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How To Write A Good Blog, Pt. 2: Generating Quality Ideas Over Time

29 April 2020

Last time we talked about The basic guidelines for how to write a good blog post. Hopefully you found our tips from the previous post helpful, and hopefully those itchy fingers of yours have been buzzing with blog euphoria.

However, it should be well-understood that a good blog is born over many moons. No matter who you are, it's going to take a good while to get a great amount of people rounded up and coming back. So today, we're talking about the long con: how to stay motivated and build a community.

Delving Into Your Industry

Long running, successful blogs inevitably rack up hundreds of posts, if not more, which can be a daunting thing to realize. But never fear – there is always something to write about.

Each blog should read and operate differently, respective to its industry or niche. Hopefully you have a lot to say about your business, and you can dedicate a lot of time to helping people understand every intricate facet of it.

As you're doing that, remain aware of what's going on in the bigger picture. It never hurts to read other blogs in your industry to see what's trending, and if you can write about how your business is impacting or being impacted by current trends, the ears of the Internet will begin to prick up. And if you find some blogs that you like throughout your research, you can even make posts reviewing them, or reach out and try to get them to do a feature for your blog.

Every niche is inevitably going to have a lot that can be said about it, and hopefully you have a lot to say about your own beginnings and development within that niche. Having said that, writing posts that involve your readers is always a great avenue to pursue.

Foster The Community

Your community of readers is obviously an essential part of your blog. And, like anyone on the Internet, they probably have opinions that they want heard, and they probably enjoy participation. There are a few ways you can engage your readers, and make your blog interactive.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to pique the brains of your readers and get them involved is to dedicate a post to a poll. Aside from the benefit of receiving information straight from the target market, you will get people involved. Get opinions on product ideas, event experiences, trending topics, or anything else that you think will get people thinking about your business.

If you can get people thinking about your business, you can probably get them talking via your blog. Always encourage comments from your readers. When someone has something useful to say, acknowledge them specifically within the conversation. If someone asks a question, you can use it as an opportunity to direct them to previous blog posts, or you can connect them to a helpful comment from another user. In this way, a community will naturally form. It won't form quickly, most likely. But, creating a loyal online network is worth the tenacity.

Staying Motivated

The process of building a blog from the ground up is enough to fatigue even the most seasoned blog veterans. At a certain point, your raging motivation to change the face of the blogosphere forever will probably go to war with burn-out and apathy. Here's a few tips for fighting the good fight.

First of all, one of the best things you can do is set a deadline for yourself, and stick to it, no exceptions. The mind is capable of incredible things when under pressure, and in this state, you will discover, truly, just how much there is to write about.

However, this is obviously not the most pleasant part of your brain to mine creativity from. So in addition to that, writing a blog series (much like this one) can be useful. Rather than going after many small ideas, tackling one big idea and breaking it down into bite-sized portions could yield abundant, quality content over time.

Also keep in mind that as you write, your blog will inevitably grow and receive new followers. If you already have a lot of content, your new readers probably haven't seen a lot of your older posts. Why not revisit some of those ideas by carrying on the same line of thought in a new post?

Finally, a great tactic to employ if you find yourself staring for too long at a blank page is to enlist help. As mentioned earlier in this post, reaching out to other bloggers to contribute to your own is a fantastic idea for a number of reasons. It not only expands the reach of your online network; it not only lends credibility to your work; it also exposes you to new ideas and a fresh perspective. Having someone else write a guest post for your blog is great for battling apathy and writer's block. You may find that having a little new material to riff off of was all you needed to rebuild the euphoria in your fingertips.

Conclusion

Creating a blog is easy, which is why you see them in such tremendous abundance. Creating a good blog is not quite so simple. However, if you abide by a certain set of basic principles, you'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish with your online writing.

If you're thinking of getting your feet wet, we can help you build a blog for your business. If you've already gotten started, we can help you improve your blog, whether that means coaching you, helping you brainstorm ideas, or ghost-writing for you. Contact us today.

And if you missed it, be sure to check out the first part in this series: A Few Basic Guidelines on How to Write A Good Blog. Also, be sure to stay tuned – next we'll be discussing ways to get that perfect post into the hands of the readers who need it.

As always, happy blogging.

How To Write A Good Blog, Pt. 1: A Few Basic Guidelines

27 April 2020

“Blogging isn't about publishing as much as you can, it's about publishing as smart as you can.” – Jon Morrow

Maintaining a consistent blog is a fantastic business strategy these days. Aside from (hopefully) establishing yourself as an expert in your industry, it also shows that you are actively dedicated to exploring every facet of your business, which will inevitably incite more nods and winks from visitors than your blogless competitors.

But best of all, if you have a quality blog, then a community can be formed around your business. If people subscribe to what you have to say, then they will subscribe to your business as a whole.

Well, this is a lot easier said than done. It seems like everybody and their cat has a blog lately. So how best to set yourself apart? We've got some tips, and we hope you like what we have to say.

