Thursday, 24 April 2014

Blogging Can Drive Your Business… If You Know How

The internet is used by millions of people every single day. They’re browsing the web, taking in all sorts of information, hanging out on social media and shopping for the best deals.

They are your target market. You know they’re there, but you just can’t get them to notice you and your website; how do you attract their attention?

You can advertise, sure, but that cuts into your budget quite a lot. You can use social media (and probably already are), but again, it’s hard to attract their attention because you’re limited to what you can share and talk about.

This is especially true for small startups and those branching out online for the first time. The internet can be a harsh and scary place (I know, I’ve been there!).

If you don’t have a blog, you’re traffic will suffer

The first thing you should be asking yourself in today’s online age is, “Does my business have a blog?”

If you’ve answered no, then where have you been?! According to QuickSprout, companies with active blogs receive 97% more leads, and 61% of consumers feel better about a company that has a blog.

For full infographic, visit QuickSprout

Even well-established and recognised brands use company blogs. They don’t necessarily need to. But they still do. And here’s why:

1. Blogging increases traffic to your site, and all that traffic has the potential to be turned into customers.

If you’re providing valuable content, and are promoting that content properly (don’t worry, we’ll discuss in detail this further down), then you’re going to receive a large amount of traffic that you definitely wouldn’t have reached through advertising alone.

All of this traffic has the potential to be converted into customers.

2. Blogging is a form of free advertising

Your blog is your very own platform to say whatever you want to. You can promote your latest products, share your industry expertise and give your business a personality.

3. Blogging helps with your SEO efforts

Each new blog post is another indexed page on your site. This tells Google, and other search engines, that your site is active, which is one of Google’s factors when it comes to ranking your site.

What’s more, blog posts allow you to target and rank for certain keywords. This doesn’t mean writing a blog post with the sole purpose of keyword stuffing – that will get Google’s attention for all the wrong reasons.

4. Blogging makes your Social Media efforts a lot easier

Blogs and social media work in partnership with each other, to make your job a lot easier.

It can be difficult to know how to tackle social media; finding interesting and valuable content is a pain, and when you do find something of value, you ultimately end up driving traffic away from your site and your business.

However, if you’re the one posting interesting and valuable content on a blog that you own, not only are you keeping the traffic in your ball court, you’re also giving people another valid reason to follow your social media pages in the first place.

“But I have a blog, and I haven’t had any of these benefits”

Having a blog is a great start, but that’s just the beginning. The next questions you have to ask yourself, are “Is my business blog active?”, and “Am I promoting my blog posts effectively?”

It’s all very well and good to have a blog these days, but if you just publish a couple of posts every now and then sit back and wait for the traffic to pour in, you’re doing it wrong.

Top 5 Common Business Blogging Mistakes

Mistake #1: Not promoting your content

How easy is it for people to find your blog? Do they even know you posted some really cool industry tips yesterday?

Promoting your blog and your blog posts is essential for getting traffic and reaching out to new audiences. People aren’t going to come to you. You need to go to where they hang out online and place your awesome content right in front of them:

Promote your blog posts on social media (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon etc.)
Join Google+ communities and Facebook groups
Use hashtags (#)
Reach out to influencers in your industry, asking them to comment/share your post
Guest blog on relevant and authoritative sites in your industry

Mistake #2: Inconsistency

You need to be regular with your blog posting. Decide how many blog posts you can write a week and stick to it.

A consistent blog is an active blog (remember how much Google likes active sites?), and relays to your audience that you are dynamic and up to date.

As people learn your publishing schedule, they will become more likely to subscribe and/or follow you.

Mistake #3: Being too self-involved

Yes, do include your latest company news in your blog. But don’t make your business the only thing you talk about.

This is a huge mistake I see all the time, and the terrible truth is that no one cares.

The trick is to think about what your audience wants. Inspire them, share tips and information they can’t get anywhere else. Answer their burning questions and provide them with useful material.

