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How Blogging Has Built My Business

building blocksWhen I first began blogging in June of 2011, it was an experiment. Publishing my first post didn’t feel much different than writing in a Word doc. I had zero subscribers and only a measly three or four people randomly stumbled on my blog each day. I wanted to learn how to be an effective blogger for my clients. To do so, I first had to become an effective blogger for myself. The blogging experiment far exceeded my expectations and I’m officially hooked. I write passionately for my readership of more than 700 subscribers every Monday morning.

The Bennis Inc blog began as nothing but a blank page, just as most things in life do. But it grew – and so did my business. Sure, time alone can cause growth, but I venture to say that it took more than just time. It took regular upkeep, vision and a willingness to put my thoughts out there for all the world to see. As awkward as that felt in the beginning, almost 150 blog posts later and it couldn’t feel more natural.

The best side effect of this blogging experiment was how it built my business and defined my personal brand. I’m still amazed to talk to a new acquaintance who mentions a recent post they read or to look at the stats and see the various search terms that led people to my blog. Whether you’re a fellow blogger (novice or expert) or an intrigued reader, here are the key ways in which blogging has built my business – and has the power to build yours as well.

It’s an icebreaker

My blog provides a great reason to start a conversation. Whether it’s in a business meeting or a quick run-in at the coffee shop, telling me, “Oh by the way, I read your blog,” has replaced the obligatory conversation about the weather. It has also given people a reason to reach out to me with a professional question or to explore the services I offer. If I was just a name on a web site, people may not feel this same connection or be motivated to start a conversation. This is a pleasant reminder that the time I spend putting my thoughts into words is worth something.  It’s cultivating an audience, opening doors and inspiring people enough to want to tell me about it.

It reaches further than you might imagine

My blog has opened up an avenue for communication with people from all across the world. When looking at the stats, it’s exciting to see how many different countries are lit up on the map. Even more fulfilling than just numbers and statistics is the meaningful interactions with people via comments and emails. The reach of my blog has helped to grow my business on a more local level as well. Within my local network, I’m impressed by how many people I know (and look up to) read it on the regular. I would never have imagined they had the interest or free time, but they do. This has helped to build my credibility as a writer and entrepreneur.

It’s a living portfolio

I’ve often referred to a blog as a living portfolio of your work. When a client asks to see examples of my writing, I can simply send them to my blog where they can choose from a variety of topics to really get a feel for my style. This is much easier and more genuine than putting together a dull document of writing samples. They can also see the interactions with my readers which demonstrates my ability to grow an audience. My blog has become a valuable asset to my proposal process and I believe has helped to win me some work as well.

It strengthens your SEO and your personal brand

The final and most powerful way I feel my blog has helped to build my business is by strengthening my SEO and personal brand. Adding fresh and high quality content to your blog and appropriately tagging each post is one the best ways to increase your search engine optimization. I choose to host my blog on WordPress (as oppose to my web site) because of its added SEO power. Many readers have found my blog by browsing WordPress’s categories.

My blog has also strengthened my personal brand by showcasing the “human element” of Bennis Inc – me! While my business is all about Public Relations, I choose to make my blog much more personal with many articles on the struggle of entrepreneurship, life balance and unconventional wisdom. My blog shines a spotlight on the “Twenty-Something Entrepreneur” that I’ve become.

There you have it – all the compelling reasons you could need to be inspired to create or grow your own blog! The most important thing to remember is that once you start, don’t stop. Keep writing and posting regular content. Think of your blog as a hungry little monster. It needs food to keep it growing and that’s what your posts will be, food for your blog and fuel for search engines to pull new readers to your site.

