Who should be blogging – Part 3 Used Car Dealers

*Attention Used Car Dealers:* Are you sick and tired of being lumped in with the shady, slick talking, polyester pant wearing, pushy members of your peer group? *Have I got a deal for you…*

There is a *huge, vast, massive* opportunity right now for a used car dealer to shake up the industry. It will require hard work, dedication, and above all, honesty. The upfront investment is not very big – probably less than your commission on a single mid-priced car. Yet the payoff is just enormous. “Continue Reading at The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blogarticle/who-should-be-blogging-used-car-dealers

Presenting The Blog Studio

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m very pleased to present “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com, now all dressed up and ready for business.

I’ll write more about some of the very exciting things going on shortly…

Strategy for maximizing page views

_Proving once and for all that I am incapable or writing a short post, I present to you an article I just posted at Darren’s amazing “ProBlogger”:http://www.problogger.net. If something is worth saying, it’s worth saying well._

I was going to call this article tips for maximizing page views. But tips implies that what I suggest is going to work! These are merely thoughts and suggestions. I hope to encourage a bit of experiment and conversation with this post. Please use the comments and trackbacks to let us know if you try something as a result of this.

So, page views. A page view is not a hit, nor is it a visit. Total page views tells you how many _individual_ pages have been seen over a given period. Dividing that total by the number of unique visitors gives you your average page views per visit.

How ever many you have, you want more. Page views are the add-on items of the web world. They’re the rust-proofing on your new car. The guacamole with your nachos. They’re where the profit is made. More page views = more ads seen = greater chance for your visitors to click on an ad.

Of course this is all completely moot if users are clicking on ads on their first or second page view. But if they were doing that we’d all be out shopping for Porshes instead of playing in Darren’s playground while he’s on holiday.

There are two main strategies I want to discuss here. The first is easy, the second requires some creative thinking.

h2. Excerpts

Using excerpts instead of full articles on your home page can increase page views in two ways. Obviously, if you hook someone with a post title and opening paragraph and that person clicks to continue reading, she’ll have been exposed to two pages instead of one. Also, the ads on the second page should be more focussed on that particular post, increasing your click through rate.

Of equal importance is the fact that you can increase the click-able density of your home page. Instead of one post above the fold (the bottom of the first visible screen), you can have 2 or 3. Instead of 4 or 5 posts on the home page you can have 10. This may mean that you have to put some more umph into your titles and opening paragraphs. Which will help your clickthrough from newsreaders. Win win.

To make this even more effective, I’d add a “more” button to the bottom of the home page. Clicking this button would bring you to an index2 page that continues with another 10 or so titles and opening paragraphs. Click more to go to index3, etc. What a terrific way to get more mileage of your archives! (runs off to do this right away!)

Most CMSs have some sort of excerpt function. I know textpattern and MT have auto-excerpt plugins – you set the number of words or paragraphs before the plugin inserts a “continue reading” link. I’m sure other cms’s must have similar plugins.

h2. Archives

Your archives are your biggest, most underused treasure trove of page view potential. Most archive systems (including mine) suck. Badly. They are hard to navigate, difficult to explore, and plain old useless. There is so much fantastic writing locked up in the blogosphere’s archives. I’m working on a plan to free some of that content, which I’ll share with you in a few weeks, but there are a number of steps you can take to recycle your existing work.

One option is to use a “greatest hits” list. I use a textpattern plugin to generate a list of most viewed articles that I list on the sidebar. This works, but its a rich-get-richer solution.

I’d like to add a “my favourites” list to highlight some of the overlooked gems. Pulling this list out of sidebar and sticking it somewhere prominent would be an interesting effect. Perhaps it could be made random, so each time a visitor checked in, the list would change. With textpattern this would be relatively straightforward (let me know if you’d like to know how).

h2. Putting Excerpts and Archives together

Let’s take this another step further. What if at the bottom of each article you listed a random excerpt from your archives? If you used categories (you do use categories, right?), you could randomly select an article from the same category and offer it with a line like “If you enjoyed reading this article, you might find this of interest…”

This is really just a light skimming of topic. There’s enough meat in this subject to make for a book (hmmmm…). As I stated up top, these are merely ideas, and are completely untested. Yet. Perhaps some of you would be interested in exploring this in more detail? Feel free to shoot me an “email”:mailto:peter@flashlightdesign.com and we’ll see if we can’t have some fun!

What's going on

Well, what a couple of months. It’s been some time since my last sort of personal update. The site traffic has really grown lately, which has me awed. What has me totally blown away is the high number of page views per user (which, incidentally will be the subject of an upcoming post titled “Strategy for maximizing page views” ).

I’ve been super busy of late. This whole idea for The Blog Studio that you helped me create is really taking off. I’ve been working on a business plan cum site design, and have really refined the concept. I’ve connected with a couple of excellent designers and coders, and we’re starting to get a bit busy already.

