One Entrepreneur’s Journey from Bucket Band to Booming SEO Business

One Entrepreneur’s Journey from Bucket Band to Booming SEO Business

Dan Shure, owner of Evolving SEO, has had a unique entrepreneurial experience. He grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His father, a professional sculptor, owns two businesses. Shure started his first business as a teenager and has created several other successful businesses along the way. Now, he runs a small SEO company that provides search engine marketing services to clients, from site audits to content strategy to best practices training. Additionally, Shure is a MOZ associate and hosts the “Experts on the Wire” SEO podcast.

A Musical Start

Way back in my late teens and early 20s I did a lot of performing. Specifically, I was in a bucket band performance group. Though it sounds kind of funny, it actually was a serious business between myself and some friends from high school. We were registered as a business in our town. We had an LLC. It taught me a lot about the paperwork and those aspects of business. We performed professionally for a few years on school breaks.

I went to school for music. I have a degree in piano performance. After that, I started my own music teaching business, teaching lessons privately and working for schools. One thing lead to another … I was making websites for myself and my band and my dad’s companies. Through making websites, I learned the part I loved the most was getting traffic. Around 2010, I decided to completely stop music and stop working for my dad and transition into my own SEO company. A few years later, my wife got a degree in business and joined me in the company. Now, she runs all the business aspects like taxes and accounting.

Financing the Business

The business has been self-funded by profit. The luxury of running an Internet-based business is all you need is a laptop and an Internet connection. I would make profits from clients and use that to buy the next thing, whether that was a new laptop or an SEO tool. Eventually, I got office space, which is one of our biggest overhead expenses.

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We’ve done a pretty good job of saving profits to have one to three months’ buffer to handle payroll. We use an American Express business card to handle expenses. The reason I chose it was because of the perks and benefits that come along with it.

We have a contractor who works for us. We can scale up and down on those services as needed to help with cash flow. We have a number of SEO tools that we pay a monthly licensing fee for rather than paying a large sum to purchase outright, which also helps cash flow.

Business Challenges and Rewards

Time management is the most challenging thing about running the company. In a service-based business, time is money. If I do a project for someone, they might still have questions and problems after it is complete. The more clients that I have, the more random questions I get. It’s a challenge to make time to respond to those questions, because they sometimes take hours of my time and research. Dealing with those are hard because they’re not something I’ve allocated time for, but I feel a responsibility to help out.

The lifestyle benefits that come along with running a company are rewarding. I can work remotely. There are no bosses telling us when we can and cannot work. The flexibility to design my own work schedule is great. Also, I’ve seen the ability to earn a good living that’s probably a little bit better than a comparable full-time job.

Business Lessons Learned

I tried setting up QuickBooks and all the accounting before my wife got her degree. I would say that spending the nominal fee on an accountant would have been worth it. It’s important to get your accounting set up correctly from the beginning. Everything I did was miscategorized and mislabeled. It was a real headache later on.

I am naturally good at marketing. At the beginning, I had a real knack for getting clients. One way I did that was to provide a little work for free without anybody asking me to. For example, I wrote a blog post about how I would do SEO for Vosges Haut-Chocolat, which is a brand my wife and I really like. A year later, the ecommerce manager emailed me and said, “Hey, we found your post. Would you like to help us with SEO?” They became a client off and on for a few years.

Advice for New Entrepreneurs

Make your business in an area of something you really love. Building a small business is really hard, so question if that’s really for you. Some people think they’re just going to make more money at it or have a better lifestyle. It has to be something that you get an intrinsic fulfillment from. It’s not going to be glamorous for the first few years.

What’s Next for Evolving SEO

Ninety-five percent of our revenue comes from the consulting work we do. In the future, I would like to balance that out with sponsorships for the podcast, content creation with video, and speaking engagements and appearances. I think rounding out revenue sources is good for any business.


‘Drawing from Words:’ Simple images express complex themes


The Stable Art Gallery will host the exhibit, “Drawing from Words: Editorial Illustrations of Drew Martin,” through the end of August.

The exhibit features pieces that Martin created to coincide with articles that ran in Logos, a journal covering modern society and culture. Martin has contributed to the journal for more than 10 years. “It’s an exhibit of simple drawings trying to explain complicated ideas,” he said. “Even when the themes seem quite clear, the articles behind them are often layered and detailed in a very thoughtful way.”

