Guidelines for writing great articles

Part of my efforts with the Mississippi Magic Magazine involve setting up guidelines for writing great articles.  If you are wondering why a technologies consultant is posting guidelines on writing great articles then let me explain.  We are in the business of creating success in our constituents that we partner with through consulting and development.  That being said… Mississippi Magic Magazine provides an outlet of expression for people and businesses in Mississippi but it does not employ writers to produce magazine content.  Therefore, all the writing done on the Mississippi Magic Magazine is done by volunteer writers that have a vested interest in the community.  From business owners to pastors of churches, people active in leadership in the community provide all of the content found in magazine.  To make this a profitable venture for each of them, we’ve found it necessary to publish a guidelines for writing great articles.

Benefits:

  • People like to do business with those they are familiar with.   Through connecting with our community through your articles, you’ll lower the barriers that people have to traditional broadcast style advertising communications.  .
  • Articles will be broadcasted to the RSS subscription readership.
  • Articles will be indexed by search engines so that anyone looking the information you provided will find it and you on the internet.
  • Articles will spread in a viral method through through social media sites such as twitter, facebook, and linked in.
  • Unlike traditional media, articles written will be available online well into the indefinite future.
  • Articles will link your thoughts, expertise, and methods to your perceived value as a solutions provider and allow people to reach you.
  • Articles always make the front page when they are published.
Good practices:
  • Offering needed information to make an informed decisions.
  • Offering solutions by showing how to solve a problem.
  • Providing lists of methods or resources.
  • Expounding upon a subject.
  • Offering information about events by featuring information, pictures, and video covering people in the community.
  • Praising and pointing out the good about others.
  • Simplifying complex information, instructions, or events.
Avoid:
  • Slandering others.
  • Defaming others.
  • Advertising your products or services.
  • Soliciting business.
Using these methods, community leaders can provide invaluable content that leads people in the community to them as a provider of services and goods.  Through the relationship formed between the reader and author in the magazine articles these leaders have an inroad to the reader when the reader seeks to find a provider for a need or want that the author can fulfill.
This style of marketing defined in these guidelines for writing great articles are known today as inbound marketing.  By using them you’ll get found on the internet and connect with your customer.
– Joel

Simplifying the Sales Process Funnel

The Sales Process Funnel
Sales Process Funnel

A simple version of the sales process funnel

Know: If you want to do business with someone you’ve got to give them the chance to get to know you. That means that you’ve got to have information about your business available and delivered it through the right channels. That’s why its so important to have a good website, a blog, and to utilize social media.

Your website is the hub of your inbound marketing brand. All of your efforts through social media, blogging and participation in industry related blogs act as spokes pointing back back to your website. Your site should tell your businesses story and contain several compelling offers.

Blogging allows you to publish a lot of information about your business that can be catalogued by search engines making you findable and should be the backbone of your seo campaign.

Social media helps change the context of your message and can make your message deliverable to an audience that might not normally view it. 

Like: Once your prospect gets to know you through the channels mentioned above you’ve got a chance to establish a relationship with them. By responding to comments that prospects leave on blog posts, communicating via services like facebook, linkedin, twitter and email, and providing valuable information and resources that helps your prospect gain understanding of a complex issue or solve a problem you’ll open the door for a friendship in which both of you can win.

Trust: This element is the one that often gets looked over in the business world. Once you’ve gained a relationship with a prospect it is critical that you do what you say you would do and that you focus on building the relationship instead of simply going after the sale. I know it may seem counter-intuitive to put the sale off at this point, but if you sell before you have gained your clients trust you will have problems. Before the sale occurs both you and the prospect must have a clear understanding of what your roles will be in the deal. You must determine if you fit the role of a supplier and if the prospect fits the role of an ideal customer before continuing on to the sale. Your prospect might not need your particular solution but may be a great source of referrals. Either way at this point your prospect has become a tangible asset. If you’ve established the trust factor and open communication before the sale then you’re customer is your partner in making the deal go through and things will go much more smoothly.

Try: In the trust phase of the process we talked about determining an ideal fit. Adding a try stage to your process can work wonders for determining that fit and generating referrals because your prospect knows, likes, and trusts you. Allowing the prospect to play the role of a customer by trying a sample of the product offering before purchasing the product can also increase the likelihood that they will make the purchase because the their perception of risk is much lower when they know that they can back out of the deal without a hassle.

Buy: Finally we reach the stage where you get some direct compensation for all of your hard work, but wait… the job isn’t finnished, rather it’s just begun. You’ve now got a customer that knows, likes, and trusts you. They’ve received the benefit of the resources you’ve offered through your inbound marketing campaign, tried your product without risk, and made the purchase. You have both determined that you have an ideal fit in your roles so now it’s time to get some valuable feedback about your product, testimonials, and referrals from your trusted friend. If you can keep the relationship alive then you’ve got a valuable resource to help take your business to the next level and business between you should continue as long as the prospect has a need to be filled as competitors will not have the advantage of  price competition because you have developed product and brand differentiation.

