Wednesday, December 29, 2010

5 Things to Consider Before Starting a Blog

In today's marketing world with the importance of web marketing booming, it's considered a best practice for businesses to have their own blog. 

Trust me I'm not saying otherwise, there are numerous benefits to having a well run business blog.  But that doesn't mean that you're in the position right now to have one.

Here are some things you should keep in mind before starting your blog (business or otherwise) and during the pre-planning sessions.

 1: Time Commitment - guess what, while blogging can look like a free way to market yourself it truly isn't. 

Why?  Simple: Time Is Money!  And blogging can take a lot of time (especially when you're first starting up).  You need to be sure that either you (or one of your partners/employees) has enough time to regularly and frequently post quality content to your blog.

 2: What is the Goal of your blog - Make sure you know why you're starting your blog before you do.  What is the main purpose?  Does it have any secondary purposes?

Are you blogging to build SEO benefits for your website?  Are you blogging to spread the word about your company through the web?  Are you blogging to build the aura of expertise around you and your company? 

Note: if the ONLY reason that you're considering blogging is for SEO benefits, than you need to find something else to do.  Why?  Because readers and subscribers can tell when you're talking about/for you and not thinking about them.

 3: Who are you writing to?  Or, to be better put, who are you talking WITH?

Who are you looking to build a conversation with (basically: who's your potential customer)?  Think about gender, age, interests, communication styles, and more as you're building a profile for your target audience. 

Then, take that knowledge and build the theme of your blog (and the content) for that profile.  It needs to be interesting to your potential customer base, or you are just wasting your time.

Note: a blog is meant to build interaction between you and your readers/subscribers.  It is not a way for you to take a bullhorn to their ears (they'll just ignore you anyway).

 4: What voice will you use?  How will you be sharing your expertise and information with your audience?

Will you be chatty or informative?  Formal or informal? Note: keep the profile of your target audience in mind because the goal is to - Engage!

 5: How will you spread the word?  (What's the use blogging if you aren't reaching an audience.)

Where does your potential customer spend time on the web?  How will you let her know that your blog has content that she'd be interested in?  There are many ways to do this, which ways do you think will work best for you?

Remember: think outside of the box.

How about you?  Do you have any tips on what people should consider before blogging?  Or are you unsure on how to proceed yourself?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

East Coast Wine: Good Wine Cheap

There seems to be a conception out there that the only good wine is made in California or Europe.  So not true (and definitely not kind to your wallet)!

The first Maryland Wine Festival I was able to go to (right before I turned 22 because my birthday is the weekend after the fest) made me realize that there are some fantastic local wineries.  (And most local wines can be bought for less than $20!)

Ever since then, I've gotten into the habit of visiting local wineries during their special events and touring other local wine festivals.  And not just because you can get good wine on a budget there...
  • Expand my horizons as a budding wine enthusiast
  • Learn more about what's available locally and who does what best
  • Have fun (definitely don't forget that!)
I've also been able to taste wines from other small wineries in the Mid-Atlantic States and have been excited for the taste results.

So far my favorite wineries include...
  • Boordy Vineyards - Their Shiraz is fantastic (it's what got me from only a white drinker to also enjoy most reds)
  • Terrapin Station Winery - Yes, they box their wine...but you cannot beat the quality, taste, and price!
How about you?  Do you enjoy local wine?  What are your favorites?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Website Review: Whole Grain Gourmet

I was looking for some healthy cookie recipes (as I recently tried a pretty cool 'power pancake' recipe that turned out quite well) and stumbled upon this website:

Whole Grain Gourmet

The 2 recipes I looked at (see the links below) looked quite good and the comments were encouraging.  They were especially encouraging because many of them offered other substitution ideas and their results.  This is what made me subscribe to their eNewsletter, hoping to get a feel for the community and what it offered before registering.
I'm looking forward to trying both and learning more about this community of bakers.  What about you?  Do you have a favorite website (or 2, 3, etc) to find recipes at?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The First Rule of Owning a Pet

Before you adopt a pet, any pet, you need to take into consideration how you will need to adapt your lifestyle to care for and bond with it.

Now, I have no experience with rodents, birds, snakes, bugs, and the like.  So I cannot speak for the lifestyle adaptions that need to be made by whoever owns them.  And there is minimal lifestyle changes for those who adopt fish (that I do know from experience).

But for cats, dogs, sugar gliders, and many other pets, they are often abandoned because their humans couldn't adapt our didn't want to make the necessary adaptions.