Although Martin’s visual style may appear simple, his illustrations aren’t designed to be purely superficial. “The ideas are usually more developed than the drawings,” Martin said. “This is actually hard to live with because what you’re usually left with over time is just the quality of the drawing.”

Martin also doesn’t settle for easy answers when conceptualizing his drawings. “I’m not easily baited by the first set of obvious ideas that flash across my mind,” he said. “I explore an idea a little deeper and look at it from different angles, bringing my life experiences, knowledge and whole being into it.”

Illustrations are just one facet of Martin’s artistic portfolio, which also includes sculpture, painting, photography and video. He said, “This is a narrow sliver of what I do, but I want to dwell on that here because I think it’s a really interesting use of drawing.” Martin added that he hopes viewers find the exhibit thought-provoking.

Drawing has appealed to Martin since childhood and he’s since developed it as a way to share his thoughts with others. “It became a special way for me to communicate with others,” he said. “The fact that my name is Drew didn’t hurt.”


8 ways to generate great blog posts from doctors

A couple of years back, I was asked to help my hometown, big city newspaper build a health and science section on its website—an ambitious project that included recruiting numerous health experts to blog. Researchers. Scientists. Professors. Lawyers. Patients. Doctors. Lots of doctors.

We were pretty excited when we managed to bring on board the team doctors from every major sports team in the city. But the excitement eased a bit when we slammed into a painful reality: Recruiting experts to blog is one challenge. Teaching them to produce readable—even compelling—blog entries is a whole different ballgame.

In the hope of saving you similar pain, here are some tips learned the hard way on how to coax strong content from doctors and other health providers:

Add patient stories. I remember talking with an adolescent health specialist early on who wanted to write an entry about teen pregnancy. Her draft made good points, but it was only when she added a story about a confused 14-year-old patient that it came to life. Stories are how humans learn and connect. Doctors and nurses spend their days on the front lines and have great stories to share. They often shy away from them, though, to protect privacy. Yes, there are privacy concerns in naming names and providing recognizable details, and you need to take them seriously. But that shouldn’t prevent you from finding a way to use patient stories either by asking for permission or disguising specifics to protect identities.

Take the reader behind the scenes. There’s a reason why there are so many medical shows on TV. Medicine is a fascinating world, and doctors perform miracles every day. It is routine to them. It isn’t to us. Let us in on it. Share the drama. Take us into the E.R., the surgical suite, the examining room. Talk about emotions. The patient’s family was crying. The nurse was smiling. Offer those little details that bring the scene to life. Give the reader some insight, a glimpse into that world.

[RELATED: Join us at Microsoft, and learn tactics and strategies to conquer all your biggest communications challenges.]

Don’t limit the blog to words. Blogs are wonderfully flexible tools for communicating. Video, audio, photos—especially photos—can all work in a blog. Use them all, when appropriate. Teach your experts to think about the various assets at their disposal. We spent several hours following a therapy dog on his rounds through a local rehabilitation facility. The resulting photo essay—complete with smiling faces and wagging tails—pulled in a huge audience and told the story much more effectively than text ever could.

Add personality, even humor. Encourage your writers to provide personal details. One emergency department nurse would send dry entries about the administrative issues she dealt with. Over and over. You work in the ER, I would plead. Share that experience with me. Give me a window into that life as a way of explaining the administrative issues, which are certainly important. Tell me the kind of stories that start with “You would not believe what happened today.” Encourage your expert bloggers to use first person, to talk about themselves, their background, their family. It will strengthen the connection with the reader, which is a major part of the power of social media.

Teach them all the blogging tricks you know. We wrote a brief email for each new recruit listing all of those lessons that most PR pros already know: Use lists and bullet points because people tend to scan, illustrate your points with examples, write in first person, actively invite comments, don’t lecture—invite conversation, etc. Those tips and more like them helped nudge our fledgling blog writers toward the sort of entries we were hoping to publish.

Share the numbers. If a blog entry garners impressive traffic, make sure you let the expert bloggers know. It will energize them for next time and will keep them focused on topics that patients want to hear about. Gently let them know when an entry is a dud, as well, all in the interest of building a readership. No one wants to launch their blog entry into the silence of deep space.

