unless they’re really tenuous about getting started. How do you advise people on that Mark?

Mark Evans:
Well, it depends on their comfort level and how technically savvy they are. I mean, in many cases WordPress.com can be a super simple way to get started, but I agree with you, that self-hosted WordPress is the way to go because you get to control it and you enjoy the SEO benefits, and most hosts these days have pretty simple installations of self-hosted WordPress. Then the big decision for a lot of people is “Do I go with a template?” whether it’s a free template or a paid version or “Do I get somebody to design a custom template for me?” And so for small business owners, you may want to sort of, the easiest way, I guess, to get started is simply select a template, and there are tons of, I mean, thousands of templates out there. Many of them are geared specifically for certain audiences. So, for example, I have a friend of mine who has a wine boutique business, and he’s looking at specific wine WordPress templates, and that’s a way to get into it, and what you can do from there is you can modify that template, sort of use it as the foundation, or you can take the best elements and get a designer to build something custom for you. But at the end of the day I think that self-hosted is so easy these days and you can set it up and learn WordPress in a relatively short period of time, that I just don’t think there’s an option that’s more straightforward.

Donna Papacosta:
Yes, and the number of plug-ins are just amazing. I mean, the things that you can easily hook into your site that, you know, years ago would have taken lots of dollars and time, hiring programmers and all that. So it is pretty powerful.

Mark Evans:
Yes, that’s the one thing when people talk to me about other types of blogging platforms, like Drupal or Joomla, they’re fine content platforms, but I think what sets WordPress apart is the thousands of developers that are creating these plug-ins that can add all kinds of functionality to your website or your blog, and it really cuts down your development cost and it really allows you to iterate and to innovate really easily and really quickly, and the best part is many of these plug-ins are free.

Donna Papacosta:
That’s right. We all like free. Well, this has been terrific Mark. Is there any question about blogging that I did not ask you that you wish I had?

Mark Evans:
Well, I think at the end of the day, there’s so many benefits to blogging, and that people should understand that blogging, although it’s not shiny and new anymore, it is really the work horse of the social media and digital landscapes. It’s the engine that can really drive your digital efforts. I mean, for all the talk about email newsletters and social media and video, you know, blogging is a really important digital pillar, and that it’s really easy for businesses and individuals to get in the swing of things. So if you’re not blogging right now, you should be. That’s my final message.

Donna Papacosta:
Well said, Mark. Thanks so much. I will, of course, link to your blog and to that excellent Slideshare that precipitated this whole conversation. So there you go.

Mark Evans:
Well, thanks for having me.

Donna Papacosta:
All right. Take care.

-end-

About Donna Papacosta

Writer, speaker, podcaster, communications and social media consultant, content marketer and curator. As a consultant, I emphasize the importance of storytelling and relationship-building, and enjoy helping people understand how today’s technology, combined with tried-and-true tactics, can help them communicate better with employees, customers and prospects. In other words: Share your story, build your business.

3 Responses to "Trafcom News Podcast 124: Why blogging matters more than ever"

  • Donna Papacosta
    12/12/2013 - 8:29 AM Reply

    Mark, that’s an excellent point! I often think about how ephemeral most of our social media posts are (except for G+). But when you publish something on your blog, it has legs. And, as you say, very importantly, it is SEARCHABLE. Thanks for the comment!

  • Mark
    11/12/2013 - 8:10 PM Reply

    Ack! I can’t edit a typo. “That makes the content and relevant and timeless” should be “That makes the content both relevant and timeless”

  • Mark
    11/12/2013 - 8:09 PM Reply

    Hey Donna! One *VERY* important detail about blogs that Mark didn’t bring up in your discussion is that blog content can be searched on the blog. That makes the content and relevant and timeless (not to forget generally substantive). By contract, Facebook profiles and Fan Pages can’t be searched for content (Groups can be). Niether can LinkedIn. Twitter search only goes back two weeks. Google+ can be searched for content. However, in all of these other cases, you do not “own” your content. It strikes me there’s a great opportunity for people to curate their social media content on their blog at the same time they promote their blog content on social media. Ahhh… the digital ecosystem!

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