There it is as simple as it can be.

– Joel

Related Posts:

Introduction of The Sales Process Funnel Chart

Remarkable Content: Educating your prospects, leads, and customers.

Thoughts on CRS Funnel Development

Comments are appreciated.

 

Remarkable Content: Educating your prospects, leads, and customers.

The Sales / Lead Nurturing Process Funnel

On an earlier post we talked about the sales process funnel and for our purposes we’ve redefined it here.

A introduction to the funnel. Market issues today and how to capture the consumers attention.

Today’s marketing environment: What makes businesses appealing to customers in today’s media saturated markets? The old ways of blasting a message out to the general public using the “shotgun approach” just doesn’t work with today’s consumer. People have gotten good at tuning out unwanted messages. The human brain peruses information on a subconscious level at a rate of speed that is up to 800 times faster than the concious minds ability to think and serves up to the conscious mind only what is relevant to a person is doing or their set of beliefs. Odds are if the customer isn’t looking for something even though your finely crafted message is hitting them several times a day it’s possible that they may not be aware of it. Customers have gotten good at ignoring and tuning irrelevant messages out.

New Methods of Reach: So how do we reach an audience that is tuned out? The answer to that question is simple. We provide answers when they are tuned in. While consumers have gotten good at tuning messages out, they have also gotten good at searching for information through the internet and they still rely on the old stalwart word of mouth recommendation that has been around since the dawn of civilization. Business’s that wish to reach their audience today must not only have a finely crafted message, but have the channel to provide that message at precisely the time the customer is looking for it. Thankfully this has become much easier with social networking sites and search engines as customers are using them to actively search for things that they want.

The Trust Element: It’s not just enough to purchase ads on the new mediums of communication. In an environment where all types of claims and promises are being broadcast, consumers have become cynical of the true intent of businesses and are not as quick to trust an unknown entity with their time energy and money. Even though a message can be delivered to a customer that is actively searching for an answer, consumer cynicism still acts as a barrier to entry in the market. To overcome this healthy cynicism we must change roles from scrutinized marketer to that of a helpful educator. In today’s information rich and highly connected market consumers have grown accustom to searching for information on almost every commodity before making a purchasing decision. Providing a channel of helpful information that facilitates social networking and encourages interaction and input has become the means by which today’s savy marketers draw consumers into a trust building relationship. By changing the tone and timbre of the communication from high pressure sales pitch to concerned educator prospective customers are able to enter into a dialogue of communication without fear of being sold a useless bill of goods.

Creating educational content: Content for the purposes of educating a market and providing information with which a consumer base can use to make informed decisions must be unique, remarkable, and relevant to your business and the consumers needs. To properly satisfy those requirements, it is important that content meet the following criteria:

  • Content length: short enough to be quickly perused while still providing valuable information.
  • Fresh and up to date
  • Not an imitation of other sites (don’t publish me too work).
  • Searchable, Indexable
  • Provides interaction and a channel for user contribution.
  • Easily shared

A guide to publishing this type of work can be found here.

In Conclusion: Blogs seem to fit this criteria very well as do on-line videos, pod-casts, and downloadable white papers.  What other methods of distribution do you know of and what could extend this model? We’re defining this as the lip of the sales process funnel. The drawing point by which prospects, looking for an answer, are gradually introduced to a business’s product offerings as solutions and trust is built.

Your thoughts?

– Joel

Apache 301 redirects using .htaccess without the WordPress redirection loop.

Improving SEO with Apache 301 redirects using .htaccess

When optimizing SEO it is important to set your site to redirect traffic from yourdomain.com and www.domain.com to the same site. Search engines view www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com as two different sites and that can cause them to inaccurately attribute inbound links to either one site or the other, but not both. By creating a 301 redirect you cause all traffic from one of the sites to be permanently redirected (moved) to the other site. Listed below are two methods for doing this with Apache web-server.

Using www in the domain. All traffic is directed to www.yourdomain.com

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.yourdomain\.com
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.yourdomain.com.us/$1 [R=301,L]

</IfModule>

Using yourdomain.com. All www traffic is directed to yourdomain.com.

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yourdomain.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

</IfModule>

The WordPress redirection loop

The Problem:

The wordpress redirection loop occurs when you have installed wordpress and configured it in a way that doesn’t match your .htaccess redirect. The case could be that you’ve set up the wordpress installation on www.yourdomain.com and created a 301 redirect to in your .htaccess file to direct all www.yourdomain.com traffic to yourdomain.com. When you attempt to load your website in your browser you will notice that you get an error message informing you that the site is redirecting in a manner that will never be resolved.