The idea for the business can be summed up like this:

bq. The Blog Studio is a service company. We enable and assist companies to engage in meaningful conversations with their customers to enhance bottom line profitability. We do this removing barriers, strengthening your brand, and promoting your message.

Services break down like this:

h2. Removing barriers

* design
* setup of cms
* setup of hosting
* setup of email
* training
* phone support
* email support
* edit posts
* email to post
* fax to post
* phone to post
* interview to post
* photo editing
* industry relevant posting
* news posting
* content planning/strategy

h2. Strengthening the brand

* design
* usability testing
* editing for tone/voice/brevity
* blog planning/strategy

h2. Promoting your message

* link exchange
* PR
* traffic management
* ad planning
* ad buys

I’m pretty happy with the design. There are a couple of things I’m not totally satisfied with, but they’ll change in the coming weeks. This is the first site I’ve done completely in photoshop for a while. Usually I work with Illustrator first to get the basic shapes. This time though, I did all my early sketches on paper, so I knew exactly what I wanted.

I actually began this design by leafing through my “font font”:http://www.fontfont.com catalogue (no, that’s not a typo: font font is the name of a company that sells typefaces). I’d decided that this design would be built using sIFR for the display type. All my recent work has been done with helvetica, lucida grande, arial and georgia. Time for a break.

I’ve got the structure and basic layout complete, and ought to have it up and live this Monday. Looks like a fun filled weekend for me!

Which is all fine and good given that I’ve hurt my back quite badly and can’t really do *anything* anyways. I had surgery to repair a herniated disc last September. I had unbearable nerve pain all the way down my left foot, which the surgery releived. It’s done nothing for the pain in my back itself though.

My back has become quite weak and easily prone to injury. All the sitting doesn’t help much either. So I’ve basically been ordered to stop trying to do *anything* (no riding my bike, no lifting the kids, no sitting, no standing, no lying, no…)

So, maybe the “stay home and don’t move” orders aren’t so bad after all…

Who should be blogging? An Overview

What the world needs is another article screaming the benefits of blogging for business.

No, really, it does. Stop laughing!

Ok, let me rephrase that: What the world needs is a series of articles explaining *how* and *why* businesses should be blogging. The series should feature *concrete examples* that are *easy to implement*. Oh, and they should be fun to read and a bit irreverant.

Well, it looks like its up to me then. Let’s tone down the earnestness, toss out the jargon, and look at how specific sectors can use blogs and blogging tools to connect with new and existing customers to *improve their bottom line*.

As the series progresses, I’ll update this post, so bookmark it for future reference.

* “Part 1: Specialty Retailers”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blogarticle/who-should-be-blogging—part-1-specialty-retailers (using the example of a bike shop)
* “Part 2: Realtors”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blogarticle/who-should-be-blogging—part-2-realtors
* Part 3: Physiotherapists
* Part 4: Used Car Dealers
* Part 5: Accountants
* Part 6: Family Physicians

I’m taking recommendations on further topics, so please feel free to leave a comment with your request.

Who should be blogging – Part 2. Realtors

Part two of my series on businesses who should be blogging is up at “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blog. Here’s a preview.

Every single real estate agent in the world should be blogging.

How’s that for a statement?

Realtors, are you reading this? Do you want to earn a reputation as a knowledgeable, trustworthy expert?

Blogs offer you a simple way to do just that. A while back, I wrote a description of business blogs that basically went something like this:

bq. Most cities and towns have free neighbourhood newspapers. In mine, we have columns about investing, real estate, and fitness written by local experts. The columns are written as straight news and information – no selling or schilling at all. At the end of the article there is a line to the effect that John Smith is a financial adviser for Smith, Smith and Smith.

A blog is exactly like that column.

“Continue Reading”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blogarticle/who-should-be-blogging—part-2-realtors

Who should be blogging – Part 1. Specialty Retailers

Note: this post continues at “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blog.

This topic is near and dear to my heart. Before I went back to school to study design, I was a partner in a couple of large bicycle stores. For over five years, I sold thousands of high end bicycles, and ran two multi-million dollar stores. So it’s only natural that I start this series with specialty retail.

I’m going to use the example of a bike shop, but you could substitute that for an antique dealer, a flower store, or any other retailer who specializes in a particular product. “Continue Reading”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blogarticle/who-should-be-blogging—part-1-specialty-retailers

Who should be blogging?

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a series of articles at “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/blog/ about how blogging can impact certain business segments. I’ll be including specific examples of *how* and why business blogging can be used to increase sales and profitability.

As it stands, the series will include:

* Realtors
* Specialty Retailers
* Physiotherapists
* Family Physicians
* Car dealers
* Accountants

I’m going to avoid the obsessively covered industries (PR, marketing), and show how people in the real world can and do use their blogs to significantly impact their bottom line.