Ingredients For A Good Post

As with any form of writing, it must feel genuine and natural. If you rely too much on formulaic principles, your posts will be hollow and thus, not so pleasant to read. Having said that, it never hurts to follow some guidelines. Building is a lot easier when you start with a well-structured foundation. So take everything you can from the tips below, but above all, you must remember to keep it real, and sayit with feeling!

1. Content

The number one rule of writing blogs: quality content is more important than anything else. Do what you will with the cosmetics, the SEO, and the social media – those are all important aspects as well, but always remember that no one will stick around for long if you haven't got something worthwhile to say. Concentrate the bulk of your efforts on the body of your text.

2. First Impressions

The Title of your blog, as well as the Opening Line play a vital role as well. When people are scrolling through Google or their RSS feed, these are the things they're going to see. Put some time into making these two elements as intriguing and useful as possible, as a way to stand out from the flood of questionably-useful information out there.

3. Readability

Anybody who's checking out your blog for the first time will likely do so in a predictable manner: rather than start at the top and read straight through, they'll probably start scanning the entire page, looking for phrases that pop out as they analyze whether the post is worth their time or not.

Equipped with this knowledge, try to make the main points of your post (or at least some of the juicier tidbits) stand out. You can do this with lists, well-worded subheaders, or anything else outside the box that comes to you. A little bit of word-play and visual stimulation goes a long way.

4. Small Mistakes Can Do Great Damage

Okay, so the Internet isn't exactly a grammatical academy. However, that being the case, a great divide has been formed between those who carefully structure each sentence and polish every paragraph – versus those who can't be bothered to care about capitalization, punctuation, and so on.

Typos, errors, and grammatical apathy can absolutely devastate your credibility. Lack of attention to this takes away from the tone you are trying to create, and waters down your message by making it less readable. Before pushing publish, it is well worth your time to read back over everything, and polish until it shines.

5. Call-To-Action

What is the purpose of your blog? You should have the answer to this question in your back pocket the entire time you're writing, and each post should be an appendage of your efforts to connect with your community of readers – the newcomers and the die-hards alike.

Ideally, the power of your posts will be enough to prompt readers to take action. The type of action they take will differ from post to post, and from one industry to the next. Perhaps you want them to check out the new line of products you're currently showcasing on your site. Perhaps you want them to share what you have to say on Facebook. In the end, blogging can absolutely bring business – it's simply a matter of trial, error, and great persistence.

Conclusion

Whenever we design a website for one of our clients, we ultimately want to help them make the biggest splash possible on the web. A blog isn't for everybody, but for a lot of folks, it can prove tremendously beneficial.

If you feel like you've got something to say, we'd love to help you, whether that means coaching you, ghost-writing for you, or just helping you to come up with good ideas. Contact Us today to get started.

In the meantime, stay tuned for more on how to write a good blog post. In the next part, we'll be talking about ways to generate quality ideas over time.

Till then, happy blogging!

Why Your Small to Medium-sized Business Needs Responsive Design, Not A Mobile Site

27 April 2020

Responsive Design vs. Mobile Sites Both are examples of some of the latest and greatest evolutions in web technology. Both allow your custom website to be viewed from phones and tablets. So just what are the differences, and why do they matter so much? Today, we'd like to provide you with an honest assessment of the pros and cons of Responsive Design technology Mobile Site technology, and why we ultimately came to value (and recommend) one above the other.

Broken down simply, a Mobile Site is essentially a second version of your site, separate from the original, with it's own url and codebase, designed specifically for mobile users.

By contrast, if you're using Responsive Design, you're using a single website with special coding in the backend that allows it to automatically fit the dimensions of the viewing device.

For an example of responsive design in action, shrink this here window down to the size of a phone or tablet, and watch as our HDM custom website alters itself automatically to fit.

The User Experience

At this point in the game, this is mobile site technology's primary proficiency. Because it is essentially a second, reanimated site, designed specifically for mobile use, the developer of the site can fine-tune it to create a unique viewing experience. A custom website using responsive design will look and operate the same as your desktop site, only a little smaller.

For this reason alone, some businesses may prefer a mobile site. However, for our two cents, this single benefit of mobile sites is not worth the trouble, as we'll discover in the following paragraphs.

Updates & Maintenance

When it comes to maintaining your site, Responsive Design is hands-down the better option, ultimately cutting costs and manpower. A mobile site is an entirely separate set of programming and content. Thus, you'll essentially be forced to manage two websites instead of one, giving way to unnecessary hassles in the face of minor updates, and the risk of great inconsistencies. A responsive design website utilizes only one codebase.

Furthermore, because of rapidly evolving mobile technology, there's a good chance your mobile site will have to be completely redesigned every time a new phone or tablet hits the market. Responsive Design is much more flexible, and will thus be relevant for years to come.

Search Engine Optimization

Whenbrowsing the Internet on a mobile device, if you type in the url of a certain site, you'll be redirected to a different url (usually m.domain.com). With Responsive Design, you keep the same domain at all times. According to Google, for this reason, Responsive Design is more well-suited to SEO endeavors: ...Maintaining a single shared site preserves a canonical URL, avoiding any complicated redirects, and simplifies the sharing of web addresses...