For dogs you need to be able to give them lots of attention (they are social creatures and get closely attached to their pack).  And you need to be able to be the 'Alpha' of that pack; you're the boss not them (yes, I'm a fan of "Ceaser's Way"). Also, dogs are high energy creatures, they will get antsy if they do not have regular and frequent exercise.

For cats, you need to make sure they get exercise, are able to hunt, have something to scratch beside your furniture, etc... 

Also, you need to consider allergies; not just yours, but those of your family and those who are frequent visitors. (You don't want to hurt existing relationships.)

Here's how I decided upon a Sugar Glider.

Personally, I'm a dog person all the way.  I love dogs.  I love big dogs (no little pom-pom, yip-yap doggies for me lol).  But I'm at work all day, live alone, my apartment is less than 400 square feet, and I don't have a large fenced in yard to utilize.  So, frankly, it would be cruel of me to adopt a dog.

Cats, the next most logical pet - talk about a good 'apartment-friendly' pet, right?  Wrong.  I'm allergic to indoor cats and have no way to safely have an indoor-outdoor cat.  Plus, I life in the suburbs so any outdoor cat I get will be in danger every time s/he left my apartment.  And, I have family members and friends who allergic to all cats so I wouldn't be able to invite them over again.

Ok, what about a bird or fish?  I love to travel.  How am I going to take them with me or keep them healthy and happy while I'm gone?  Plus, how do you connect with a fish?

And don't even ask me about a rodent, bug, or snake.  Just not my thing.

So frankly, I thought that I would have to go pet-less until my lifestyle changed through moving to a better location or getting a different schedule.

Then I heard about Sugar Gliders.  Frankly, I should have done all of my research before actually adopting li'l Fritz.  Thankfully, it has worked out.

Why was a Sugar Glider a good choice for me?
  1. They're nocturnal, so he wouldn't get lonely while I was at work
  2. They're small, so I have plenty of room to give him all of the exercise he needs by just letting him out of his cage for an hour or two in the evening.  Plus, talk about easy to travel with
  3. Low upkeep costs: they don't need shots or medicine.  And it only takes about $5/month to keep fed and healthy.  So being just out of college I don't have to go into debt to keep my li'l furbat healthy. lol
  4. They're highly social and intelligent: so I'll actually be able to connect and interact with him
Now, Sugar Gliders are not for everyone.  The most common reason I see that they're abandoned is because they often need a lot of attention and socialization to keep happy.  Also, they are often doomed to live miserable and lonely because their owners didn't spend enough time bonding with them when they were young.  (They're born with a fear of humans.)
What kind of lifestyle adaptions did you need to make for your pet?  Did you ever have to give up a pet because they weren't right for you?

Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm a Guest Blogger! "Hosting a Dinner Party in Less than 400sq.ft."

My Guest Post was just published on Gastro Travels and talks about how I served a party of 8 a full Thanksgiving Dinner in my tiny apartment.

"So, I’m not sure why, but I decided to invite 8 people over for a holiday dinner party in my two room (not including the 2 closets, one also acting as a laundry room, and the small bathroom).
What could go wrong with…
  • most of the guests not knowing each other and being in such tight quarters
  • my TINY stove and oven
  • my never having before hosted a party (much less a dinner party)
Despite, or maybe because of, the challenges I was quite excited for the party and had fun planning the following menu…
Appetizer (to greet everyone with):
I sliced the top of a brie round and warmed it in the microwave for about 1 minute to melt it.  This was served with thinly sliced apples and pears as well as li’l toasties.  I also added in (last minute) a cinnamon basil jelly from a local farm; this was a huge hit."

Read more here!

I'd love to know what you think of it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

5 Blogging Pet Peeves

I don't know about you, but I only have so long to spend reading all the interesting blogs.  So, any post out there that doesn't include a mix of the following (or, even better, all of them)...
  • pictures (to emphasise interesting points)
  • bullets (or another form of lists)
  • white space (give the eyes a break!)
  • good punctuation (you'd be surprised)
Plus, I try to keep the number of websites I check per day down as much as possible, so I haven't set up a 'Reader' yet.  So here's my 5th pet peeve
  • the lack of email subscription option
And frankly, if a blogger doesn't take advantage of all the various ways there are to subscribe (and make them easy to find and use) then I wonder if s/he even wants to have regular readers.

How about you, what is your preferred way to subscribe to an interesting blog?  What do you look for in a blog (other than interesting content of course) before subscribing to it?  Do you have any blogging pet peeves?