Thursday, March 15, 2007

How to Create Your First Blog

I've been blogging now for about 2 years, and I'm amazed at the amount of traffic that I get from my blog and the number of people who tell me that they first heard about me from my blog instead of my website. The word blog is derived from the term "web log", or an online diary or journal. If the HBO series Sex and the City were being filmed today, Carrie Bradshaw would be a blogger as well as a columnist, I think. Why? As she experiences her revelations about life, love, and relationships, she could post them to her blog for the world to see and comment upon.

Blogging has opened website creation to almost everyone, as it takes very little know-how to get a blog up and running. In fact, many service business owners are using a blog platform as their primary website, with some of them creating static pages as you would find on a traditional website, while others are using the platform as a blog and are posting updates regularly.

There are several advantages to using blogs instead of ezines or traditional websites:
1. Search engines love blogs. The strategy that seems to be attractive to search engines today is regularly updated content. I can log-in to my blog at the beginning of a day and submit a post. Within 24 hours I'll get a notification from my Google alerts account that Google has indexed that post.
2. Content can be distributed quickly. If you instruct your visitors to subscribe to your blog via updating services like Bloglines or Feedblitz, they'll be notified within hours of any new posts on your blog.
3. Little web programming knowledge is required. Once your blog is set up, it's simply a matter of logging into your account, typing the info for you post, adding graphics or photos as needed, and publishing your post to your blog.
4. Reader feedback. Your readers can give you comments and feedback about your posts almost immediately after you log an entry. Blogs are a great way to engage your audience.

Are ezines and traditional websites dead? No, because people consume information differently. Some are auditory learners and prefer to hear the info (great audience for podcasting, an audio form of blogging), some prefer to receive updates as they are published (blog readers), while others like a stable, stationary medium to which they can refer when they're ready (readers who archive ezines or bookmark web pages).

How do you begin to blog? Here are 10 simple steps you can follow:

1. Blogging platform. The easiest way to get started is to use the free service found at or The ability to customize your blog is limited with the free services, so I urge my clients to subscribe to, which will host your blog for you on their servers, or purchase a hosting account where WordPress can be installed. The downloadable version of WordPress is located at and is free of charge if you need to install Wordpress yourself on your hosting account. I use Typepad for my blog, so many of my examples will relate exclusively to blogs hosted on that platform.

2. Name. What do you want to call your blog? Blog names tend to be attention-getting and off-beat. However, for service businesses, I encourage my clients to use keywords important to their business when naming their blog. You will also want to acquire the .com version of your blog's name or your blog's name with the word "blog" attach as your blog URL. After you have set up your blog, your blog provider can give you more info about how to map your domain to your blog. (Note: You don't want to simply forward your blog to your domain name, as that impacts the URLs of your individual blog pages).

3. Look and Layout. How many columns do you want to display? Do you want links to static pages? What colors do you want to use? How about a signup box for a free giveaway? Should you use one of the templates provided or have something custom designed? Do you want your blog archives displayed? Do you want to be the only author or do you want to permit others to make posts, as well? There are many questions you'll be asked in the startup phase about the look of your blog. A Typepad blog permits you to change your mind about your layout at a later date. The best way to determine the look of your blog is to look at the layout of other blogs and determine what appeals to you.

4. Widgets. There are a number of widgets, or add-on programs, that you can incorporate into your blog. Check your blog software's site for more info about what features you'd like add to your blog. At a minimum you'll want to give visitors a couple of ways in which they can receive blog updates through various updaters, or feeder services, as mentioned earlier.

5. Comments. The newest sp*am making its rounds online is comment sp*am. Don't these guys have anything better to do? Set your comments to moderated, which means that you have to approve any comments to your blog before the post goes live. You'll save yourself a great many headaches and time by choosing to moderate the comments.

Once you've gotten this far, you should have a basic blog established and are ready to begin to blog.