To correct it:

  • Remove the 301 redirect from the .htaccess file for your site.
  • Login to your wordpress installation and verify how you set your domain up there (www or not).
    Wordpress Configuration Screen Shot 1
    Wordpress Configuration Screen Shot
    Wordpress Configuration Screen Shot
    Wordpress Configuration Screen Shot 2

  • Rewrite the 301 redirect to match the wordpress installation.  For example if you installed wordpress on yourdomain.com set your .htaccess redirect to direct all www.yourdomain.com to yourdomain.com.

Now your site and wordpress get full credit for inbound links and you are well on you way to maximizing the value of your off page SEO.

I hope this helps you.

Your comments are appreciated.

– Joel

A non technical guide to setting up a business website.

Depending on your needs, setting up a website can be an easy task.
If you’re not going to need an e-commerce solutions where you bill and take payments through your site then I’ll recommend GoDaddy.com for the hosting and wordpress for the content management system. I’ve used GoDaddy for years and they do a good job and wordpress will keep you from having to hire a programmer. You can set up and maintain a site for less than $100 a year. Here’s a set of simple steps you can use to get started.

1) Go to godaddy.com and research a domain name for your company. They have a form you can enter names into to see if they are available. Choose a name that is easy to explain and doesn’t require that you spell it out when telling someone about it. You can use .com, .net, .us as the domain extension as it is not necessary to have a .com to run a business.

2) Once you’ve decided on a name, purchase it and a basic hosting plan that supports wordpress. For our purposes, I recommend the basic linux hosting plan that supports mysql and php and a single domain name.

3) Install wordpress on the root directory of your site from using the Install Apps menu, login, and configure a theme that best fits your needs. Take your time looking for the theme as you want the site to look professional and represent your business and some theme have special features that can help you show off videos or pictures of your work.

4) Install plug-ins to link your facebook fan page and twitter account.

5) Publish content weekly to your site to build search engine authority and get found. This will take 6 months to two years to establish if you stick with it.

This method should net you a good website without the development hassle and expense of hiring a programmer/developer.

Best of luck to you.

– Joel

Black Hat Search Engine Optimization – Why cheating doesn’t pay

How JC Penny spammed Google

Recently JCPenny was found using link farms to build SEO for it’s online business model. It hired a third party which managed to trick Google into thinking that millions of sites were linked to the JC Penny site and by doing so caused it be listed first on Google’s organic search results for queries on many products that it offered. According to the NY Times it was caught doing this three times before any sanctions were taken against it, but now Google engineers are manually burying JC Penny’s results back several pages in the search results.

You can read up on the details of the JC Penny story here if you’d like. There’s a moral to this story. JC Penny used a firm that specialized in cheating the Google search algorithm and giving it’s end users results that were not accurate. Google’s standard practice in dealing with this ype of activity is to black list the offending site so that they don’t show up at all. Google had prior relationshiop with JC Penny so it elected to do something different, but it may have open itself up to litigation and an anti trust suit due to its activities if it is found to have been in collusion with JC Penny. This would be bad for Google’s business and you can bet that this type of practice will not continue in the future.

The Losers

JC Penny loses out on this deal because it has spent a lot of money on a campaign that is now actually keeping it from achieving its e-commerce goals. Google loses credibility and may face penalties for not handling JC Penny like it has handled other firms. Both firms lose in the long run.

The Winners

Both JC Penny and Google won out in the short run. JC Penny gained market share online and Google sustained its revenues from JC Penny for the pay per click campaign it was offering them.

Conclusion:

Stay away from companies that offer black box SEO solutions where you don’t have to do anything to have your site promoted. It just won’t work in the long run. The best way to gain SEO is to create remarkable content. Remarkable content will make others want to link to your site just as I’ve done in this article and the legitimate links will build the authority of your site.

Your comments are appreciated.

– Joel

7 tips for improving your score on website grader.

Here are seven tips I’ve found effective for improving a website’s score on websitegrader.com.

  1. Start a blog and publish content weekly.
  2. Place meta keywords in the heading of your pages. Example: <META keywords=”Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, JavaScript, AJAX, Business Development, Marketing, Joel Caton, CatonTech”>
  3. Place a meta description in the heading of your pages. Example: <meta name=”description” content=”CatonTech.com is the online home of Joel Caton of Meridian, MS, USA. It is devoted to business and web development with a blog containing articles on topics about AJAX, JQUERY, PHP, LINUX, WEB DEVELOPMENT, MANAGEMENT, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, and MARKETING”>
  4. Place an rss link in the header of your pages. Example: <link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”CatonTech Blog Feed” href=”http://www.catontech.com/blog/?feed=rss2″ />
  5. Register your domain for more than 3 years.
  6. Include a form for registration or email contact on your page.
  7. Include a twitter and facebook buttons and wigits on your page linking your site to your accounts with them.

These 7 tips are guaranteed to improve your score.

– Joel