Blogging | Stephan Spencer

Blogging Archives - Stephan Spencer

How to Restart a Blog When You’ve Been on Hiatus for Three Years

By | Blogging | No Comments

I bought the Mac equivalent of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, called Dragon Dictate for Mac. This is the first post I’ve created using an automatic transcription tool. Actually, I’m using my iPhone to create this one. Hopefully this will make things easier to post regularly and not so much of a chore…

I’ve used transcription services on occasion such as When I lived in New Zealand I even had an assistant who I dictated blog posts and articles too. She wrote everything down in shorthand and then typed it up later and took a first pass at editing it before sending it to me.

An incredible amount of stuff is happened since my last post announcing the acquisition of Netconcepts. It’s been an amazing ride. More on all that later – I promise.

So back to the original topic for this post – how do you restart a blog where you stopped posting for a very long time?

1. Jump in and write something. No apologies. Or a lengthy explanation or justification for being off the grid.

2. Get some tools or processes in place that will make it as painless as possible to post. Like Dragon – which incidentally is available as an iPhone/iPad app.

3. Hire a virtual assistant if that will help you. (More on using VA’s in a future post).

4. Roll out a site redesign at the same time to let everybody know you’re reengaged and committed.

5. Don’t try to get all your readers all caught up on your life all in one post. You’ve got plenty of fodder for many blog posts – so save it for later.

6. Finally, silence the perfectionist in you. I have this bad habit of pouring over my blog posts – my articles even more so – trying to make them perfect. I put a dozen hours or more into articles on search engine land. That’s crazy. That’s not good use of your time. Much better to freeze all those great ideas and insights stuck in your head – share them with the world. It’s okay if the sentence structure isn’t always on the mark. It’s a blog post for Pete’s sake.

Creating a Buzz-worthy Blog Contest in 7 Easy Steps

By | Blogging, Search Engines | One Comment

One way to bait for links is a blog contest. If you do the contest right, even the most un-sexy of products (like stationery) can become sexy, creating a buzz that can drive a torrent of search traffic to your virtual doorstep. Consider for example the contest we (Netconcepts) dreamed up for the overnight printer of stationery and business cards that I mentioned a few posts back (“Hiring a Link Builder“). The contest was to design Internet celebrity and Technorati Top 100 blogger Jeremy Schoemaker’s business card and you could potentially win business cards for life.

Here’s the winner, which is an awesome business card IMO:

Shoemoney's business card

Let’s take a closer look at what made this blog contest a successful link building strategy:

  1. Come up with an impressive prize (or at least one that sounds impressive). In the above, the prize was a lifetime supply of business cards. A “lifetime supply” of anything sounds impressive. You can use the fine print to put some limits on it — like did by capping it at 1000 business cards per year for a maximum of 20 years. That adds up to, well, peanuts. 😉
  2. Get a partner with some name recognition who’s willing to promote your contest. If you’re a blogger, try to land a partner organization that you can piggyback off of their brand recognition. If you’re a brand, get a well-known blogger to partner with you. Jeremy Schoemaker was great; he has a massive following. Ride on the coattails of that partner’s brand by enlisting their help in spreading the word about the contest. They need to be willing to hawk your contest on their blog and in social media. Jeremy posted multiple blog posts (with good keyword-rich links) and a YouTube video and some tweets on Twitter, for example. (Thanks Shoe!)
  3. Promote the heck out of the contest yourself too. Don’t just rely on your partners to do it for you. With the above contest, we reached out to a bunch of design sites. And they took the bait. They loved the contest and promoted it to their community and linked to our contest page. What a great thing to add to your resume if you’re a designer, that you came up with the winning design of the business card for a famous blogger — out of over 400 entries no less!
  4. Make sure the contest entry pages lives on your site. Not on your partner’s. You want the link juice flowing directly to the site you are looking to promote in the search engines. As you might guess, the contest entry page was on, not on or anywhere else.
  5. Keep it simple. There are numerous ways to run(ruin) a blog contest. If you want it to be a success, create a contest that is easy for users to participate in. People online are lazy and impatient — even if they aren’t like that in the real world (Something about being in front of the computer triggers it!). So, the more effort a contest requires, the lower the participation level. kept it simple: “Design ShoeMoney’s business card”.. and win a lifetime supply of business cards.
  6. Make it relevant to your business and to your targeted search term. It wouldn’t have made any sense for to run a contest where you write a letter to the President and win a trip to Washington DC. For Overnight Prints, their money term is “business cards”. Being on page 1 in Google for that term is worth big bucks to Overnight Prints. This contest moved them onto page 1, and in fact, onto the top half of page 1.
  7. Involve the community. Jeremy narrowed it down to 7 finalists and then asked his readers to help him decide. The participation factor is huge. It makes the blog’s readers much more invested in the outcome.