6. Blog content. The time has arrived -- your blog is ready to accept posts. What do you write about? You can post content rich articles of interest to your target market, comment on a current event, answer questions from your visitors, present a before and after case study outlining how your business helped someone, etc. Keep your eyes and ears open for information relevant to your audience. I use my blog to bring forth info that doesn't fit well into my newsletter format or something that arises between newsletter issues. I post my ezine content to my blog, as well.

7. Posting frequency. Blogs are just like gardens -- they need watering regularly and require some care and attention. For maximum effectiveness, you need to post several times a week to your blog. I try and post 4 times per week in my blog -- 2 posts are items I run across or comment upon as noteworthy in the moment, and the latter 2 are the contents of my ezine posted over 2 days. And, respond to reader's comments when they arrive -- blogs provide a great forum for ongoing discussions.

8. Blog traffic. In the same way that you publicize your website URL on everything that you do, you can similarly publicize your blog. Submitting your blogs to blog directories is another way to get traffic. A very comprehensive list of blog directories, RSS Top 55, has been compiled by Robin Good. Searching out blogs that appeal to your target market and making comments to those posts will also drive traffic to your blog. Another trick is to post your blog on social bookmarking sites like Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and

9. Measure the results. Some blog programs, like Typepad, have built-in statistics so you can view details of your blog traffic. Some of the feed/updater programs have built-in statistics as well, or you can install a metrics program as an add-on to your blog. Review your statistics regularly to determine how much traffic your blog generates.

10. Rinse and Repeat. Don't let the novelty of blogging wear off. Blogging is effective only if you continue your blogging efforts regularly over a long period of time. I know of several individuals who have gotten book deals from their blog and radio and TV interviews as well. Just think -- your blog might be your ticket to fame!

Every service business can benefit from blog technology. Few other marketing strategies provide the quick immediacy that blogging provides.

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Read about running an online biz at our blog,

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Website Sell 24/7

I've spent more hours that I care to count attending networking functions, and I continue to be amazed at all the people I meet who don't have a website. Many entrepreneurs love what they do but hate marketing and selling themselves. A well-written website is one of the most effective tools at your disposal that will sell for you 24/7, provided you have written compelling copy for the site.

Here are ten ways to make your website your unpaid sales force:

1. Networking
A website permits you to pass out your business card to thousands of potential clients and lets them know how to reach you and what you sell. If, in your sales copy, you tell your story of why you're in your business, write a bio that accurately reflects your voice and style for your site, and upload your photo, your potential customers will begin to get to know you, without having to meet them one-on-one. Nothing is more amazing to me that to walk into a networking event and have total strangers come up and begin a conversation with me as though we were long-lost friends. They think we are. Why? Because they've visited my website or read my email newsletter or blog to the extent they have begun to get to know me, like me, and respect me.

2. Make Business Information Available
Help your customers find out more about you. What are your hours? What methods of payment do you accept? Where are you located? Being the "Internet snob" that I am, I go online first to check out a business before deciding to do business with them. Sometimes it's to check the menu, if it's a restaurant. Sometimes it's to see if they offer a discount coupon. Other times I just need to find their hours of operation or driving directions. If I can't find their website, I'm apt to find their competitor's site that contains precisely the info that I'm seeking.

3. Better Serve Your Customers
Make doing business with you as easy and effortless as possible. With an online presence, you could make forms available to pre-qualify clients for loans if you're a mortgage broker, enable your clients to upload their files for typesetting and printing if you're a professional printer, or allow your customer to see if the coat he wants is in stock if you're a clothing store. My sister is a "shoes horse" and desperately wanted a particular pair of shoes from a nationally-known department store in Houston. She checked their website to see if the shoes were in stock in her size at the store closest to her. She discovered they weren't, but was able to find another branch that did have them in stock and was able to swing by and pick them up. When your clients are over-committed and trying to squeeze another hour out of the day, how much more will they appreciate your online presence if you can help them save one of their most valuable assets -- their time?