If you would like me to look at a specific industry, please “drop me a line”:mailto:peter@theblogstudio.com

Site weirdness

For reasons completely beyond my understanding, comments have stopped working. You can write your missive up, but as soon as you hit preview, the page refreshes and your comment is gone. I’m working on getting it fixed, but in the meantime, you can “email”:mailto:peter@flashlightdesign.com me and I’ll get back to you.

I’ll update this post once I get to the bottom of this…

*UPDATE: Comments are working again*. I’ve had to change the url scheme; bookmarks to specific articles will temporarily bring you to the index page until I can figure out what the heck went wrong.

Overcoming workflow paralysis

If you’re a living, breathing, human being, there will come a time when you’ve managed to get a bit behind in your work. Ok, more than a bit behind. Wayyyy horribly never-going-to-catch-up-I’m-a-terrible-person behind. Hands up if you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, please leave now. You’re just going to piss the rest of us off.

I’m a good, modern hipster. I’ve read GTD (twice). I’ve got my moleskines, my hipster-pda, my treo, my powerbook, my “basement covered with notes”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/article/hipster-pda-on-the-juice. I know the difference between a next action and a to-do. Yet every once in a while, I still manage to get behind. When I do, my behavior changes. The more behind I am, the more time I spend staring blankly at my monitor. The later my nights get. The crabbier I become. I feel like poo. And I look like it too.

*Given the insane proliferation of GTD and workflow talk, I know I am not alone in this.*

We’re all trying to do more. Maybe its more work, maybe its more time with the kids. Whatever your drive is, we turn to workflow pr0n because we want more *something*. We’ve already brushed up against the overload monster, and we turn to our idols of productivity for protection and guidance. Even the most seasoned workflow wizard gets distracted once in a while though, and the monster is very quick to jump on our backs.

Human nature is a hard thing to buck. When danger rears our nature says “go to ground – run and hide!” In our post-post-modern world, danger comes in the form of missed deadlines and blown deals. Our nature takes over. There’s not very much you can do to fight it directly. But you can learn to recognize its signals and avoid dreaded workflow paralysis.

We need a tiny bit of understanding about how our brains work before we can go on. I’m going to be extremely general, so please spare me the hate mail. Our brains are basically made up of 4 areas: brainsbrainstemtem, diencepahlon, limbic, and neo-cortex. The brainstem is the ancient part of our brain. It hasn’t changed much since the reptiles ruled. It’s where the fight of flight instinct comes from. It regulates our basic functions, and is essentially in charge with keeping us alive. We don’t have direct control over our brainstem’s functions. You can’t willfully stop your heart. Nor can you willfully avoid the fight or flight instinct when it kicks in. But you can sidestep it. Here’s how.

The first step is in recognizing what’s happening. Fidgety? Check. Got to pee? Check. Irritable? Oh yeah. Unable to concentrate? You get the picture.

Your brainstem really does equate missing an important deadline with danger. And when it detects danger, it changes your behavior. Run! Hide! Great when you’re being chased by a saber tooth tiger or a crazed ex-postal worker. Not so good when your to-do list is 100 items long. While the idea of running away from my keyboard is tempting, I’ve found through trial and experiment that it just doesn’t help.

I’ve found the best way to side-step the run away instinct is to allow myself to make mistakes. See, the danger in this case is not coming from outside. Its fully internal. The drive to succeed, to make it, to do great work, to get things done comes from inside me. Knowing that my brainstem wants to run away from danger, I need to reassure it that there is no real danger present.

Our brainstems are binary. Good/bad. Danger/saftey. Live/die. Allowing mistakes removes the threat, and prevents unhelpful behavior from getting the way. Letting myself make mistakes takes the control away from my brainstem, and puts it back in “my” hands. Obviously I’m not condoning avoiding responsibilities and commitments. But admitting that we make mistakes is an incredibly powerful tool. As Shakespeare so eloquently put it *”to screw up is human”*.

The fact is, if you’ve gotten behind on your work, you *have* made a mistake. You’ve either taken on too much (hello!), or not managed your time properly. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Recognize it for what it is, a mistake, and get back to work. Try to avoid doing it again. Screwing up once is normal. Making the same mistake twice is sort of ok. Three strikes and it’s not a mistake any more; it’s an indication of a greater issue that you’ll have to identify before you can be successful in your, well, life. Besides, if you didn’t make mistakes you’d be completely unbearable.

Let’s review. The ancient part of our brains considers missing deadlines as danger. It kicks our natural fight or flight mechanism into place. The fight of flight instinct can be very detrimental to actually _getting things done_. Recognizing this behavior in yourself, you can side step full on catatonia and panic by allowing yourself to have screwed up. This recognition tells your brainstem “thank you very much, but I am not actually in mortal danger. Now please buzz off so I can get back to work.”