A good contest has synergy — it’s a win-win for all parties (blogger, brand, contestants, readers) and having the right partners means that overall the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (i.e. everyone does much better than if they had embarked on it individually). Yes this contest was a huge success for everybody involved. Of course OvernightPrints was the biggest winner of them all: they got relevant exposure, buzz, links, rankings and traffic. Use the above 7 step formula and hopefully you will have similar success yourself.

VIDEO: Teen AdSense Entrepreneur

By | Blogging, Online Advertising, Shameless Self-Promotion | 8 Comments

Yes, teenagers can make passive income from Internet marketing. Here’s living proof:

Isn’t she amazing?!? :) Yes I’m a little biased, since she is my offspring. But still, you have to admit it’s impressive when a kid can start an online business and make it onto the speaking circuit by the age of 16, and have such composure in front of the camera.

I remember when I was a teenager trying out Junior Achievement, going to a couple of meetings, and thinking how incredibly lame it was. The meetings were more like Arts & Crafts class than anything resembling real entrepreneurship and business. I wish I had had the opportunities that Chloe had when I was her age.

Our school systems still don’t adequately prepare kids to be entrepreneurs and business people, as Chloe notes in one of her Huffington Post articles. But for those kids who are motivated, they can find the opportunities elsewhere.

My advice for those doting parents of a budding entrepreneur is to first read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad. It’s not all that well-written, but it has some really important concepts, ones that I instilled in my kids. Such as:

  • Don’t work for a living, have money work for you
  • Build assets that make money for you while you sleep
  • Assets put money in your pocket month after month, liabilities take money out of your pocket month after month (thus a house you own and live in is a liability and NOT an asset)

And for those teens wondering where to start, first step is to pick something you’re passionate about. If it’s only about the money, it won’t be fun and you’ll lose your motivation when the going gets tough. For Chloe it was Neopets, but now she’s an “adult” (as she reminds me all the time) and not that into it anymore, so she’s delegating posting to a ghostwriter she found on oDesk. With her attention turning to film and to becoming a documentary director, my advice to her is to start a site or blog on that topic, perhaps more specifically on homegrown documentary videos by amateur filmmakers.

An Interesting Blog SEO Technique

By | Blogging, Search Engines | 3 Comments

Bummer that I missed PubCon this week but I have just been traveling way too much lately. Speaking of traveling, I was in Indianapolis last week visiting the offices of Compendium Blogware. I got a demo of their hosted blog platform — including a look under the hood — and it’s pretty slick. There were features and functionality I had never seen before in blog software. One of the key differentiators, and the reason for the company’s name, is the “compending” capability that their solution does.

A compended blog is comprised of a collection of posts from other blogs, but all from within the same company. A company can have many employees blogging — customer service reps, salespeople, product developers etc. If a manufacturer, then dealers/distributors/retailers could join in on the fun too.

The appeal for companies who want to encourage employee blogging is that it’s dead simple to use, which is critical if you want wide adoption across the company. Here’s how it works: say that Bob from a Ford dealership blogs about the new Ford Mustang after he takes it for his first test drive. There are compended blogs for Mustangs, for sports cars, for pickups, etc. Without Bob having to think about it, his blog post gets compended automatically (using sophisticated content analysis algorithms) to the “Mustangs” and the “Sports Cars” blogs, but not the “Pickups” blog.

Blog posts that have been compended still maintain a canonical URL on the main blog, and that one canonical URL (of the permalink post page) is referenced consistently across all compended blogs on permalink post pages via a canonical link element (i.e. canonical tag). That eliminates duplicate copies of the permalink post page. The content of the post is nonetheless included on the compended blogs — in a fashion not dissimilar to post content being included on category pages, tag pages and date-based archives on WordPress blogs.