4. Release Time-Sensitive Materials
You may have a service business that relies on appointments to make your money, like a hair salon or a chiropractor's office. You walk in on Monday morning and discover that only about half of your appointments are taken for the week. Do you decide to take part of the week off? You could, if you needed a vacation. Or, you could email the customer list you've built through your website and let them know that you're taking appointments at a special discounted rate this week only, or on certain days of this week, or that they'll get a free widget if they book an appointment by a certain date or time. How quickly do you think your customers would take advantage of this time-sensitive offer?

5. Be Open All Night, 365 Days of the Year
Internet surfers don't go online to buy--they go online to find free information. However, we live in an immediate gratification society. If you have a product for sale that fulfills a need to a particular problem, you can add a shopping cart with credit card purchasing ability to your online product catalog and enable someone to buy something from you at 2 AM, for example, when most of us are in bed. If your shopping cart permits immediate delivery of an electronic item, like an ebook or audio file, all the better, as your customer can have the information he has ordered within minutes after purchase. How many sales are you losing because your prospective customer has to fax or phone in an order or wait for your office to open to talk to you? Your e-commerce-enabled website can be your 24-hour automated salesperson.

6. Make Pictures and Sound Files Available
What if your widget is great, but people want to see it in action? Your website permits you to add sound, static images, and video to better explain who you are and what you sell, or to demonstrate use of your product or service. No brochure will do that. Additionally, audio and video testimonials from enthusiastic customers are now becoming more commonplace on websites. If you hate to sell, have a happy customer tell your website visitors how wonderful you are and how well you solved his problem. People believe enthusiastic testimonials from others who've successfully used your product or service.

7. Answer FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Every business has questions that customers ask again and again. Do you have the staff, or want to dedicate staff time, to answering these questions? Instead, post the questions and answers to your website and remove another barrier to doing business with you. Or, if you have the staff to do so, install a "live help" program on your website so that your site visitors can click and log-in to ask their questions right away while the question is fresh on their mind.

8. Offer Special Membership Access for Current Customers
If you're selling a service on your site, you may want your current paying clients to have access to certain information that is generally not available to the public. With your website, you can create a password-protected, clients-only section, or special membership section, for certain groups of clients. And, as website visitors are always curious and will try to get into private areas for additional information, you can use the "authorization required" page as another opportunity to tell them about the benefits of your product and service and how their lives will be better and richer for purchasing it. And, upon purchase, they will then become a member of this "special clients" club and have all the information and privileges associated with that membership. American Express is right -- membership has its privileges!

9. Open to National or International Markets
For most of my adult life, I've lived in parts of the country that have never recovered from the mid-1980's recession. Because I've had a virtual business with a website, I've never had to rely on the local economy to make a living. If you have a product or service that won't sell locally, or you have a brick and mortar operation and are trying to break into new markets, a website can help you open up a dialogue with nationwide or even international markets as easily as with the company across the street. Can you stand to make more money in your business?

10. Test-Market New Services and Products
Got an idea for another line of products for your business, or an additional service you'd like to add? Create a special page on your website and see how your current customers like the new offering. Ask them about price, appearance, and usability. They will let you know what they think faster and easier than any other market you may reach. Take their feedback, make necessary changes, and then roll it out to a larger market.

If you don't currently have a website for your business, get one! If your website only serves as a pretty brochure instead of bringing you qualified customers or sales, perhaps it's time to hire an expert to bring it to the next level. What difference would it make for you to get 95% of your clients online?I bet that would make your marketing efforts much more streamlined, and who doesn't want to make more profit in less time?

(c) 2007 Donna Gunter

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Read about running an online biz at our blog,

Friday, March 02, 2007

I'm the Colorado VA of the Month

One of the best Virtual Assistant groups I belong to is Colorado VAs. We meet mostly via an email list but do get together in person once a quarter. It's an invaluable source of support and encouragement for VAs!

I am proud to share that I was chosen as this month's "VA of the month" - take a look at my profile online:

Colorado VA of the Month - Colorado Virtual Assistants