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Your Business Needs a Blog

One Blog to Rule Them AllBlogging – the buzzword of… what, 2007? That thing people used to say was the, “next big thing?” It’s been years since anyone made a big deal out of blogging, right?

The truth is if you’re a small business owner, you need a blog. It’s more than some online chore you do because Business Week Magazine told you to, like text message or Facebook ads. Blogging can become the core of your business online, and convince visitors to become customers.

Three great reasons to start a blog:

Search engines love blogs
When Google and Bing go looking for pages to display in searches, they don’t just want pages that happen to have those search phrases in them. To them, searchers are their customers. They want to give their customers the freshest, most engaging content they can find. A blog post you write today about your industry stands a much better chance of getting found in search than that single paragraph on your, “About Us” page, written four years ago.

Blogs become the hub for your social media marketing
It’s likely you’ve already aware of the business value of social media to attract new customers and retain current ones. It’s more than just fashionable, it’s where all the people you want to reach are. A link to your latest post, complete with snappy title and/or engaging photograph, gives you something to offer them.

Granted, you could go on Twitter shouting, “Hey everybody! I sell stuff! Come see!” You could, but of course, you shouldn’t. Social media is full of people using posts like shotguns, hoping to splatter enough users with messages that someone clicks a link and buys from them. The truth is very few people ever click on these people’s links. The majority of people these businesses “message” to write them off, and forever go out of their way to avoid them.

If on the other hand you take the approach of saying, “I have information you might find interesting, come take a look,” you get a lot more people through the door – more receptive people at that.

Blogs can make you an authority
Take a second right now to think about what your business does. Think about what that involves, the misconceptions people might have, the different kinds of products… You absolutely know more about this than the average person.

You could teach them.

If someone wants to know more about why cell phones scratch so easily in dry weather, people will come from all around for the witty, insightful, well thought out explanation you posted to your site. If that site is for your cell phone repair shop, you become the expert people can hire.

Blogs are easy to set up, and there are a number of great providers to choose from. With enough discipline, and persistence, you’ll become a valued fount information. And your business will love you for it.

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Talkin’ bout SEO again!

I’m back to doing SEO for a living, I am happy to report. After a few years chasing the dream of “social media,” it’s nice to be able to get back to real work: Getting online businesses to appear in search, and make money because of it.

Here’s the thing with social media: When it started to take the world by storm, marketing types decided this would be the best way to sell stuff. After all, if all the people were gathering at Facebook, then Facebook is where you need to go to bother people into buying whatever it was they were selling.

The problem is people don’t go to social media to buy things – they go there to talk to their friends and families. That doesn’t stop most online marketing people, of course, because the majority of them don’t own the businesses they promote. They can make all these tweets and posts and then say, “See? We’ve done something to promote the business! We’ve earned our pay!”

Search marketing’s a whole different beast. You can prove pretty easily that what you do to optimize a website for search is working – through the improved rankings, yes, but also through the increased traffic to a site, conversions from that traffic, sign-ups to e-mail lists… all that great stuff businesses got websites for in the first place. Unfortunately for most marketers, this requires actual work, and skill, and accountability.

So now I get to go back to the work that made me love online in the first place: Making content people want to read and link to, so it gets a really good Google SERP listing. (And oh how I’ve missed writing that acronym!)

Last year I said I would stop writing about social media in this blog, mostly because everyone else already does, and it bores me. Now that I have search to worry about – and all the new and exciting changes going on with it – I expect I’ll have more to write about here.

If you haven’t read any of this stuff in a long time and forgot you subscribed, I won’t be insulted if you unsubscribe now. After all, you must have forgotten about this site by now. I haven’t posted anything in what, five months?

If you stick around, I promise to have more interesting and insightful stuff about something that really can help your business succeed online. Because that’s what I’m good at. 🙂

Social Media Marketing World – Day 0

It’s a weird thing, being at something like a social media conference, if you’ve never gone. You get a mix of two types of attendees: The needs who do this stuff for a living, and the non-needs who are their bosses. It’s a brilliant culture clash watching everyone trying to network in an environment like that. no one is sure in that situation who thecool kids are.

I’m insane Diego at the moment for Social Media Marketing World. While I’m looking forward to a number of panelists in the coming days, I do find it funny how often time has been set aside for “networking” in the schedule. In fact, there will be one panelist specifically telling the crowd how to network.

So a lot of this really is about meeting people, and not necessarily getting secret sauce on increasing engagement.

But so what? I’m not here to comment on the inner workings of your average social media trade show, I’m here to figure out what my team should be working on this year.

For tomorrow, I’m planning on hitting the following:

1) How to create customers for life by informing more and promoting less – Jay Baer

2) How to use YouTube to build an unstoppable brand – James Wedmore

(Though at the same time, “How to optimize your social channels for lead generation” will be going on as well. Hmm.)

3) Turn social advertising into leads and sales

(Something I’d think everyone would want to know.)

4) Social Media ROI: How to finally deliver measurable results.