Here’s an example of two compended blogs (#1 and #2) and a post that is contained on both.

When considering duplicate content as it relates to SEO, bear in mind it’s not a penalty, but a filter, and that filter works query-time to favor the most relevant and authoritative result for the query entered. Given that, a particular compended blog will be most appropriate to the query, e.g. the query “2010 mustang sports car” would be most relevant to the Sports Cars blog. Note also the compended blogs are in subdirectories, not subdomains. The typical company will have a handful or perhaps dozens of compended blogs, large enterprises may have hundreds. It wouldn’t be unusual that a new post published on a WordPress blog and is in a couple categories and in a dozen tags would be duplicated (16 times including the date-based archives and home page, to be exact) more than a post on a typical Compendium network.

VIDEO: Learn from Shoemoney, my daughter, Duane and Steve (oh, and me too!) how to monetize your blog

By | Blogging, Conversion, Ecommerce | One Comment

I’m in NYC for SMX East which starts tomorrow and I’m really looking forward it. But I’m also gearing up for Blog World Expo in a couple weeks. That’s because my daughter Chloe Spencer, the Neopets blogger, is going to be speaking there on a panel called “Are You Getting The Most Money Out Of Your Blog As You Can?” along with heavy hitters Dave Taylor, Tim Jones, and Chris Pirillo. The session is scheduled for Friday, October 16 at 11:30am.

Thinking about this panel reminded me of another panel that Chloe was a part of, also on the same topic, last year at DMA08. The session was called “Blog Monetization: From Soup to Nuts” and the heavy hitters that time were: Jeremy Schoemaker, Duane Forrester, Steve Spangler, and me. And thinking about that session reminded me that I had neglected to post the video of the session to this blog. Doh! So here it is…

The order of speakers was:

  1. me, founder of Netconcepts, co-author of The Art of SEO (coming out this month!)
  2. Chloe, teen blogger and AdSense entrepreneur, Huffington Post blogger/contributor
  3. Jeremy, a very successful Internet entrepreneur and Technorati top 100 blogger ( is his blog)
  4. Duane, author of Making Money with Your Blog and the upcoming book Turn Clicks into Customers
  5. Steve, inventor, successful entrepreneur (founder of a science toy catalog company), science educator, keynote speaker, television personality, blogging CEO… Quite the Renaissance man!

The monetization approaches covered AdSense, affiliate, and much more. Lots of great tips, tricks, tactics, etc. If this video doesn’t help you make more money, I’ll give you a full refund! 😉

A blog can be an asset that benefits you personally. It can supplement your income, provide for your retirement, build up the kids’ college fund, or whatever. So I encourage you to study this video, because this could be your ticket — your ticket out of the rat race and into the world of passive income.

Here is my Powerpoint and Chloe’s.

Now go make some money! Or more specifically, go build yourself a passive income stream!

My 30 minute WordPress SEO Training Video

By | Blogging, Search Engines | 5 Comments

If I had the time I’d prepare a professionally produced training video on search engine optimizing your WordPress blog/site, but I don’t, so instead I’ll just direct you to the video that John Pozadzides recorded of my 30 minute long presentation at WordCamp San Francisco from several months ago here, or simply watch the embedded video below:

Enjoy! Feedback is welcome.

Our Web 2.0 corporate website

By | Blogging, Search Engines | 12 Comments

It is amazing what you can achieve in regards to SEO just by reaching into your Web 2.0 toolkit. A corporate brochure is about as Web 1.0 as you can get, yet even brochureware can be transformed in ways you may never have thought possible and boosting search visibility in the process.

To prove that point, we redesigned our site and launched it this month. It’s a typical corporate website, with a portfolio, testimonials, case studies, an article library, bios of our executives, information on our services, etc. The redesigned site is now powered by WordPress, a popular blogging platform.

Because it is now qualifies as a blog, our corporate site can start to enjoy some visibility in the blog search engines and directories and, because WordPress comes with RSS feed capability built in, we can now start to enjoy some visibility in the feed search engines and directories too. We don’t just have one RSS feed, by the way. We have many, grouped by topic (e.g. SEO, email marketing) and by type of resource (e.g. articles, testimonials), done through the use of tagging.