Finally, here are some tips for successful blogging to get you start. Go forth and blog!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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Blogging For Broke: The Value of Blogging Outside of Income

empty-pocketsI first began the Bennis Inc blog in July of 2011 and since then I’m proud (and amazed) to say it has earned over 37,000 hits, 1,000 comments, 614 loyal subscribers and many, many more readers and supporters. Thank you! Even if this is your first time stopping by, you’re contributing to something that has grown into my passion among other things. I often get questions from fellow bloggers, entrepreneurs and friends who want to know the best way to monetize a blog. I usually stare at them blankly and respond with, “I never thought of that.” Well, that’s not completely true – I have wished that I could find the magic bullet to turn my blog into a big money maker where all I have to do is write and rake in the dough. However, I know enough to realize that this is not even close to the common scenario for so many blogs out there, and it’s not really my goal for blogging to begin with. Instead, I choose to feed the hungry Bennis Inc blog with weekly ramblings about the unpaved road of entrepreneurship for reasons that are not directly fueled by money. That’s right, I’m blogging for broke and I’m perfectly OK with that. The benefits I do receive from blogging are ones that I couldn’t buy if I tried. And so I find it important to share with you – and all fellow bloggers or aspiring bloggers out there– that blogging brings great value completely separate from the monetary kind.

Complete Control

As a business owner you may be the boss inside your own world, but as soon as you offer a service to a client or customer they become your “boss” to an extent. They have the ultimate say over deadlines, scope of the project and final edits. Frankly, there are some days when I just need that feeling of being in control again! My blog is the place I know I can always turn to satisfy this need. I am the boss here. I have the first and final say in what I write about. I tag, categorize and schedule posts exactly as I see fit and there’s no one there to second guess accuracy or style. I imagine this to be similar to the enjoyment an artist gets out of painting for himself every so often rather than for a specific client. The final masterpiece is all your own and whether you display it to the world or keep it all to yourself – that’s your decision to make.

A Means For Progress – When All Else Stands Still

I can’t be alone when I say that I enjoy progress. I hate hold-ups and stand-stills. In fact, this was one of the main motivating factors as to why I left my former job and ventured out on my own to begin with. While my projects progress at a much quicker rate than they did before I owned Bennis, Inc, I am still at the mercy of my clients if I’m waiting on feedback or critical information to move forward. There are some days when I have a million balls in the air, yet my hands are oddly idle because of clogs in progress. I refer to this state as the calm before the storm or being stuck in the eye of the hurricane. At any moment I could have an inbox full of emails come in fill my day up instantly. So what do I do when I’m waiting on a stand-still? I turn to my blog. It allows me to feel accomplished and to get the immediate gratification of taking something from conception to completion. It’s literally how I keep my hands busy whenever I need something to do.

A Living Portfolio

My blog is my journal and my canvas. It’s where I direct my extra creativity when it’s not fully exhausted on client projects. Every so often I enjoy looking back to some of my first posts, not just to see how far my writing has progressed, but to catch a glimpse into exactly what I was thinking months and years ago. I can remember the most pressing issues in my life at that time and briefly relive them through my writing. It’s a living portfolio not just of my work, but of my life. Better yet is when a client asks to see my writing samples, I can easily direct them to my blog where they have a full array of topics and styles to choose from to really immerse themselves in the level of writing I can produce.

People Really Get To Know You

The final and possibly greatest benefit to my blogging is how many people it reaches without my ever knowing. My day is instantly made when someone mentions a recent post in conversation and I had no idea they ever read my blog before. I have friends and family members also tell me about acquaintances who read my blog on the regular. Many of these are people I have yet to meet! From such experiences I’ve found that my blog allows people to get to know me for more than just my business, but as a person. It’s that “human element” I so often advocate for businesses to tap into. When someone feels like they have insight and understanding as to what makes you tick, they are more likely to trust you – and eventually hire you when your services align with their needs. Social media allows people from all over the world to feel like they really know each other even if they’ve never met or spoken in person. Blogging is a powerful means for creating such peripheral relationships.

If you’re stopping by as a reader, but have been curious about starting your own blog, I hope this gives you some inspiration to take that next step forward (here’s some information you might find helpful). Who knows what passion it could unlock within you? If you’re a fellow blogger, I hope you’ll take just a moment to comment with the benefits you receive from blogging and consider sharing this with your community as well.

 

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The Essentials for A Successful Blog

This is where I’m blogging from this week–a park on beautiful May day in Pennsylvania!

Almost one year ago, when I first started publishing ramblings about my ambitions, struggles, triumphs and personal philosophies around starting my own business, I had no real idea what I was doing. I wanted a platform to share my ideas, but to also keep me accountable for continuing my creative writing on a regular basis. And for me – this meant blogging. At that time, I had no real plan for where this would go, or if it would go anywhere at all. All I knew was that this was the first time I could really write for myself and not have the pressure to “perform.” This was a wildly new feeling which allowed me to access a whole new level of creativity and improve my own writing over the course of a single year by simply making me do it weekly.