(This one causes me concern, because I’m already pretty good at doing this. I want to hear things I’ve never thought of. I don’t want to realize I should be trying to get speaking gigs at conferences because it turns out I’m so much more The Man than I thought I was.)

After all of that,there’s a “networking cruise.” But I think I’ll take a pass.

Virgin Mobile iPhone vs Evo V

Pre-paid phones are a better deal than contract phones any way you look at it. $35 a month vs the $80-100 a month offered by AT&T, Verison, Sprint or T-Mobile should be a no-brainer.

Consider this: At $35 a month for service, that works out to $840 over two years. The cost for a Verizon device for the same period is $2640. So you pay more than three times as much for essentially the same service. With an $1800 savings, you could actually buy two iPhone 4S devices out of pocket, and you’d still save money over the Verizon plan. Sure, Verizon coverage is better than Virgin Mobile’s – but is it really $1800 better?

In the past, the only thing the four big contract carriers ever had going for them were better phones. That’s just not the case anymore.

This month Virgin Mobile annoucned they’d be selling the HTC Evo – the phone that was Sprint’s flagship device a year ago, back when they were dedicated to their whole WiMax solution for 4G.

The news was overshadowed a few days ago, however, by their second announcement, that they would be releasing the iPhone 4S. To be honest, I’d given up hope on a pre-paid iPhone, so this was a real shocker to me. I was already excited about the Evo – now this?

This means I have a tough choice, one probably a few other people have as well. Each device has a number of positives and negatives, no matter what any of us choose it’s going to cost a pretty penny, and we’ll be stuck with our decission for a while.

So I’m just going to go through my pros and cons here, and help everyone else out if I can.

EVO V 4G

PROS

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) – This is the newest version of Android available

1.2 Ghz processor – Faster than what’s available on most of VMA’s other smart phones.

4G speed – Well, sort of. More on this in the “cons” section…

Up-gradable internal storage to 32GB – This is good if you’re looking to just have a single device for photos, music and phone. Right now I have a phone AND an iPod, and 32GB would be just enough storage to hold everything.

CONS

WiMax 4G – This will use Sprint’s WiMax network for 4G, a solution they’re retiring in favor of their own LTE network – the standard AT&T and Verizon already use. They won’t be doing any further investment in WiMax, so if this isn’t available where you are, it never will be. Here in Phoenix, I understand there’s one intersection in town where you can get 4G speeds – hardly enough for me to jump up and down with joy at how fast the Internet will run on this thing.

$299 price tag – This isn’t a cheap phone, and without a contract there’s no help in paying for it. You’ll saddle the cost of the device on your own.

Bloatware – The phone hasn’t come out yet, so there’s no way to gauge how much of a problem this will be. But Virgin Mobile is known for installing too many apps you can’t remove, which eats up memory and slows the device down. It’s also an HTC phone, so they have their own garbage eating away at the memory. Unless both companies have come to their senses and either removed this or make it possible for owners to, this could be a big problem.

Android 5.0 Jellybean coming soon – Having a phone with Ice Cream Sandwich is nice, but it will be outdated in a few months. $299 is probably a lot of money to pay for something that is yesterday’s news. (The Evo’s already a dated handset.) That just gets worse when we look at the iPhone 4S.

IPhone 4S

Virgin Mobile will be selling the iPhone 4 ($550) and 4S ($650). I have no idea why – I will only say that the iPhone 4’s antenna problems are a definite con. I’m not going to consider it, and neither should you, honestly. If you are dead set on getting a Virgin Mobile iPhone, eat the extra $100 to keep it from cutting out.

So on to everything else…

PROS

It’s an iPhone – As much as Apple Neophytes annoy the hell out of me, Apple makes a damn good phone. It doesn’t need to be restarted with an occasional battery pull, (like an Andoid or Blackberry does,) and even if it does fail their support is phenomenal.

Updates – Apple is very good about making updates to iOS available on all devices. Manufacturers that use Android almost never update the OS. Why would they give you a new phone experience when they could just get more of your money next year to get the next Android operating system? They are, after all, evil.

App Development – Android’s no longer a slouch at developing apps, but they also don’t have any oversight. You could very easily give bad people access to your phone information just because you downloaded a Chinese version of Sudoku to your phone. On the other hand iTunes is very strict about what they’ll allow in their app store.

Despite this, they also have more apps to choose from.

CONS

IPhone 4S is on it’s way out – Even though this is the latest iPhone, in six months it will be old news. IPhone 5 is very likely to be a 4G device, and who-knows how many other improvents.

No 4G – Like I said, the Evo V doesn’t have great 4G availability, but the 4S will have none. Frankly, if my city had widespread WiMax coverage, that would be enough for me to go with the Evo instead of the iPhone.

If you thought $299 for an Evo was a lot… – The 4S will be $650, and that will all be on you to pay for. That’s a lot of money for a phone, but that’s REALLY a lot of money for something that will be outdated soon.