Speaking of tags, that is where the real SEO magic happens in this corporate site because every testimonial, every portfolio entry, every press mention, as well as each bio, article and case study, is broken out into a separate post. That post is tagged with appropriate keywords, for example all the testimonials are tagged with the word “Testimonials”. So instead of having a single testimonials page as we used to, we have a testimonials tag page that spans three web pages (at 10 posts per page) and each of the 30 testimonials is a separate web page now too. In other words, we want from 1 page to 33 pages; that’s a lot more search engine fodder, all with different keyword foci!

Spiders can find and index these tag pages through the text links contained within the tag cloud on the home page, and through text links underneath each post, and through links to “Related Tags” on each tag page. Related Tags are determined from posts that have the tag (from the tag page in question) in common. So, for example, because we have posts that are tagged with both “SEO” and “Testimonials”, therefore “SEO” appears as a related tag on the Testimonials tag page and “Testimonials” appears as a related tag on the SEO tag page. We display links not just to the related tag pages, but to intersections between related tags. So, for example, you will find on our Testimonials tag page a number of Related Tags in the right hand column, all with “AND” and “OR” links adjacent to each one.

Let me restate that a little bit differently just to clairfy… All our SEO-related items (testimonials, case studies etc.) are tagged with “SEO”. Consequently, there is a tag page that relates to “SEO” and a tag page that relates to “testimonials”. There’s even a tag page that relates to “SEO testimonials” — the intersection of those two tags. That makes for boatloads of tag pages, considering how many different permutations there are for various combinations of tags being “ANDed” or “ORed” together.

By moving to a more modular structure (based around Posts rather than Pages) along with the large inventory of new pages, allows us to capitalize on the “Long Tail” of natural search in ways we couldn’t dream of with our previous incarnation of brochureware.

Above the “Related Tags” you will see a RSS button which leads to a RSS feed specific to that tag page. We use that RSS feed to pull the latest articles, testimonials, seminars etc. and feature them as related content on the right column of our Services pages. For example, our Email Marketing page lists Related Articles on email marketing, because we’ve specified that the topic of the page is “email marketing” (in other words, the tag that it relates to). We use that information to grab RSS feeds of tag pages for email marketing + articles, email marketing + testimonials, etc.

Besides tagging, we have also employed many other blog SEO tactics, a number of which I detailed in my article for MarketingProfs, 10 Tips to Help Your Blog Soar in the Search Engines. This includes use of sticky posts, adding buttons to add a post to and various other social bookmarking services, and linking to a “Top 10″ list of sorts — namely, under “Free Stuff” on the home page, some of our best content from the past year or so.

To my knowledge this approach for search engine optimizing a corporate site has not been done before, particularly the aspect of breaking up all the discrete bits of content (each testimonial, each portfolio item, each FAQ, etc.) into individual posts and tagging all them, and then relating that tagged content with the appropriate Services pages and highlighting those as related content. If you have heard of a corporate site doing this, please let me know. I would love to check it out.

I also welcome any feedback on what we have done here on the Netconcepts site. We still have a few issues to tidy up with the site (so don’t expect perfection), yet overall I am quite pleased with how it all came together.

And, last but not least, the new redesigned site, although it doesn’t look markedly different from our old site, is better designed with XHTML and web standards in mind. No more tables for layout. Yay! That was long overdue. Now maybe we will see a rankings benefit in Google Accessible Search. 😉

Secrets of Successful CEO Bloggers

By | Blogging | No Comments

Being a CEO is a tough enough job without having to worry about blog traffic on top of it all (ask me how I know…) A corporate blog could be a tremendous publicity tool, though, if properly executed. On the other hand, it could end up being a PR disaster if you say something that harms your or your company’s reputation. I think maybe a combination of lack of time and fear of posting something dangerous is behind many a CEO’s apprehension toward company blogs. The reality of corporate blogging, though, is that it doesn’t take a lot of time, and the success stories far outnumber the horror stories.