While there is still much for me to learn from some of the Master Bloggers out there, I do feel like I’ve picked up on several tips that allowed me to enjoy the prestigious WordPress honor of being Freshly Pressed and to continue to steadily grow the Bennis Inc blog week after week, month after month. The following are what I consider the prime essentials for my blog’s success:

Consistency. Every Monday morning around 8am you can expect to be greeted by a Bennis Inc blog post in your inbox or blog feed. This takes planning, and sometimes pre-scheduling posts weeks in advance, but I’m a stickler for not leaving my readers hanging. For you, a different day of the week or a different frequency might make more sense, but whether you’re posting weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, loyal readership comes from consistent content.

Tags. Tags are what get your blog before the eyes of potential followers. In WordPress you’ll see that you can browse blogs by an endless number of topics. How do the blogs you see get placed on these topic pages? Tags. I familiarized myself with the most popular, overarching topics such as Life, Business, News, Photography and Writing (you can pick them out by the size of their font on the Topics page). I incorporate these powerhouse tags into my posts as much as relevant. That’s the other key to tags is to keep them relevant to your post. Overtagging is treated like spam to WordPress and that won’t get you any further ahead. Pick just the 10-15 most relevant tags for your content. Tags are also how a lot of search engines pick up on my blog. So when I use a Thomas Edison quote, for example, I’m sure to tag him because his name alone has brought many people to my blog because Google includes it in its search suggestions.

Quality Content. If you’re going to make the time commitment to start a blog, also make the commitment to write to the best of your ability. I can remember one busy week over the holidays when I just knew I couldn’t make my Monday blog deadline with a post to which I was proud to sign my name. Instead, I took just a few minutes and included a photo and a fun message to my readers about how even bloggers need a holiday. First, this kept me consistent with my weekly posts. Second, this allowed me the extra time I needed to come back the following week with quality content. I want to WOW my readers every week – and some weeks I do a better job of this than others – but I never want to take their readership for granted. So by offering you something worth reading I’m letting you know that I value your time!

Make it Genuine. So often blogs that are started by businesses fall into the trap that their posts should focus solely on promoting this business or its services. While a blog is a great opportunity to self-promote, it shouldn’t be a sales pitch. Just as I mentioned about quality content, give your audience something worth reading. Establish yourself as an expert in the field, but be sure to include personal stories, humor and even give people a look into some of your own struggles from time to time. My underlying point is – be human. We have enough social media being run by spammers and software. A successful blog gives readers a window into your life.

Make it visual. Adding a picture, graphic or embedding a video clip into your blog posts creates immediate interest for readers. When you browse through a topic on WordPress you’ll see an entire feed of new posts – too many to fully process. So what stands out? One of two things, an attention grabbing title or a picture to accompany your words. Both should accurately represent your blog with minimal thinking or reading. It’s the 0.5 seconds you have to pull a reader in, so don’t willingly give up this opportunity to grab their attention!

Become a part of the WordPress Community. WordPress is very much a social network; it’s a community of writers and readers made up of every demographic imaginable. But you can’t simply publish a blog, sit back and wait for people to swarm it with likes, comments and 5-star ratings. Most often, you have to actively pursue new readers. I personally comment on 5 other WordPress blog every day with something more meaningful than “Great post!” I show them that I took the time to read what they wrote and I share how it relates to me personally. WordPress is a very interactive community and 4 times out of 5 I get a reply for my comment. Most often, 2 out of 5 times I’ll get a new subscriber to MY blog. Multiple this by 5 days a week over the course of a year and it’s easy to consistently grow your blog. It just takes a few minutes of meaningful interaction every day.

So what are some of your successful blogging essentials? Have you discovered the tips I mentioned to be same as the ones you currently use? Since we are a community after all, share your blogging Do’s and Don’ts with me!