Respond to comments. Let your bloggers know upfront you expect them to respond to comments, when appropriate. Readers will be more engaged if they see the doctor is paying attention to thoughtful comments. Don’t expect the experts to track the comments. That is your job. But alert them when there is something they should respond to. Thoughtful comments are the holy grail of blogging and provide a great way to keep the conversation going. One blog entry we ran on breastfeeding ended by asking readers about the most unusual place they had nursed their child. That led to more blog entries and lots of energetic discussion. A whole series prompted by reader comments.

Know when to quit. Some experts—a lot of doctors fall into this category—are either not strong writers or don’t have the time it takes to craft engaging blog copy. That’s OK. Their skill is medicine. That’s where we as patients want them focused. Make it easy for them. The best solution is often to interview them, especially if you have a tight deadline. Run it as a Q&A with an expert, a format that is often more readable and interesting than an entry written by an expert. One morning when a local baseball player was sidelined with a knee injury we tracked down our knee expert, interviewed him and had a blog entry up within an hour or two of the news, much quicker than had we waited for him to write a blog entry.

A couple of years into blogging, a patient safety expert took a chance and wrote an entry for us on a young patient who died after swallowing medication patches. It was a harrowing story and well out of the range of items he typically wrote, but it garnered the most traffic he ever received and a featured spot on the main newspaper homepage. Doctors, nurses, researchers can all provide great expert content like that. They just might need some gentle handholding to get there.

Larry Blumenthal, a content strategist at Open Road Advisors, helps hospitals and other health-related organizations create digital content that gets read.




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Five observations from Cowboys training camp: Fights! Turnovers! Jet sweeps! More!

Unlike the first three practices in Oxnard, which were conducted in the afternoon, Thursday’s fourth practice was a morning practice. The CBA only allows four consecutive days of practice and the idea behind the Cowboys’ morning practice on the fourth day is to allow the players a little more time to regenerate before the next practice, which is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

On to our five observations from Thursday’s practice:


At the end of practice on Thursday, Jason Garrett addressed the different fights that had broken out during the day, and it didn’t sound like he was particularly concerned.

“You like that. You’d rather have to dial it back than constantly have to light a fire under your guys.”

But the chippy attitude between the OL and DL didn’t just suddenly break out towards the end of practice. I noticed early on in the in OL/DL drills that the OL was playing not just through the whistle, but way beyond it. At some point, the D-line must have decided to push back.


Chidobe Awuzie has been taking snaps mostly with the second team in camp so far, but that hasn’t stopped him from establishing a mini-streak of sorts with interceptions in two consecutive practices.

In Wednesday’s compete period, Awuzie tipped a Dak Prescott pass targeted at Brice Butlerand caught the ball while going to the ground.

On Thursday, he intercepted a Kellen Moore pass during team drills, even if the play was blown dead due to a defensive offsides.

Can he keep the streak going for three practices in a row? And even his mini-streak might not be safe:

Anthony Brown and Mark Nzeocha (yes, the German has more interceptions than all other LBs combined!) each had an interception today as well and will be looking to establish a mini-streak of their own on Saturday.

Jourdan Lewis

Lewis joined the team for the first time on Thursday, and while he didn’t play during team drills, he did take part in position drills for defensive backs. I wasn’t able to tell too much from those drills, even if they were happening right in front of me. He looked as athletic as the next guy, but he looked smoother in his transitions and it seemed that he was able to flip his hips a little faster than some of the other DBs – but that may just have been wishful thinking on my part.

He’s expected to join team drills on Saturday, so see how he performs in team drills soon enough.

Is Rod Smith the No. 3 running back?

Todd Archer suggested yesterday that Rod Smith might be ahead of Alfred Morris on the depth chart.

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but I did try to keep an eye on Rod Smith today, and he did have some nice runs in the team sessions. He also has the advantage of playing special teams (which Morris does not), so having him ranked above Morris may not be that big a stretch. At the same time, Morris had a very good day on Wednesday with the second team while Darren McFadden was taking a veteran day.

A Rod Smith/Alfred Morris roster battle was not something I anticipated going into camp, so this will bear watching.

Who will run the jet sweep?

Despite Lucky Whitehead’s departure, the jet sweep is alive and well in Dallas. The Cowboys ran the jet sweep once on Wednesday with Ryan Switzer (4.51 forty) and once on Thursday with Terrance Williams (4.52 forty). Perhaps they’ll try Brice Butler (4.36 forty) next?

In any case, the jet sweep will likely be much more effective if multiple players can run it.

source:-blogging the boys

From The Editor’s Desk: Women In Hockey Reporting and Blogging

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In some circles of hockey twitter, a few people are firm in the fact that women shouldn’t cover/write about hockey at all.

This isn’t a new concept.

I have been told many times that I don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t know anything about the team, or shouldn’t be running this website. I’ve also seen friends being told that their article is bad/wrong and the person telling the writer exactly the point they made in the article. Some people just look at the byline and say it’s wrong because of who wrote it. Some people find all the mistakes and assume you cannot continue to run the website and that if they harass you enough, you’ll leave.

That’s not the reality of hockey blogging.

Here at Five For Howling, we have four women on staff.

Jessica, who is our Social Media and Community Manager and fills in when needed as an editor and contributor. She also is a growing photographer and we hope to have her photos hosted on the site soon.

Rose, who is our research, graph, and number-loving contributor. Rose works on highly detailed pieces that involve a lot of research, reading graphs, and sometimes even going to the source of a new metric and asking about it.

Liz, who is the co-host of Den Talk and general cheerleader for all of us and what we do.

Then there is me, Sarah, the Managing Editor of this website. I write, I edit, I encourage and educate my young writing staff, and I curate the content on Five For Howling.

Women deserve to have their voices out there when discussing hockey. That voice needs to be louder than just ‘bloggers.’

Women’s voices should be heard and not just for the ‘sensitive’ topics. Women writers are not just there to make sure you cover violence against women properly. They aren’t there to just ‘double check spelling and grammar’ and they aren’t there to stroke your ego about a badly written piece that they want to deconstruct and rewrite.

Women are reporters. Women are bloggers. Women can scout and, sometimes, women know more about a subject than any other person in their office or site.

The ‘Old Boys Club’ of hockey is starting to take a shift. More women, young women, are wanting to start covering sports. It’s time for the media to start changing. This is no longer a ‘women don’t belong in the locker room’ issue. This is fundamentally being told that women cannot cover hockey, or sports in general, ‘correctly.’ It isn’t about women being too emotional to cover a team or too unprofessional. When someone shows up to the arena to work, that’s what they are doing there, working.

Fellow Managing Editors, encourage your young women writers, help them grow. Don’t let them stall out over one piece that they don’t think is just right. Help them through it. Encourage your writers to speak to each other. Don’t let their voices be drowned out by the loudest male voice in the room, and if it’s yours? Take a step back and listen.

Women will and can do anything they put their mind to. In the blog setting, it’s already starting to boom. With people like Hannah Stuart who writes amazing prospect profiles for FanRag. Steph Driver does amazing audio things at Broad Street Hockey and Broad Street Radio. Kate Fresetakes some of the best in-game photos. Megan of The Oilers Rig deals with the Oilers fan base on a day to day basis, much praise for that.

I can go on and on about women who cover teams/the league on a daily basis. Sarah McLellanfor AZ Central, Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press just to name a few. Jen Neale also covered the league amazingly on a daily basis for Puck Daddy, and I hope she lands somewhere soon, her voice is needed.

There are the women who help run the SB Nation NHL sites, Taylor for Defending Big D, Katyaof Pension Plan Puppets, Achariya of RawCharge, and Hildymac of St. Louis Game Time.* There is also Hannah Bevis who is running The Ice Garden and keeping everyone up to date on women’s hockey, and Mary Clarke running the news desk for SB Nation.

On TV you have Kathryn Tappen, Cassie Pascal-Campbell, Tessa Bonhomme and Leah Hextall. Canada is very lucky to have Pascal-Campbell and Bonhomme, amazing players in their own rights, but having them talk about hockey on a big stage is huge. Pascal-Campbell is on Hockey Night In Canada, the largest stage for hockey. Bonhomme is with TSN, the second biggest stage. Tappen with NBCSN and Hextall with Sportsnet. This sort of visibility is making women want to cover hockey visually instead of just in words.

I can keep going on and on about women who write about and cover hockey, but I will never be able to mention them all.

How do you feel about women reporting on/writing about NHL teams?

Who are some of your favorite women hockey writers/announcers? Leave their names below and their twitter info if you have it!


10 Best WordPress Themes to Choose From for Your Next Website Project

10 Best WordPress Themes to Choose From for Your Next Website Project

The digital world is spawning at an exponential rate. Every hour, roughly 1,000 websites are created. We’re talking petabytes of new data every single hour. To understand the sheer size and volume of that, there’s one million gigabytes in a petabyte or 1,000 terabytes. Considering that the human mind is estimated to be able to hold 1.25 terabytes of data, one petabyte is equivalent to approximately 800 human minds.

While those numbers could most certainly shock and awe you, the truth is that many of the newcomers to the online world rely on the WordPress platform to help streamline the process of getting their website up and running quickly and easily. With over 100 million websites and counting, WordPress is by far the most popular CMS in existence. That might be why the WordPress theme market is burgeoning and exploding.

However, with tens of thousands of themes in existence, how do you know which WordPress theme is the best one for your next website project? While this can most certainly be a subjective topic, these pre-built themes, which offer a far smoother transition into cyberspace, are scooped up in droves.

Some of these themes are terrific for ecommerce stores while others are great for starting a blog. However, the best theme for your project will be based on a few criteria. Not only should they be aesthetically appealing to the eye, but they also need to be mobile responsive. Considering that Google’s search is now a mobile-first index, and mobile searches far outpace desktop, responsiveness in design is important.

When a design is responsive, it looks and functions just as well on mobile and tablet devices as it does on desktop. However, building a responsive design on your own is no simple feat. Trust me, I’ve built loads of them. And unless you rely on a system like Twitter’s Bootstrap, building responsive designs for different media types is an exhaustive endeavor. That’s why some of the best WordPress themes have placed special weight on this one crucial aspect.

Related: CMS Battle for Beginners: WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal (Infographic)

How to choose the best theme for your website.

Whether you’ve just started a business, or you’re trying to figure out the type of business you want to start, there are some things to look for when selecting a theme for your WordPress site. Some themes offer great support for ecommerce stores while others are terrific for membership-based sites. Either way, you’ll usually need some plugins to make everything function smoothly with one another.

After nearly two decades of software engineering, web development and SEO mastery, I can tell you that there are 7 critical categories that any software application or extension (i.e. WordPress theme) is judged on.

1. Ease-of-installation: While there are tons of WordPress themes out there, the best ones are easy to install. There should be a simple interface that will help you get started quickly and easily, without a lot of fuss or programming know-how.

2. Degree of customization allowed: Pre-built add-ons, tailor-made plugins and a high degree of customization make themes that much more powerful. While some themes focus on a high degree of customization, others don’t.

3. Mobile usability: Mobile usability is crucial. Considering Google places heavy weight on this, finding the right WordPress theme that supports a responsive mobile design should be one of the defining factors in your quest for the ideal theme.

4. Overall speed: As a developer, I can tell you firsthand that your style of coding counts for a lot. It can either be bogged down by excessive code, or be light and compact. The latter is important to facilitate the overall speed of page loads, which is a crucial factor when it comes to things like SEO and visitor retention.

5. Aesthetic appeal of design: The aesthetic appeal of the theme is important. How polished is the look and feel? Does it look amateur or professional? People pay acute attention to design, so be sure to select the right theme that supports a high-quality design.

6. Customer reviews: Reviews are important when it comes to any product or service. And, when it comes to discovering the right theme, you should do your due diligence into the experiences of others. What’s the general consensus on that theme? Are they authentic reviews?

7. Ongoing support and upgrades: Support is an important aspect in any business, especially in one that requires constant evolution and upgrades to keep up with core upgrades to the WordPress platform. Be sure that whatever theme you purchase, that they provide some sort of on-going or limited support and that they’re constantly evolving, upgrading and adding new features.

Related: 25 Reasons Your Business Should Switch to WordPress

Top themes for WordPress sites.

While any list of themes for WordPress might be considered subjective, the preceding list of criteria help to laser-focus the approach to finding the perfect one. Below are what I consider to be some of the best themes that are out there.

1. X-Theme

I’m partial to X-Theme. It’s the theme that I presently use on my blog. And I’ve had an incredible experience with it. It hits all 7 of the criteria that I’ve laid out and does so particular well. X-Theme was created by ThemeCo, and it offers a highly-customizable, mobile-friendly, easy-to-use interface for your WordPress website. This one is definitely worth checking out.

2. Avada

Another one of the most versatile themes I’ve come across out there, Avada is one of the best-selling themes of all time and was created by Theme Fusion. It offers up a powerful design interface, allowing you to customize nearly all of the graphical elements of your WordPress site.

3. Hexater

Hexater is a fantastic theme that allows you to quickly and easily customize your site without investing hundreds of hours trying to figure out how it works or having a PhD in graphic design. This theme offers quick-to-market renditions for things like product launches, ebooks and niche authority sites, as just a few examples.

4. BeTheme

BeTheme is a massive theme built for WordPress with over 260 variations that can be launched with a single click. This powerful theme is beautiful, responsive, fast-loading and highly customizable. The company offers fast and reliable support, lifetime updates and the framework is optimized for SEO.

5. The7

The7 is one of the most customizable themes that are available for the WordPress platform. It includes a visual composer with a beautiful design wizard and over 750 theme options, along with over 26 pre-built websites that are quickly and easily launchable with a single click.

6. Flatsome

Flatsome is a great theme if you’re planning to run an ecommerce store with the WooCommerce plugin. It’s by far one of the best-selling WordPress themes for WooCommerce out there. It’s highly customizable, provide on-going updates, is fast-loading, boasts a responsive design and has beautiful pre-built designs with on-going updates.

7. Uncode

Uncode is a WordPress theme that gives you with the ability to create beautiful designs within an ultra-fast-loading framework. There are over 200+ layouts, a versatile visual composer and provides over 30 ready-for-market designs to get you up and running quickly and seamlessly.

8. Genesis

Gensis is a framework for WordPress that allows you to create beautiful and stunning websites that are highly customizable. This theme offers a light-weight design that’s highly optimized for speed, and provides advanced customization options, giving you the ability and flexibility to build just about any type of website with the framework.

9. Pixelgrade

Pixelgrade offers a visually-stunning WordPress theme that’s designed for a variety of situations, best suited for a variety of occupations such as restaurateurs, photographers, bloggers, designers and more. The theme is customizable, responsive and very easy-to-use.

10. Storefront

Storefront is a bulletproof WordPress theme that was specifically designed for the WooCommerce add-on. It’s a great way to build an ecommerce store quickly and easily, offering up extensible customization options with a fast-loading framework that makes creating an online story easy and straightforward.


5 Ways Small Businesses can Benefit from Blogging

5 Benefits of Blogging for Small Businesses

Startups prefer online promotion over offline promotion because the former is cost-effective and yet often has shown definite results. Because blogging is the default window leading to online promotion, more and more brands are getting into it these days.

For a small business on a shoestring budget, investing time and resources in blogging is a better option tha other marketing alternatives. Blogging can aid in getting a high ranking on search engines and in gaining social media visibility?

But anything beyond that?

The Benefits of Blogging for Small Businesses

Let’s find out:

Establishes Thought Leadership

Blogging is instrumental in establishing thought leadership. Small firms need it more than their big counterparts. That’s because big companies can spend money and skip intermediate phases in the sales funnel. But small businesses have to pass through them.

Contrary to what many believe, thought leadership is not simply an accompanying factor in the sales cycle. It impacts a customer’s purchasing decisions when he’s on the payment page. The ORM overdose has made average customers suspicious about the claims made by brands about their products. But customers are less suspicious about industry thought leaders.

Another benefit of thought leadership is it attracts efficient employees, who might otherwise work in big companies. Some of those employees feel the corporate houses are soulless places to work. Big companies don’t allow employees to perform fully up to their potential. Small brands, especially the ones that are thought leaders, grant them this privilege. What’s funny about thought leadership is it doesn’t go hand in hand with paid efforts. Customers always take promotion with a pinch of salt.

Organic efforts, especially blogging, establishes thought leadership.

Content Planning

Blogging makes content planning easy for brands. In fact, the two are not separate. Brands that excel in blogging are those that plan their content in a meticulous way.

How exactly is content planning beneficial for startups?

Proper content planning can save cost and increase ROI. Brands, both big and small, unnecessarily shell out money due to wrong content planning. Big brands may not keep track of every dime they spend, but small businesses do. Cost-cutting and ROI increase are the focal points.

The following are essential for content planning:

  • Consumer demographics,
  • Problems consumers face, and
  • How branded products offer up solutions.

Of the factors above, some help brands to understand customer idea feedback. The next step of content planning is drafting the content in accordance with such feedback. Audience reactions can clue marketers in on the acceptability of the posts they publish. Once they garner audience appreciation, they can move on with the accompanying writing style.

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Strategizing each step is content planning. Content planning helps to measure content marketing ROI, which is difficult otherwise. In the absence of industry-approved publishing metrics, proxies like virality and engagement factors are used. But via content planning, we can figure out more rigorous ROI measurement factors.

Monetizing the Blog

Very few give it a serious thought. They should because the majority of startup companies are bootstrapped. Blog monetization can be an alternative way for them to make money. It’s not rocket-science. There are ample resources on how to create a money-making blog from scratch.

Some hold monetizing a blog reduces the odds of establishing thought leadership. That’s not true. Making the site cluttered with ads is not a good idea, but paid promotion via in-text links (to a limited extent, of course) and giving favorable reviews to sponsors are great ways to monetize a site without putting banner ads on it.

Other than financial benefits, blog monetization can help startups expand their network. As they explore the financial opportunities, they can partner with other bloggers and with industry influencers. They may hop onto the money-making bandwagon if given a chance.

How-to Guide

Startups don’t hate DIY as much as big brands do. That’s because big enterprises can take care of all product related needs of customers — from packaging to promotion. Startups, on the other hand, offer specific services targeted at specific requirements.

Customers who go for DIY may need supporting tools and additional services. They expect these at lower cost, which rules big brands out of the equation. Only small businesses can understand and meet their requirements. Here’s an example:

Let’s say a small business operates in the chimney flue manufacturing industry. On the blog page of its site, it can offer guidelines on how to install a new chimney flue. A homeowner can do the installation himself, but he needs to buy the flue from a store. This is how small businesses can endorse DIY and yet publish how-to guides on their sites.

Tutorials and how-to type posts can quickly draw reader’s attention. How-to-led DIY can make someone successful in his endeavor or result in failure. The first outcome adds authenticity to the procedure detailed by the blogger (the small business). The second outcome prompts readers to get back to the blogger with questions, leading to a long trail of interactions. Hence, how-to posts lead to a win-win situation.

Getting Noticed

Startups aim to secure funding from venture capitalists. VC firms invest in businesses which they deem worthy of investing. How do they decide whether to invest in a startup or not?

They calculate the possible ROI based on speculations.

For a small business, it’s tough to convince investors that funding it will bring them good ROI. Approaching the investors, and for that matter reaching them, is the first hurdle. Persuading them to invest is the next. And do bear in mind that as a startup, you have to jump all these hurdles without sounding pushy and without bragging about yourself.

Blogging is an excellent way to get noticed by big players. There’s no dearth of platforms if drawing the attention of the big players is on your mind. Admins of third-party B2B blogs will be delighted to publish your posts, provided these posts are useful and offer new information. Then there are publishing platforms like Pulse. LinkedIn is where most of the VC guys are. And they hover over Pulse articles for new insights.

From your blog, people running VC firms will come to know about your achievements, methodology and innovations. You can even present case studies to bolster your claims. From case studies, investors can get a glimpse of your firm’s internal workflow and business process. If they are impressed by these, they may invest. Choose relevant topics, do a lot of research and offer solutions. In short, give VC firms all the reasons to notice you in the crowd.

Summing Up

In the era of content marketing, blogging is bound to help a business climb up the ladder of success. However, the efforts put into it must be precision-guided. The five tips shared here can make sure of that.


Iraqi forces launch large-scale push to retake western Mosul from ISIS

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2016 file photo, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a large-scale military operation on Sunday to retake the western half of Mosul and dislodge Islamic State militants. It is the latest phase in a 4-month-old offensive to retake Iraq’s second largest city.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operation on state TV, saying government forces were moving to “liberate the people of Mosul from Daesh oppression and terrorism forever,” using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. He called on security forces to deal with civilians properly and to respect human rights.

Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” last month, however ISIS militants continued to launch attacks there. Hours after the latest operation was announced, suicide bombers struck troops and pro-government Sunni militiamen in eastern Mosul.

“ISIS’s cruelty, brutality and reach show they are not just a threat in Iraq and Syria, but to the region and the entire world,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, in a statement.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising into the sky early Sunday morning as U.S.-led coalition jets struck militant positions southwest of Mosul and militarized Iraqi police fired artillery toward the city. Heavily armed police units were getting ready to move north with their armored vehicles from a base just southwest of the city.

“This is zero hour and we are going to end this war, God willing,” said Mahmoud Mansour, a police officer, as he prepared to move out.

The battle for western Mosul promises to be the most daunting yet, as the half of the city west of the Tigris River has older, narrower streets and is still home to hundreds of thousands of civilians, who have been told to shelter in place.

“Mosul would be a tough fight for any army in the world, and the Iraqi forces have risen to the challenge,” said Townsend. “They have taken the fight to the enemy and sacrificed their blood for the people of Iraq and the rest of the world.”

The immediate objective was to take the villages on the southern outskirts of Mosul airport, a police spokesman told The Associated Press. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Police units quickly moved into the village of Athba, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) southwest of the airport, encountering only light resistance, according to an AP reporter traveling with them. Separately, the army’s 9th Division moved into the village of Bakhira, also southwest of the city, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said.

The United Nations meanwhile warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped inside their houses “are at extreme risk,” with dwindling fuel and food supplies and scare drinking water and electricity.

“The situation is distressing. People, right now, are in trouble,” Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement. “We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes,” Grande said.

Citing witnesses in western Mosul, the U.N. said nearly half of all food shops were closed and bakeries had shut down due to a lack of fuel and an inability to purchase costly flour. Prices of kerosene and cooking gas have skyrocketed, and many of the most destitute families are burning wood, furniture, plastic or garbage for cooking and heating.

“Three out of five people now depend on untreated water from wells for cooking and drinking as water systems and treatment plants have been damaged by fighting or run out of chlorine,” said Peter Hawkins, of the U.N. agency for children.

The humanitarian agencies were gearing up to aid 250,000 to 400,000 civilians who may flee due to fighting, the statement said. The U.N. estimates that about 750,000 civilians may be left in western Mosul.

Iraqi forces spent three months driving ISIS from eastern Mosul, but the militants appear to have left sleeper cells to carry out attacks behind the front lines.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesman, said a suicide bomber set off struck a patrol of Sunni tribal fighters in Zihoor neighborhood, while another targeted Iraqi troops in Nabi Younis.

Rasool declined to provide casualty figures. Two policemen said one Sunni fighter was killed and nine wounded in the first attack, while the second attack wounded five soldiers. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Iraqi special operations forces, regular army and federal police units are taking part in the offensive along with government-approved paramilitary forces, mainly consisting of Shiite militias, which are operating on the city’s outskirts.

Mosul fell to ISIS in the summer of 2014, along with large swaths of northern and western Iraq. It is the extremist group’s last major urban bastion in Iraq.

[Source:-Fox news]

[Update: Gone from the beta too] Twitter removes its homescreen widget support from the latest alpha

Twitter is struggling to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. Life can be tough when you’re a social network that almost everyone has heard about but no one knows how to use when they’re just joining for the first time.

But despite these tumultuous times at Twitter’s headquarters, the Android app has seen some of its best days in the past few months: an overhauled Material Design inspired interface, a test for a night mode, Android N Direct Reply, and more. But instead of giving something new, the latest Twitter alpha 6.9.0 takes away a feature: the homescreen widget.

If you have the widget added to your homescreen, you will see the above message instead when you’re on the latest alpha. The widget is clearly no longer functional. Whether this change will carry through to the beta and stable versions remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Twitter’s Android developers are at least considering the possibility of removing the widget support altogether. Maybe they found out it wasn’t used all that much and the people who had added it were so few that it didn’t warrant keeping it alive and supported. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, feel free to cry foul in the comments below.

[Source:-Android Central]