Take Jonathan Schwartz, for instance. As the CEO of one of the IT industry’s intellectual blue chips, he’s attracted widespread attention for his corporate blog commentary on industry current events and company and product news. Originally he intended to foster a method of communicating with the IT marketplace — his customers, partners, competitors, and fans (yeah, even a behind-the-scenes company like Sun has fans in the computer technology world) as well as the more than 32,000 Sun employees as well. In one of the tech blogging world’s most innovative moves, Schwartz also offered a free $5000 Sun server to bloggers who wrote the most compelling reviews of the machine’s performance — positive or negative. At the time, the claim was that the Sun T2000 “Niagara” server was the fastest on earth, and certainly had the most performance per watt of electricity consumed. In order to get the word out about this new machine to as many people as possible, he didn’t spend millions on a traditional advertising campaign. Instead, Schwartz posted the offer on his blog, then had his salespeople send out free servers to tech bloggers and other interested potential customers for a free 30-day evaluation. If you didn’t want the machine at the end of the 30 days (and you didn’t win the monthly contest to be the blogger with the most compelling T2000 benchmarking blog post), all you had to do was box it up in its original packaging, and Sun would pay return shipping. In essence, if you wanted to play with the machine, you had nothing to lose. Schwartz rationalized on his blog that the cost of the free servers he gave out — even to people who didn’t win the contest and wouldn’t send the machines back to Sun — was negligible considering the value of the press and blog coverage he got as a result, and he reported on his blog a few weeks later that this effort was especially effective.

Another interesting CEO blogger success story is Steve Spangler. As the founder and CEO of educational toy cataloger Steve Spangler Science, Steve expanded his business though non-traditional marketing methods. His online science experiment videos and blog posts about teaching science to kids has elevated his fame to new heights. Gradually, Spangler found himself on local, then national television talk shows and news programs such as the Ellen Show, teaching people to see the world through an adventurous scientific lens. He even got chosen as one of only 204 nominees for Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2007. Steve credits his blog for a lot of this online buzz and media attention. Aside from having a lot of fun, what do you suppose all of this has done for sales at Let’s put it this way: Steve’s blog accounts for 12% of online sales!

Still not convinced? Here are some of my own reasons for having a CEO blog:

  • Search engines — Google in particular — love blogs. So anything you have to say or sell in your blog will rank better in the search engines, all else being equal.
  • If you have a good blog, you can get readers hooked and coming back for more. What better way to burn your brand into the minds of potential customers, thus increasing the likelihood of repeat purchases?
  • Having a blog helps get you links. If you are a blogger, then other bloggers think of you as “one of them.” As such, they will be more likely to link to you and to give you favorable coverage on their blogs. It is also more likely that you will be on their radar because bloggers are more apt to follow your company’s movements by subscribing to your blog’s RSS feed than by subscribing to your email newsletter or periodically visiting your site.
  • Having a blog helps get you press from the mainstream media. Journalists read blogs, and are more apt to solicit interviews from you if you have a popular and/or interesting blog.
  • A blog builds your credibility and can position you as a “thought leader” in your niche. For example, a blog about stamp collecting (with interesting trends, news tidbits, insightful commentary, etc.) would position an e-commerce shop selling collectible stamps as a credible, trusted expert source for stamps.
  • A blog can help you get invited to speak at conferences and to author articles. Speaking engagements, even when they’re not paid, are a huge opportunity for networking and publicity.

So what are you waiting for? If you want to get started with a corporate blog, get your IT department to look into WordPress, b2evolution, Compendium, Movable Type, Drupal or whatever blogging software looks interesting to you. If you’re on a shoestring budget or don’t want to make a significant investment into corporate blogging, you could look into a free or cheap hosted service like, TypePad, or Be aware that you should own the domain name that the blog is published on, however. If you don’t you’re wedded to that URL and blog platform forever — or at least until you decide to pull the plug and start over from scratch with a new URL and ZERO link popularity (since with these hosted platforms you won’t have the luxury of installing a 301 redirect to your new URL).

Good luck and good blogging!

From FooCamp to Ypulse to BlogHer in 8 days

By | Blogging, Community, Shameless Self-Promotion | 2 Comments

I went off the radar for a few weeks. Apologies for that. I have a lot going on in my life right now – not all of it good – that is taking up a lot of my time and headspace at the moment. Plus I’ve been traveling a lot. I just got back from a 10 day trip to the Bay area for 3 conferences — FooCamp, Ypulse, and BlogHer.