 
21 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Business & Success

 

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Last Call for the Bennis Blogger Battle

It’s been a fun ride for sure, but it’s time we bring the Bennis Blogger Battle competition to a close! There’s room for just one more entry this coming Monday, April 16th and this slot is first come, first served. (email me at Stephanie(at)BennisInc.com) If no entries are received by Saturday, April 14th at Noon, we will proceed with the announcing of the Grand Winner of the Blogger Battle on Monday morning!

I’ve been diligently tracking blog hits, likes, thumbs-ups and comments and you’ll be able to see how every blogger did and revisit their blogs if you’d like. If you haven’t given your support to your favorite entries, you still have time to go back and give them some love. This is also a prime opportunity for blog authors to share your entry with your networks in hopes of boosting your rankings.

Best of luck to all competitors and any final entries should be submitted as soon as possible for a final chance to be featured on the Bennis Inc Blog!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Guest Blogger

 

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The Yes List: Finding Meaning in the “To Do” List (Guest Blog by Amy Gaines)

The following blog post is part of the Bennis Blogger Battle. Support Amy by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment and sharing it on your social media! The blog with the most hits, wins.

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to-do-listIn a recent battle with the ever-growing To Do List, the relationship between completing TDL tasks and building a personal brand developed new meaning: that of being a concrete, comprehensive, collected list of commitments.

Commitments are just that – something we have committed to complete by saying “Yes.” When we complete these tasks, our integrity, trustworthiness, and personal marketability increases because our word turned into our action.

And yet, maintaining the perspective that every item on that list is an opportunity to grow and improve our personal brand takes work. It takes work to guard the items to which we commit, work to keep track of those commitments, work to follow through on those commitments, and work to give 100% of our effort to those commitments. And in the midst of all that work, the tie between our word and our action is easily buried.

However, investing in the effort needed to maintain that perspective reaps significant benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the work involved in building your personal brand by making your word equal your action.

Guarding the TDL

If we are quick to say yes to everything, our commitments become unruly. Even high performers that churn through tasks quickly will eventually be overrun by an unkempt TDL. Learning to say “no” to certain commitments creates an opportunity to limit what goes on your TDL and allows you to focus on specific tasks. Good guidelines for identifying what goes on the TDL include: basic job responsibilities, direct requests from managers, [your] special interest projects, and personal favors.

Organizing the TDL

Many, many resources exist for taking and maintaining stock of commitments on the TDL. A personal favorite is the “Getting Things Done” series by David Allen. Regardless of the method, keeping track of the madness is mandatory.

Acting on the TDL

Break your commitments into actions and act. Keep stock of the resources you need to act on your commitments. Analyze the time a commitment will require before adding it to your TDL to ensure you have the time to complete the actions needed to follow through with the commitment. Above all else, learn to take your word (your commitments) and turn it into action.

Shifting our perspective to recognize the direct connection between our word/our actions and our personal brand is crucial to both success and sanity [especially in the professional world]. Recognizing this connection reminds us of the meaning and importance of each and every task on our TDL because that task is ultimately linked to a commitment. Completing our commitments sets a foundation of integrity for our personal brand that gives us added encouragement and footing to move forward successfully.

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Amy GainesAmy Gaines is a functional software consultant in the higher education industry. Her specialties include recruiting, admissions, and enrollment management. She loves to travel, read and write, and chase a thought to completion. Helping customers improve their processes, efficiency and reporting gives her the most satisfaction. Please support Amy by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment below and visiting her personal blog “This Imperfect Life” at greyceiling.wordpress.com

 
 

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Even Bloggers Need a Holiday

Merry Christmas from the Bennis Inc team!

Merry Christmas from the Bennis Inc team!

The usual Monday Bennis Inc blog post will be put on hold for a week as we all take a much needed breath and relax. I hope you enjoyed a joyous Christmas spent with your family, friends and loved ones. Take advantage of this quiet week between Christmas and New Years to appreciate everything we’ve been waiting all month to enjoy–an extra helping (or two) of holiday treats, an afternoon nap, daylong marathons of your favorite TV show and some time spent disconnected from technology. I’ll be taking this same advice, but don’t you worry, I have a lot of great ideas in store for 2012 which I look forward to sharing with all of my loyal bloggers!

In other news, Pinot isn’t too upset Christmas is over…

 

 

 

 

 

But if I had to guess, Pinot isn't too upset Christmas is over.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Life

 

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