Mistake #4: Boring design and layout

You need to make your blog posts look pretty. It may sound silly put like that, but if your blog posts contain no images, and have large chunks of text that haven’t been broken up, you’re going to see a high bounce rate.

If possible, use a featured image that is as engaging as possible. Avoid using logos and stock images if you can, and use sub-heading and bullet points to break up large paragraphs of text.

For full infographic, visit MDG ADVERTISING

Mistake #5: Missing the point

Remember why you started your blog in the first place? To increase traffic and by doing so, to increase your sales.

You need to convert your new audience, by using strong call-to-actions (CTAs).

A CTA is an image or line of text that prompts your traffic to literally take action and converts your audience to an engager or potential customer.

For some ideas and examples of effective CTAs, HubSpot has a great blog post that I’d recommend.

Start blogging today

Create a blog or look over your existing one
Decide how many posts you’ll make a week and when you will publish them
Brainstorm original post ideas that provide value to your audiences
Decide how and where you’ll promote your blog posts
Include a CTA

Remember, blogging won’t get you heaps of new traffic overnight, but after time you should notice an increase overall.

Blogging is only one branch of your marketing strategy, and won’t replace other traditional methods of advertising.

Got something to add? Disagree with one of my points? Comment below to share your experiences.

Louise Dickens is an experienced blogger with a degree in journalism, who currently works as a Content Marketer for Aptitude.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Travel Photography: Your Passport to the World by Maxine Bulloch

Not that you may need an excuse to, but carrying a camera can feel like a license to talk to anyone.  They say that strangers are friends you haven’t yet met, and that is so true.

There’s a common perception that travel photography means going away to far-flung places, or certainly going on umpteen holidays, taking pictures of astounding scenery, or capturing a culture far removed from what is usual for you. As nice as this would be, it is on the whole inaccessible and unrealistic to most, as there are things such as budget and responsibilities to consider, as well as that little thing called a job which we do to support our hobbies and interests.

Here’s the thing: the only difference between travel photography and ‘staying put’ photography is that generally you’re more inclined to take pictures when you’re in a foreign circumstance to capture that ‘foreignness’. Which means really that if you want to, you can find foreignness and points of difference in your everyday life and consider travel a daily occurrence. Even a trip to the shops can be classed as travelling, and when you bear this in mind, the possibilities for travel photography are endless!

A great idea I heard about a while ago is to make sure you always have a trip lined up. Not only is it something to look forward to, but the moment you’ve booked tickets the trip feels like it’s started already. So far this year I have been on one big trip to Kazakhstan, and lots of smaller trips around the UK.

Kazakhstan was incredible, surprising and different. Obviously I wanted to capture much of it on camera, but one of the things I’ve learnt is that you have to be mindful of the circumstances you’re in when you have a camera in your hand. Traveling solo makes you hyper aware of yourself and the situation, and to a certain extent you want to remain inconspicuous. I like to observe and be the fly on the wall, but a lot of the time you get noticed by others, and your presence can dilute the impact of that which you’re trying to capture.  It is a tricky dilemma, but I managed to devise an alternative way of capturing what I saw which was the ‘shot from the hip’ method, where I didn’t look through the camera to see how the picture was composed but rather held it at hip height and hit the shutter button whenever something ahead looked interesting.

Of course this didn’t always result in a good shot: a picture of three pairs of black boots, or a street worker throwing salt towards the camera to clear snowy roads: but I did also get lucky with a straight shot of a Kazakh lady perfectly posing at a bus stop in her fur coat and hat, and a pigeon feeder hiding amongst the trees. Of course, the boot and salt photos were not what I envisioned but actually the imperfections of these images make me like them even more.

 Projects such as these give a focus to photographing adventures in a foreign country, and I would really recommend setting yourself on-going projects that can be continually added to. You’ll find that the theme and way you look at it evolves, and makes the whole project richer.

Smaller trips this year have included weekends in Brighton, Norfolk and Broadstairs, as well as day excursions around London including the beautiful Columbia Road Flower Market in Hackney. I’ve looked at themes like the old shop fronts along the beachfront in Brighton, and got portraits of the flower sellers in the market.

