Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What Is Thinking Outside of the Blog?

Potential customers for products and services are increasingly seeking high-quality educational content that will help in making well-informed purchase decisions. To find this content, buyers are primarily relying on social media and search engines. Meanwhile, a high percentage of blogs are not showing up in search engine results and social media recommendations. Among the reasons for the dwindling popularity of blogs are two key factors — too many links and over-promotional content.

While a few blogs still provide stellar examples of excellence, that is proving to be the exception rather than the rule. Here are five major problems that have emerged in the blog universe during the past 15 years:

  • Blog Networks — For example, BuildMyRank (BMR) went out of business when it was discovered by a leading search engine that BMR was creating hundreds of blogs simply to provide paid links to subscribers of their service.
  • Links and More Links — While one or two links can be appropriate in a typical blog post, adding excessive links (5-10 is not unusual) becomes distracting (and annoying) to readers.
  • Brief Content with Few Details — If a blog post contains only 50 to 250 words (as many blog posts do), the content is likely to fall short of what is required to fully educate a prospective buyer about a service or product.
  • Content Spinning — In a rush to publish frequent blog posts, an ill-advised decision to spin content (by using algorithms that create many articles from one original) results in duplicate content rather than high-quality original content.
  • Blogs Designed for Search Engines Instead of Readers — Too many blogs are primarily produced to enhance search engine optimization factors rather than communicate with a real audience.

A common outcome due to the multiple blog problems described above is that the impacted blogs (and perhaps blogs in general) lose readers as well as traffic generated by search engines. As I observed in a comprehensive 2017 overview of the problem, “Both business clients and search engines have devalued the use of published content that is not original, accurate and informative.” Nevertheless, many businesses continue to feature a blog as a primary tool for communicating with website visitors.

One Solution: Think Outside of the Blog

Perhaps it is time to think of the blog as a vintage relic that no longer deserves to be featured and promoted — much like 8-track audio tapes and videocassette recorders eventually reached a point of decreasing functionality compared to better alternatives. Today’s customers want to be in charge of the buying process and do not want a marketer-centric sales process like cold calling, advertising and promotional blogs. What is emerging as a viable solution is a customer-centric and inbound marketing sales process that emphasizes Thinking Outside of the Blog with educational and non-promotional content — examples include extended articles, case studies and white papers.

Common Themes in Thinking Outside of the Blog

The Bottom Line:

I consistently see several common themes in a successful transition to Thinking Outside of the Blog. Here are two of them:
  • Providing high-quality educational content for consumers
  • Replacing marketer-centric sales processes with customer-centric sales processes

Remember First Impressions — High-quality customer-centric content can provide a solid foundation for making positive first impressions when prospective consumers visit websites. Instead of publishing a promotional and short blog post, Think Outside of the Blog by supplying comprehensive educational content like white papers, extended articles and case studies. If you need another reason to do this, please remember the timeless wisdom offered by Will Rogers — “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The next step:

If you would like to talk before starting a business writing, consulting or career training project with Steve Bush, you can arrange a no-cost preliminary call (15-30 minutes) here:

Schedule a Call with Steve Bush

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Business Writing and Inbound Marketing Strategies

inbound marketing strategies

In the rush to implement inbound marketing strategies within a business, the importance of content writing often gets lost in the shuffle. This is a serious mistake that can ultimately doom inbound marketing to failure.

Those responsible for inbound marketing processes must be especially vigilant in matters concerning content quality. The potential for problems is often increased when business writing is outsourced to a “low bidder” from a crowdsourcing website.

Customers seeking educational content have high expectations — is it reasonable to expect that a low-bidder mentality will meet and exceed these expectations? In particular, inbound marketing content like press releases, extended articles, white papers and case studies deserves the high-quality treatment that might require selecting a high bidder instead of the lowest bidder. Your potential customers will form long-lasting first impressions based on your content — what will they find?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Upwork: A (Costly) Piece of Work to Be Avoided

While crowdsourcing in general has proven to be ineffective in both broad and specific terms, Upwork is turning out to be a particularly costly and frustrating example of the concept. Upwork was created by the merger of Elance and oDesk — and this is a huge part of the problem. For both clients and freelancers, Elance had a relatively “good” reputation while oDesk was typically viewed at the other end of the spectrum with low quality and low costs usually found together.

The First Upwork Mistake: Adopting oDesk Instead of Elance Philosophies

The initial troubling sign with Upwork was the adoption of oDesk fees and procedures. For example, oDesk charged a standard 10 per cent fee while Elance used 8.75 per cent. The standard Upwork fee was quickly fixed at the higher oDesk rate of 10 per cent.

With Elance, payments to freelancers were made immediately upon project approval by the client. Upwork has decided that is much too fast and has slowed freelancer payments to a glacial speed of 6-7 days after work is accepted by the client.

The Second Upwork Mistake: Greedy (and Greedier) Fees

As if 10 per cent was not enough to take off the top of each and every project, Upwork has recently (May 2016) chosen to double the fees for the first $500 of every client’s work with a specific freelancer — that’s 20 per cent for every single project to start with and then 10 per cent for amounts from $500 to $10,000.

What does Upwork do for this 20 per cent? I would argue that they are largely acting as a glorified Craigslist of jobs listings and freelancers and facilitating payments to be made from clients to freelancers — and they charge a separate fee (about 3 per cent) to cover credit card processing expenses, so that’s not even covered in the 20 per cent! Quality control is still the responsibility of clients, so quality is something else that is not covered by the 20 per cent fee.

The Third Upwork Mistake: A Name That Everyone Seems to Hate

While Elance was a popular brand that also happened to be a name that perfectly reflected the combination of e-commerce and freelancing, the name was ditched in favor of a new name: Upwork. It was a dumb move by all accounts — on a par with “New Coke” in the annals of marketing failures.

Other than the Upwork employees and investors who are seemingly required to say that they like the brand name of Upwork, who actually thinks it is an effective and appealing brand?

The Fourth Upwork Mistake: Inability to Retain Quality Freelancers

The Upwork team supposedly placed an early priority on retaining the “best” freelancers in their large community — and then proceeded to ignore this important goal at virtually every turn.

First (and very quickly), fees were increased by 15 per cent (for those previously using Elance) and then by another 100 per cent a few months later. Second, the time to be paid for completed projects was increased from immediate to a week or so — and during the past couple of weeks, there were periods when payments via PayPal were not functioning at all (even after patiently waiting for a week). Third, there were feeble internal attempts to create “higher quality” assignments for “high quality” freelancers, with little to show for the meager efforts by Upwork. Most of the high quality freelancers are still waiting for even one assignment that makes any economic sense.

What Can Be Learned from This Upwork Overview?

One lesson: Avoid Crowdsorcing — Clients and freelance consultants should probably avoid crowdsourcing websites (and Upwork in particular) for anything but low-quality and low-cost assignments. In fact, this is probably already occurring on Upwork, as many argue that the move to double fees to 20 per cent for projects under $500 was a direct indication that is where almost all of Upwork’s current business is (i.e., small projects under $500).

Another lesson: The Return of Legitimate Consulting — In many respects, attempts to crowdsource projects was an attempt to use the internet to replace business consultants hired directly via other means (like talking to them first by phone). The anonymity of crowdsourcing has a long list of painful and costly disadvantages, and Upwork is performing a valuable service by illustrating almost all of them.