me at Foo CampIt was my first FooCamp (I’m so psyched that I got an invite!). For those of you unfamiliar with Foo Camp, it is the predecessor to BarCamp with the word “Foo” an acronym for “Friends of O’Reilly.” Besides being a huge fan of O’Reilly since about 1994, I’m co-authoring an O’Reilly book with Rand Fishkin and Jessie Stricchiola called The Art of SEO and I’ve spoken twice at O’Reilly/CMP’s “Web 2.0 Expo” conference. So yes I’m an unabashed “Foo”. FooCamp is invitation-only and limited to several hundred people. It’s an “unconference” — where the program is developed and presented by the attendees. The more proactive you are at Foo Camp (in terms of sharing/participating), the more you’ll get out of it (and the more likely you’ll be invited back again). It’s completely free – free to attend, free food, free drinks, free “lodging” on the grounds – just bring your own tent. And yep, a lot of folks brought tents and camped out on the lawn. Some folks slept in the office buildings on the floor in sleeping bags. I’m not into “roughing it”, so I stayed at a nearby Holiday Inn Express. My older two daughters got to hang out at the Holiday Inn while I went to the conference, which was pretty boring — so they told me… about a MILLION times! Arrgh. Gotta love teenagers. Speaking of my teenagers, the middle one (who is 15) drew this flattering illustration (on the left) of me wearing a Foo Camp t-shirt. She finds it quite hilarious that I wear a T-shirt in public that says “Foo Camp.” Of course I live to embarrass her (or so she thinks!).

Foo Camp attendees run the gamut – entrepreneurs to authors to venture capitalists – but they can all be described as leading thinkers and innovators. It was a real treat. I got to meet a lot of amazing people. Way too many to list. But here’s an example: the founder of Drupal, Dries Buytaert. Dries blogged about his Foo Camp experience. Nobody has a bad time at Foo Camp.

After the Foo Camp weekend came Ypulse, a youth marketing conference. It was excellent. If you market to kids, tweens or teens, you should have been at this conference (so go to the next one!). My oldest Chloe was a speaker on the “Totally Wired Superstars” panel with other teen entrepreneurs. I really enjoyed the conference, but Chloe was in heaven — she met directors (Chloe wants to be a director), journalists, folks from Disney,, MTV, and her hero, Ashley Qualls, the teenage “MySpace millionaire”.

Then a couple days later came the BlogHer conference, a conference focused on the women blogger community — a powerful and diverse voice in the blogosphere that includes “mommy bloggers”, foodies, political bloggers, techies, etc. It was my second BlogHer conference. I went last year too, when Chloe spoke. This time we just attended. Chloe did manage to get on the local (Bay area) news (see the video here) – she was interviewed as an attendee.

Chloe on ABC7 News

BlogHer was great. I did sometimes feel like the “token male” in the audience, because women so outnumbered men (I never felt unwelcome though, just to clarify!). Instead of feeling out of place, a male could look at it as an opportunity. For instance, I remember a guy telling me at last year’s BlogHer how he loved coming to their conferences because “it was like shooting fish in a barrel”. Ha ha! I presume he was single, but I probably shouldn’t assume that. 😉

Now I’m back and it’s back to the grindstone. I have articles to write, the book to work on, conference presentations to prepare for, a ton of emails to respond to, and personal crises to deal with. *deep sigh*

Rock on.

Marketing on a Shoestring Budget – Steve Spangler Interviewed

By | Blogging, Ecommerce, Online Retail, Podcasting, Social Networking, Web Marketing | No Comments

You gotta check out this WebProNews video interview at ACCM 08 of Steve Spangler – the science teacher turned catalog company CEO/Emmy award winner/keynote speaker/toy inventor:

In the video, Steve talks about how his Mentos + Diet Coke experiment turned into a YouTube sensation and how he was able to leverage it for his own marketing purposes. Steve is a client of ours and he even mentions Netconcepts (thank you Steve!!) as his experts behind the scenes helping him, which was really cool to hear. :)

Also in the video Steve shows off his cool flaming wallet, and how he is privileged to receive “special treatment” at airport security because of it. Um, yeah, that’s not the kind of attention that you want, Steve 😉

What you don’t see in the video is that Steve also has a flaming business card holder. It’s hilarious when he whips out one of his business cards and he has to put the fire out on the flaming card before he hands it to you. I’d LOVE to have one of those card holders and then troll the trade show floor and then hand over a flaming card to overaggressive, hard-selling vendors – but WITHOUT putting the fire out! hehe :>