Conclusion

As much as I’ve hoped Virgin Mobile would eventually get an iPhone, I’m going with the HTC Evo V. Both phones are, frankly, halfway towards being outdated. As such, I’d rather pay $299 for outdated than $650 for it.

Also, with the most available storage space for the Virgin Mobile iPhone at 16GB, that will get used up fairly quickly. Since I already have an iPod Touch, I can run all the Apple apps I need to on that.

Either way, I still believe a pre-paid phone is the best solution for a smart phone, even if the devices aren’t top of the line.

Why iPod Touches are better than iPhones

If you’re like me, you think that the iPhone is actually pretty neat – but way too expensive for what you get. The reason I never went the iPhone route was because of the cost of the plans, the cost of the handset, and until a couple of years ago, because AT&T was the only carrier I could get one with.

iPod Touch vs iPhone

iPod vs iPhone - would you pay nearly $3000 more just to make phone calls?

iPods turn out to be cheaper. A 32 GB iPhone and iPod retail at the same amount: $299. But the iPhone requires a 2-year contract for it to be $299. The handset without a contract is $799 – and without a phone contract, it’s useless. If you pay $100 a month for an iPhone contract, (which is about average,) your iPhone ends up costing you some $2700.

An iPod Touch, on the other hand, does everything an iPhone does except place calls and SMS messages. It can go online via Wifi, in exactly the same way an iPhone can. Wifi is almost always faster than a cellular data plan anyway, so you’d be doing this even with an iPhone whenever you could get away with it.

What’s more, you get access to the Apple app store just like you do with the iPhone.

Of course, you are going to need to take care of your phone issue separately. Since there are so many contract-free companies with cheap monthly talk plans, this is easily solved. In fact, if you’re more adventurous, you can get an inexpensive smart phone plan, jailbreak your iPod Touch, and tether the two together. Then you wouldn’t even need Wifi hotspots to take your iPod online – you’d just need your other phone to be nearby.

I do not understand why anyone pays so much for a phone just to play games or watch movies. It is an insane waste of money to pay so much for what is ostensibly a toy. But if you want to get on board with all of the development being done for the iPhone, this is a much cheaper option.

Stop buying electronics

The CES is this week – the toy fair for middle-aged men-children who want to find out what to ask Santa for next Christmas. Now, I’m not the kind to tell people they need to stop buying electronic baubles because of the sweat shops they come from. I also won’t bust on people for spending beyond their means during a recession. I don’t really think I should have to.

No, the reason for the title of this post is simple: By buying more phones, tablets, computers and accessories, you are sending a signal to manufacturers that they don’t need to make anything better in order to get your money.

Think about it: Every year, manufacturers come out with products that are largely the same as the ones they released last year. They push a version of Android that’s supposed to be slightly better than the one they sold you last year, or an iPhone that doesn’t have a broken antenna. And exactly how many versions of the Nintendo Gameboy need to be made until they decide they’ve gotten it right?

If you keep buying something new each year, you send a signal to manufacturers that they just need to put out something – anything – to get you to buy it.

If your phone is good enough, just keep it. Stop replacing the stuff you have if it isn’t broken. If enough people finally let manufacturers know they need to innovate something that is actually new before you give them their money, they won’t keep releasing products that don’t entirely work, need patches, or are just useless collections of molded plastic.

Conversations about the Death of Steve Jobs

These are some of the things I’ve been hearing from people for the last 16 or so hours since Steve Jobs died.

I’ll keep adding to this as I continue to get more interesting (read as: weird) takes on the death of some guy I’ve never met:

“I wonder how long it will take until they discover he actually died last week, and they kept him in a freezer until AFTER the Apple Product Announcement? I mean, what are the chances of that?” – My Girlfriend

“I called in yesterday, and [co-worker] told me, ‘Steve is dead!’ And I thought, like, who’s Steve?” – Co-worker

“See, I think they found a way to graft his mind into the iOS system – so that when the next update comes out, Steve Jobs will be in every device, and will then be able to take over the world from beyond the grave!” – Okay, that one’s me.

“Apple will do fine, until they unveil iRadio or iStapler in a couple of years.” – Someone on G+

“What about Apple putting a Samsung Galaxy S2 into an iPhone case then calling it ‘4S?'” Person on G+ responding to that last person on G+

“The reason the new phone is ‘4S’ is so they can then say it’s the new iPhone – ‘for Steve.’ I don’t know if it is masterful, or skeevy.” – IT Guy

“It’s not that some famous person died. It’s that someone hugely successful died at only 56 that bums people out. Because if that’s possible for him, it means none of us are safe. We can each get our clock punched at any time.” – Me again.

“Yeah, but pancreatic cancer is a big deal. You don’t get to string your life along like that UNLESS you have Steve Jobs money in the bank.” – Co-worker

“Whatever you do, keep your mouth shut. You always end up saying something really crass when people die. The way Apple fanboys are, you’ll probably get lynched.” – My Girlfriend, before I left the house this morning