But the tips for succeeding online are much like other parts of life -- they are so simply as to be suspect. There are, of course, labor saving tricks one learns, in any field of endeavor.
[My Mom told me once that a clean sink makes the whole bathroom look clean. And she was right! But eventually, you have to deal with the rest of the room, or people will notice.]
The most difficult part of developing a virtual presence is that it requires stubborn dogged persistence over a longish period of time.The fact that a handful of people are able to achieve overnight success is the exception that proves the rule.
Some questions I have received show this desire for instant success:
- Have you ever landed any business just because of your blog? [Umm, they usually call me up too. And I might have been sending them white-papers or newsletters, then they stopped by the blog. It's kind of complicated.]
- No clients read Twitter. Why do you bother? [Yes, but I also get referrals from other marketing professionals, who DO read Twitter. And clients would like to know that you have a clue, so it's worth investing in your education by being a real participant, not just a lurker]
- What key words do you use? [I confess, i haven't looked at this in a while. But my key words are unlikely to be good for you, because my brand isn't your brand, right?]
- How do you come up with ideas? Doesn't it take a lot of time? [Okay, this is a legitimate question. Some people do struggle for ideas. What's more challenging, in many ways, is thinking through a whole content strategy for your website, your blog, and any other social media you are part of. Like, who is the audience, and what might they care about?]
There is no secret sauce. There are entire cookbooks. But just like food, there is nothing like a perfect slice of ripe tomoto, a perfectly grilled steak, the first spring artichokes. It doesn't have to be Escoffier.
Here are some better questions, and my short-form answers. Please feel free to add your own stuff via comments.
Should I have a blog? My marketing consultant thinks I should.
If you enjoy writing a column-length article every week or two, which is likely to take at least an hour, and perhaps much longer, you would likely enjoy having a blog. Certainly, your writing will improve. Which is no small benefit in a world that values communication skills.
If you can't muster any enthusiasm for this, perhaps you should consider using a blog container as a good way to manage content that doesn't change as often. That can still work -- but the content itself has to be more timeless.
People do not read blogs the way they used to -- no one has the time. So even if you put content out there, you will still need to make it visible.
How do I get people to find my stuff?
Your stuff has to be a) interesting b) useful. Shameless self-promotion does not work for most people, unless they are already celebrities. Interesting. Useful. Take a point of view. Even better, dare to be controversial. Do not recycle hackneyed crap you learned ten years ago, or even last year. Do not recycle other people's ideas.
If you don't think your own stuff is that interesting, don't hesitate to point people to other stuff that is. In a busy world, where we are all drowning in information, people who are good curators are valuable.
What other tips do you have?
Pick a few role models and watch what they are up to. From time to time I check in on the AdAge top 150, who all have massive traffic. But I also watch other people I know that are good marketers, like CBWhittemore, for example, and Grant McCracken. There are literally hundreds of good examples out there.
Ensure your directory listings, especially online, have a link to your website, and/or blog
Use things like LinkedIn to link to your website or blog. Answer questions on LinkedIn. Participate in discussions on LinkedIn. All of these things take time, but all add to your web-wake**.
Put your blog, Twitter feed, etc. on your e-mail signature, on your business cards, and anywhere else you can think of.
Post useful and insightful comments on other articles/blogs in your area of interest, which creates a link as well as click-throughs from other readers.
Twitter is becoming very useful - it's one way smart people find good stuff that other people see. When you publish, put a link into Twitter. I find a ton of amazing stuff this way, and I don't spend that much time on Twitter.
The blog / newsletter / content needs to be personal -- first person voice, not marketing-speak. Experiment until you find a voice you like. Personally, I'm a fan of authenticity.
Write articles for other publications. And in your about-the-author, put your virtual addresses.
Give people multiple ways to read your stuff -- RSS via e-mail, for example, a service provided by Feedburner (now part of Google), among others.
What about hosting, tracking, etc...
Like other professional services, you need to find people you trust and like working with. Because it is far too much work to be changing all the time.
Whatever content platform you use, make sure you can update it without a lot of fuss.
Learn to use the free tools to help you understand your traffic. There is a ton of great free information out there. I have a particular fondness for HubSpot's stuff, but there is much, much more. There are many low-cost or free web-traffic analytics available. Google Analytics. Alexa.
Please don't spam
There are unscrupulous people who will help you build links using methods we all hate, such as spam comments on other blogs. Just say no.
** Web-wake is a term I heard at NetGain5 -- and I like it so much more than slime-trail! It's the wake you leave behind as you pass through the cloud space, wherever you go, whether you are shopping or blogging or posting status updates.