My current project is called #wetravel.  I take portraits of people I stop on the street and ask them a few questions related to travel. I’ve met some amazing people so far including one guy who speaks Shona (the native language of Zimbabwe) and British Sign; a lady who leads tour groups around the world, and a man who spent time when he was young rearing bulls in the outback of Australia.

This is it really, the best thing about travel photography - the chance to meet new people and learn about their lives.

Maxine Bulloch is a freelance photographer in London, England, working in PR during the day. For more information, visit Follow Maxine on Twitter and Pinterest.

Friday, 4 April 2014

12 Marathons, 12 Months by Becky Beard

The 28th August 2014, will mark four years since I had an accident that left me wheelchair bound, unable to walk and talk or even bathe alone. For three months, I suffered from seizures every 3-8 minutes caused by fluid on my brain after being crushed at a festival. Doctors were unsure of the cause and as a result, could not tell my family if I’d walk or regain my independence.

To say I’ve since made a full recovery would be an understatement. On April 13th, I will run my forth marathon of 2014!

I started running in January 2013, after being offered a last minute place in the Virgin Money London Marathon by the charity, Breast Cancer Care. With just 88 days until the race, I was repeatedly told how ‘mental’ I was for accepting the challenge, mainly because I couldn’t even run to the end of the road when I said ‘yes’. After the initial shock had faded, everyone around me was very supportive and helped me to raise over £11,000 in those 11 weeks. Having lost my Nan to breast cancer, and living with a family member with secondary breast cancer (which can be treated but not cured), my family is no stranger to the support that Breast Cancer Care provides.

I completed the marathon in just over five hours and within seconds of crossing the finish line, I wanted to do something else to raise more money and awareness. I spent many late nights secretly planning the concept of Team Run 12.

Several months after the marathon, I announced to my family and friends that I was going to run twelve 26.2 mile marathons in 12 months. I committed myself to raising at least £25,000 for Breast Cancer Care and Cancer Research UK. I then began the search for six people who would each join me for one of the twelve marathons.

Months of training commenced, various injuries left me bed bound but I made it to the first start line in January this year and ran 17 laps of a 1.63 mile course. I then ran a tiny cross-country marathon, got very lost en route to the finish line and ended up running over 30 miles in gale force wind and rain so icy that it left red marks on my skin. The third marathon wasn’t any easier. I ploughed round the course, at times knee deep in mud, after a week bed-bound with the flu. After several weeks rest I’m feeling prepared to go back to where this all started: The Virgin Money London Marathon.

I often get asked if I ever want to just give up. There are days when I wake up and think ‘I just can’t do this anymore’, runs when I just want to stop after half a mile and walk back home, times when eating my body weight in carbs before a race is more of a chore than a guilty pleasure and days when blisters stop me from being able to even wear shoes. In those moments, I have to force myself to remember why I am pushing my body and mind to their absolute limits.

The reason?  Someone is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes. Cancer Research UK is working to find a cure, to save more lives. They are working on treatments and promoting awareness to help improve survival rates
Breast cancer is the UK’s most common cancer and over 55,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the disease every year.  Breast Cancer Care is the only specialist support charity helping the thousands of women waking up to the harsh reality of breast cancer across the country every day. Its specialist nurses, local services and emotional support network mean there’s always someone to turn to for information and support.

Both charities are making a huge impact on the lives of those living with cancer and Team Run 12 and I want to be part of that. To make a difference.

Alongside the fundraising, I’m actively trying to encourage those around me to be more active and do more for charities they support; and whilst my blistered, toe-nail-less feet might not be the best advert, it seems to be working. I may be living a very different lifestyle to that of your average 22-year old but in years to come I will be able to look back on this year with pride and a great sense of achievement. Pain is temporary, pride is forever.

If you’d like to follow Becky's journey, please visit, like on Facebook or follow on Twitter @team_run12. You can also make a donation here: