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Don Schindler

Executive Reputation Coach & Digital Marketer

Tag: writing

Is blogging dead in 2015?

No, it’s alive and well especially in agriculture.

Blogging isn’t dead even though the big names in marketing and tech claim it to be almost every year. Here’s one from 2012 / Fast Company.

blogging-is-dead-fastcompany

Blogging is dead via Fast Company

And then this year, supposedly it’s doing great.

bloggins-is-alive-gigaom

Blogging is Alive & Well via GigaOM

Of course the company, GigaOM isn’t. But that’s beside the point.

When it comes to reaching out to our customers, farmers want to know if they should spend time blogging. I get this question a lot from farmers when I’m on the road teaching digital marketing.

My answer is always the same. Yes. Yes, you should.

“Why?” asks the farmer.

I have a lot of answers to that. But for this post I decided to reach out to ag bloggers and see what keeps them blogging and doing this kind of digital outreach.

Here’s one of the biggest reason of why you should be blogging.

People go online looking for information about farming if they don’t get it from us, who will they get it from? The number of people who want simple agricultural information is astounding and I personally want it to come from credible sources.
Janice Person – http://janiceperson.com

The farmers are credible sources of agriculture information.

Other reasons to be blogging is that all that time you spend in social media is great but you should be housing all of your photos, videos and longer text format in a place you control. Facebook’s posts and Twitter tweets are fleeting and get lost in the ether.

Why would you take all that time to craft something so beautiful to let it be lost?

Another reason is that the search engines especially Google still love blogs and give them a lot of credibility. Blogs are workhorses of the search industry. Many of the major news organizations nowadays were once just blogs (and are still structured that way).

“OK,” the farmer says, “I’m convinced that a blog is the way to go. What should you write about?”

Ranchers/farmers don’t necessarily see their daily lives as unique, and sharing the simple things of country life tend to be overlooked, but I can’t tell you how many times readers have asked how far to the grocery store or gas station, how do all the vehicles keep running or why do we have so many, can I get take-out? Lots of the daily stuff is worth blogging about, just because we understand it’s an hour to town, doesn’t mean the readers do! Sure moving cattle is a highlight, but most of the year, it’s Life that takes up my days.
Carol Greet – http://reddirtinmysoul.com/

 

I don’t think you need to just focus on the farm…snippets of the life of a farmer are good, because it draws in more of the non-ag audience. It’s good to write about things they can relate to, and to build relationships…that’s when you become their trusted source.
Carolyn Olsen – http://carolyncaresblog.com/

I’ll bet you that when you attend a city event and people find out you’re a farmer you get a barrage of questions.

  • What’s the difference between conventional farming and organic?
  • What do the cows eat?
  • Why do you take away the calves from their mothers?
  • Why do you live on a farm?

If you are looking for blog topics, you can also just use Soovle and it will help you see what people are searching for around your topics. Soovle will pull the auto completes from Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon, etc…

Then the farmer asks, “How do you go about starting a blog?”

I’ve got a quick “how to blog” on my blog and some 13 best practices  but there are many different ways to start a blog and tons of people writing about how to do it.

But some good advice came straight from the farmers.

I suggest that anyone who wants to start blogging have 10 posts wrote before they launch. That way when they get busy they can use something they already wrote to keep their momentum going.
Plus if they can’t get 10 posts wrote in the first place, they can decide if maybe blogging isn’t their thing after all.
Carrie Mess – dairycarrie.com

 

Find a good blogging planner. My resolution for 2015 is 2-4 posts a month and I’m hoping a planner will get me there!
Brooke Behlen – http://meetyourbeef.com/

 

Your own blog helps you write about your passion. It will keep you interested in blogging.
Judi Graff – http://farmnwife.com/

 

Do something simple. Don’t worry about making a post the definitive post of all posts on the subject. Non-farm people are often fascinated by things we thing are mundane.

Brian Scott – The Farmer’s Life

But if you’ve tried blogging and it just wasn’t working out, don’t just give up on online communications. We definitely need your voice out here.

Are there other things besides blogging – yep! Try video or images.
If writing isn’t your thing, think of moving to YouTube. The second most utilized search engine is YouTube. Find YOUR way and don’t think you have to follow others.
Katie Pinke – http://thepinkepost.com/

 

Visual definitely makes a difference. Sometimes just a photo, sometimes photos illustrating, sometimes just a photo along with the article. I usually aim for 1 if under 400 words, more if over to ‘balance’ it or if needed to explain something.
Jan Hoadley – https://slowmoneyfarm.wordpress.com/

Again, blogging is a powerful tool to connect with your customers. You can pass along insights about life on the farm and how you farm as well as the commonalities you share with them.

Your farm voice is one of the most important communication tools ag has and without it other voices will fill the void and the imagination of our customers. You can set the record straight and build strong relationships with the people that trust you to grow their food.

If you have any questions about getting started or getting back into blogging, please let me know. I would be happy to answer them. You can leave a comment below or just hit me via Twitter or Facebook.

Why aren’t you using these top six simple headline techniques?

six-simple-headline-techniques

Jersey cows (brown cows) produce white milk – not chocolate.

Copywriting doesn’t have to be hard but it can definitely seem hard at first.

By following some simple techniques it can get a lot easier.

Here are some of my favorite headline tips.

1. Should you write your headline first? No. Wait, yes.

what-do-cows-eat-brenda-hastings

What Do Cows Eat? by Brenda Hastings

That doesn’t make any sense. Now I know that this can be counter to what you might have been taught but your headline is the most important part of your writing.

If you don’t have a compelling headline, your post won’t be read. So spend some quality time crafting your headline and then knock out the body text.

If you want to gauge it with time, spend twice as much time on the headlines as you do on the content. Simple as that.

Here are some examples:

What are the top ten things a dairy farmer does that you didn’t know?

What do cows eat?

2. Who needs a keyword? The reader or the search engine?

is-my-milk-safe-ray-prock

Is My Milk Safe? by Ray Prock

Your headline needs to have the common keywords for your subject.

Now back in the day, this was all about SEO (search engine optimization) to manipulate the search engines and try to get your post found by users.

But now the keywords are actually the terms your searchers are using to find your information. You need to think about which words people would use to search for the topic and then test them in the search engine and see what comes up and then incorporate those keywords in your text.

Here are some examples:

Is my milk safe?

How do farmers take care of their dairy cows?

3. Who reads a list? Everyone. We love them.

top-five-dairycarrie

Top Five Reasons Farms Are Getting Bigger By DairyCarrie

Buzzfeed is one of the most popular websites on the Internet. Why? Because list posts rock. Why do they rock? Because people don’t read on the Internet. They scan the internet very, very quickly.

So get your list-hat on and make some great lists about your farm, your job, your cows, whatever. You make it into a list and it will rock.

Here’s a couple of samples:

Why is cow’s milk so awesome? Here are the top five reasons.

Bet you didn’t know you could do these five things with cow manure.

4. Should I make my headline a question? Yep, yep. Double yep.

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Chocolate milk from brown cows? by DairyMAX

Where do you want your headlines to show up? In search. What do people type into search engines? Questions they want answers to. Google matches the headlines and body copy (along with a lot of other factors) to pick out the best answers.

But there’s also another reason. People can ignore statements but they can’t ignore a question. Your brain will answer the question whether you want to or not. And that simple pull could get them to click through to your post.

Here are some examples:

Got milk? You don’t? Maybe that’s another reason you are having trouble losing weight.

Does chocolate milk come from brown cows? The answer might surprise you.

5. Why make a promise in your headline?

farm-life-the-udder-side

This must be a factory farm by Farmer Ryan Bright

Because people will read your answer – even if people are just skimming the content. Using the terms “why” and “how” can get users to engage and that’s the whole point, right?

But when you make a promise you better fulfill it. You don’t want to break the promise to the reader by not answering or by having a vague answer.

Get specific and to the point. People don’t dilly-daddy on one website when surfing the web.

Here are some examples:

What’s life really like on a dairy farm?

What are the biggest secrets that happen on the farm?

6. Simple is as simple reads.

forrest-gump-movie-clip-screenshot-run-forrest-run_large

Run, Forest, Run! via Forest Gump – Paramount Pictures

Write like you talk to a best friend – use simple language that is clear and everyone will enjoy.

When you use terms that are outside of the reader’s vocabulary you will break the flow.

It’s okay to use some industry jargon if you explain what it is but don’t get carried away.

Here are some examples:

Are dairy products healthy?

The top five reasons I drink the milk my cows produce.

You know the answers to these questions.

google-autocomplete

Try typing into Google and autocomplete will appear.

BONUS TIP: And if you need help, just use Google’s Autocomplete and start answering the questions that people ask Google.

What’s autocomplete? When you start typing into Google, it’s the text that appears on screen. It’s also the top searches that are going on around your keyword topic.

Someone is going to answer it and it might as well be the expert with the most experience (that’s you!).

BONUS BONUS TIP: Try Keywordtool.io for more keyword tips.  Great tool!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to hit me up in the comments, via email or on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

What are your favorite headline writing techniques?

How do you write for the web?

Tell Your Story

Tell Your Story via Flickr CC Damian Gadal

How do you write for the web?

Recently I’ve been asked about writing on the web. Who are the experts? What are they doing? Have things changed?

From what I have read and know, writing for the web has changed. Not in the fact that if you write simple and clear, use space and short sentences for scanning, create original work, etc… but more around the search engines algorithms.

Google (recent Panda and Penguin updates) and Bing are going after spam and they are watching out for things that don’t look natural. You know, the Black Hat SEO tricks that may cause you to write in weird ways like keyword stuffing.

As Matt Cutts says in a interview with Karon of Marketing Words, “As I’ve always said, ‘Never sacrifice the quality of your copy for the sake of the search engines.‘ It’s just not necessary. The next time you write a new page of copy, test this approach to writing for the engines and see if you get as good (or better) results than before. I’m betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

BTW, Matt did an interview with Stone Temple on what makes a quality site. You should take the time and quickly read through it.

When it comes to writing on the web, follow some simple rules – more in depth explanations are on Copyblogger but I love this list of their Brilliant Writing Tips.

  • Have something to say…means original content.
  • Be specific.
  • Choose simple words.
  • Write in short sentences.
  • Use active voice.
  • Keep paragraphs short. Think of how hard it is to read dense text on a mobile device.
  • Eliminate fluff words
  • Don’t ramble.
  • Don’t be redundant or repeat yourself.
  • Don’t over write.

Don’t forget the headlines. They are so important. Here’s some info on Headlines: 8 words or less and how they work on the well.

If you are looking for topics to write on, use what you know. And look for trends on Google Trends or in your field of study. What’s trending now? You can even use Twitter if you want.

One of my favorites for finding out what to write about is answering the questions people send me in email.  That’s exactly how this post came into being.

Writing on the web isn’t hard – it’s more about getting as much original content up on the web about your program, school, dept, etc… as necessary.

If you are stumped on web writing, I’m sure our Mike Roe (our copywriter) can help you out.  He always helps me.

What do you think? Do you think it’s hard to write for the web?

Web Writers Needed – All The Time, Every Time

Raymond Carver

Writing comes first.

Every project, every time, it always comes down to the content.

It’s very weird to me that no one questions the content in a print project – it’s required. The content helps drive the design and needs to be finalized (or as close as it can get) before we begin designing the piece.

But when it comes to the web, people tell me they can get it done later.

They say, “Let’s design it out and then add the content.” And silly me, I let them.

Let’s design the homepage with fake latin – here’s a free latin generator if you want one. Then let’s get upset when the real content screws up the design on the homepage.

Let’s design out a few sub pages – what we think we might need. But then when we add the content and it doesn’t look right, let’s blame the designers and developers for not understanding how it was going to look.

Seriously, I don’t think I can take this anymore.

Here’s a few solutions. Continue reading

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