As you recall, in our first article in this two-part series, we covered things like goals and how we can benefit from hiring Digital Agencies (which can include everything from Full-Service agencies to specialty agencies like the example we used of a company that has a specialty in the area of design for e-commerce sites). We also included a bonus of the realities of the need to build our credibility and actually promote our stuff!
The example we used was the use of image sites like Pinterest and Instagram and the opportunity that an e-commerce site presents us with, in sharing the vivid images of our products (or services)!
Now, it is on to the last two “chapters” of our series.
We got you started with the idea of building your own blog (versus hiring an agency to do it) in our “Chapter 3” from the last article, but our primary focus was on building a blog that makes you money. True, that could almost be the final chapter, but we thought with all of the talk about spending money, that you could use a chapter that finished out with you seeing how you could spend time and (acquired) skill in actually bringing the money in instead of sending it away from your pocketbook.
Now that that is done, it is time to take a little step back and actually talk about the ease of building your blog “by hand.” Notice I didn't say it was easy, per se. Let's say relatively easy, ok? After that, we are going to talk about an important tool that every blogger needs. Actually, it is not a tool, but a function of a tool (or tools). What is it? It is “automation.”
In order to talk about the function of automation, we are going to compare two email marketing tools that are available to you, which provide some level of automation. Keep in mind that you can get automation (and “done for you” results) by hiring that agency, as we spoke in the last article. In this article, we are talking about how you can save money and pay for a less expensive tool, but still get some of the benefits… namely, that automation.
- Chapter 4
- Start Blogging in Four (Relatively) Easy Steps
- Chapter 5
- Essential Tool(s) for Do-It-Yourselfers: Comparing GetResponse and Constant Contact
Chapter 4: Start Blogging in Four (Relatively) Easy Steps
Step 1: Hosting and Platform
This first step doesn’t have to take a lot of time or be difficult, but it is helpful to understand what you are dealing with when making the decision. I’ve included some tips, below, with the two options, but I have an even better tip, and that is to work through this step with all your cards in front of you. How do you do that? By using a step-by-step guide (walk-through) to consider those options. Here is a great article to get you started, called “How to Start a Blog.”
Option 1: Choose a blogging platform that comes with hosting
There is no shortage of web hosting companies (vendors that host websites) to choose from when selecting a hosting option for your blog. One of my favorites is HostGator, with their plethora of available features and customer service. I may be technically minded, but most of the world could use some hand-holding, and that is where HostGator is there to help you through the process. In fact, they are so helpful that they have also put together a hosting blog set-up guide that covers some unique features, like the passion that you need to do it right. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Check out the guide for yourself, here on their own site at HostGator.
This hosting selection process may also integrate with a platform selection. Sometimes, the platform also includes the hosting (and vice versa). (Again, an excellent reason to find a helpful host who can walk you through this selection process!) These options can include WordPress, HubSpot, and Blogger, to name a few.
Depending on wants or needs, you can use a free service or go with a paid option. Regardless, this should take no longer than five minutes for your initial selection, and no one says you have to stick with that first choice. If you are brand new to blogging (and still need to travel down the path of building traffic to the site), your objective should be to jump in and make that choice. As you get a feel for what you are doing (and build that traffic), you may want to re-select. Then, again, maybe you will hit gold on the first try. Either way, if you are new (and less to lose), it is ok if this selection process does not take a big chunk of your time.
Option 2: Host your blog on your own domain
Once you've chosen your host, make sure that your blog is on the original domain. If not, you won't be privy to any of the SEO credit coming from your blogging efforts. Keep in mind that this is usually with a paid service, so if you really want to increase traffic, you may have to pay.
Step 2: Defining Your Target Audience | Developing Personas
Who are you trying to reach? What message are you trying to send? For example, does your audience have problems that your business could easily rectify? If you were them, what keywords would you use to search for that solution on Google? All these factors come into play when writing your blog. The key is to use keywords that will help get you noticed in online searches.
Step 3: Develop a Strategy… A BluePrint
My creative input, when it comes to developing a strategy, is to suggest that you have a brainstorming session and write down all of your ideas for your blog. Focus your attention on long tail keyword phrases that are three to four words in length. If your business is in one specific location, try to factor that into your keyword. Try choosing words that are slightly more obscure than those highly relevant keywords. People searching online use multiple combinations to find the desired result and doing well with a less common keyword or keyword phrase will give you a better return on investment (ROI) than getting lost in pages and pages of search engine results (SERPs) that use the more common keywords or keyword phrases.
Step 4: Put Pen to Paper
After you've put your ideas down, it's time to write your first blog post. Even if you are trying to market services or products, it's important not to sound like a salesperson. Almost nothing makes people run more so than an aggressive salesperson. Your target audience wants you to engage with them. They want to be part of the conversation. Give them some information they care about sharing with others. That's how you get the ball rolling in the right direction in the world of online branding >> Shareable Digital Content. Remember to keep your posts educational, yet friendly. Blogging is the best way to open the doors to your target audience and build your online reputation. So, let’s start building (and have fun doing it)!
Summary of our Chapter 4
There are many different ways to put together a fruit salad (or any other edible delight, for that matter, eh?). However, we need to keep our objective in mind. What is your objective? Keeping it fairly easy and getting it done in the least amount of time, without sacrificing quality? Well, then you have a few options available to you. Now, just take another look at our five steps and the article that walks you through those technical questions on finding the host and platform. From there, it is all about growth and improvement, just like finding the right ingredients for your salad, improving it over time and gaining more fans as you do so.
Chapter 5: Essential Tool(s) for Do-It-Yourselfers: Comparing GetResponse and Constant Contact
If you are in the market for a new email marketing service, you've come to the right place. As a blogger, small business owner, or digital marketer, the importance of building an email list goes without saying. As a direct means of communication between you and your audience, effective email marketing increases conversion rates, which leads to increased revenue.
In our last article (Part One), we talked about whether to “do it yourself” or hire a digital marketing agency to do it for you. Yes, the “do it” can sometimes be a little bit elusive, as far as definition, but some of that depends on what it is that you need to do for your business or blogging venture.
Thinking “Do It Yourself” and Adding Automation
We have a solution that is sort of on the side of “do it yourself.” Or, at least, more so than hiring a digital marketing agency to do everything for you. It allows you to have some say and to do some of the marketing, and yet the idea is that there is an automation component that makes it more efficient. If you want to hear about the concept of automation, watch the Marketing Momentum video, here:
Constant Contact and GetResponse
We heard that Constant Contact was on the trail of marketing automation, so we started our comparison project with comparing Constant Contact marketing automation to GetResponse marketing automation. The only problem was that we found references to marketing automation for Constant Contact (even compared to HubSpot!), but could not really find anything that looked like a HubSpot or Marketo type service.
So, how do you compare that? Well, we had to bring it back to a level that was the same playing field, so to speak, in the email marketing realm. After all, even though Google presented us with evidence that Constant Contact was a marketing automation tool, all we could find was maybe automation on the level of email marketing.
Suffice it to say that there would have been a lot of great stuff to compare on the GetResponse side of marketing automation, had we been able to compare the two on that level. For example, GetResponse offers (in REAL marketing automation):
- A post-communication follow-up automation for those who purchase on your e-commerce enabled site;
- Helping with the definition of buying habits of your subscribers;
- A sort of “rate and tagging users” based on what they do when they visit your site;
- Tracking your subscribers and rewarding those who interact with your content the most.
Yes, it’s true, some of the items (above) are email marketing related. It is also true that there is a level of automation involved in many of the companies out there who offer email services. Email marketing is a part of that bigger component of marketing. However, where the comparison gets tricky is that GetResponse is an all-in-one online marketing solution, and that is tricky when we are comparing it to an email marketing solution like Constant Contact which does not have the marketing automation features available for a comparison.
So, let’s compare email marketing services between Constant Contact and GetResponse’s all-in-one online marketing solution. It is a mini “versus” comparison, just to get our feet wet and to help understand the Do-It-Yourself/Automation side of the option for our small business (i.e. blogging business).
One of the things that email marketing helps us to do is to create long-term relationships with potential customers. We want those customers to turn into subscribers and sign up for our email list. Building that email list, hands-down, always floats to the top of the lists of ideas for creating long-term relationships with potential customers.
Recommended Reading: The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing
GetResponse vs. Constant Contact
Before highlighting the positives of each provider, take note that both GetResponse and Constant Contact share common qualities such as:
- Tracking reports;
- Social media integration;
- Image hosting and gallery; and
- Blog newsletter.
With more people using their mobile devices than ever before, mobile responsiveness is a must. GetResponse scores big points by providing over 500 incredible responsive templates that help you build better email newsletters. Since newsletters are the mainstay of direct communication with potential customers, it would be foolish not to utilize responsive templates. Constant Contact has several noteworthy templates, but GetResponse gets the blue ribbon in this category.
Who wins? GetResponse.
When trying to grow your business or blog, you need to keep the conversation going if you want to convert leads into sales. Building a strong relationship with subscribers takes continuous communication. Use of autoresponders is one of the best ways to accomplish this. GetResponse allows users to send unlimited letters and responses for both free and premium users. On the other hand, Constant Contact only allows up to 100 replies before you need to upgrade to a premium package. For some reason, even if somewhere the prices were equal, the “Unlimited” works for me and sounds better. How about you?
Who wins? GetResponse.
In theory, both GetResponse and Constant Contact are easy to use, but when it comes to navigation, Constant Contact can be a tad tricky. Again, another point or two for GetResponse.
Who wins? GetResponse.
When trying to decide which email marketing service is best, it all comes down to your specific needs. Both of the providers mentioned above have their good points. There would be no fault in using either one of them. That said, GetResponse, with its all-in-one online marketing solution, seems to have won this mini comparison review. From its mobile responsiveness to its drag-and-drop interface and complete website marketing automation solution, it's worth the look. And, since starting with GetResponse is a free trial, that doesn’t hurt either.