Moreover, a large part of gaining a foothold among search engines is link building. In terms of SEO, we think of links as votes, and the website with more votes is inevitably more popular. This is true of the many links on your site that allow navigation. Therefore, your link equity will not carry over from your original site to your mobile site. With responsive design, you do not forfeit any progress.

Conclusion

For the most part, you may as well consider the mobile site an obsolete technology, the presence of which will likely diminish in coming years. As you move forward with your business, we think it wise to choose the technology that will not require new programming on new devices. You'll save money in the long run, minimize unnecessary labor, and have more success with search engines.

Whether building a new custom website, or converting your old one, pursuing responsive design is as simple as clicking a button. Click here to Contact Us today.

To learn more about the topic, check out our recent post explaining the details of Custom Websites With Responsive Design.

HDM Success Story: Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association

1 February 2020

We recently came into contact with the Home Builders Association of Hilton Head. In our communications, we eventually worked together to shed some light on company goals in the online arena, and thereby isolate certain deficiencies with their current web presence at the time.

They had certain things they wanted to accomplish – things they knew would bolster their brand name, their productivity, and the reach of their message. By making use of the latest web development technologies, we were able to help them accomplish what they needed to for the best interest of their business.

We're not trying to sound our own horns here – that's not the purpose of this post. What we are trying to do is observe some common problems that we find to be shared by many businesses today. What we have here are real life solutions in action.

If you keep reading, you may find that your current web operation shares similar struggles to that of HBAHH. Which, of course, means you could benefit from our respectively applied solutions.

Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association

The Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association is a non-profit professional trade association made up of more than 450 member companies. Their resources, services, and capabilities are extremely far-reaching.

They needed a website that could ultimately portray the combined services, grand in scope, provided by all of the member companies. They also needed a way to succinctly provide the lush amount of information regarding member benefits, for all potential companies seeking to join. Finally, they needed a way to easily maintain communication, not just with the member companies, but for all potential members as well. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Power of an HDM Custom Website

With a member directory this massive, and a collection of information so vast, HHAHBA needed a way to have all of it on hand without running a bulky, unnavigable behemoth of a website. Using the latest web applications, and taking advantage of the functionality that is built into every single HDM custom website, we were able to feed the information directly into the front end.

Thus, we gave the appearance of over 450 individual web pages, while only having to maintain a handful. Now, the member directory can easily be combed by category, or a user may search for individual names. The final product is resourceful for users, easy for the company to maintain, and altogether, not too bad on the eyes.

Finally, we have made their new custom website responsive, meaning it can be viewed across all platforms. For a website that demands information at a moment's notice, this facet of web design becomes incredibly helpful. Rather than having to pinch and zoom on your smart phone, or search for the right button on your tablet, this website is going to look and work beautifully no matter the size – that is, it automatically changes in shape and design based on the viewing device.

The Results

Just a month after releasing our newly redesigned website to the public and to our members, we have seen astounding increases in our member participation and consumer requests.” – Ashley Feaster, Executive Officer for Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association

Aside from the increase in usage, the HHAHBA has big plans for their new online business tool over the next few months – especially since they have just expanded their territory to include all of the Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Colleton counties.

Using the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) that is implemented into every HDM custom website, they can easily store all of their customer information within a single database. This means they will easily be able to maintain communication with everybody – with the click of a few buttons, all of the relevant parties will be receiving a weekly newsletter. What used to take hours to do, an individual can now accomplish in mere minutes.

Furthermore, the collective can now take greater advantage of exciting events and new memberships, thanks to the E-Commerce functionality of their custom website. Already, this has made it easier for participants to get involved, and make use of the necessary resources. HHAHBA has already seen a positive impact on their bottom line because of this feature.

Finally, it will be easy for this group to stay organized with their efforts over the coming years, now that all of their systems have been condensed into one, comprehensive interface, available from anywhere. Should they run into any snags along the way, they will be receiving consistent updates, assistance, and reliable support from the Hazel Digital Media team.

Take a look at their website, or check out our Portfolio to catch a glimpse of some of our other works. Or, feel free to Call or Contact Us anytime with any questions or talking points you may have.

What Does Your Website Say About Your Business?

1 January 2020

Oh, the times, they are a-changin'. As a boy, I recall that when my father wanted to drum up some business, all he had to do was put his picture in the yellow pages. But now the year is 2014, and if you haven't got a website, you could be missing out on more than a few potential clients.

Furthermore, the Internet, and specifically the practice of using websites as a business tool, has been around for quite a little while, meaning the standard of excellence has become rather high. That is, having a mediocre website could ultimately be more detrimental than having nothing at all.

You might be surprised to learn just how complex and advanced the technology behind website creation has become. As a consequence, the gap between quality and sub-quality has widened greatly. Today, we'd like to tell you just what makes a good website, and more importantly, why it matters so much.

Credibility

These days, not having a website is like not having a sign above your front door. You can't expect people to find your business driving down the street if there's nothing there to notify them. At this point in the game, a website is an absolute necessity. So just how much effort should you put into your website?

A recent trend that's gaining popularity are DIY website kits online. These grant you a URL and some pretty colors to paste your text against. The problem is that they're generic, often unnavigable, and lack demographic and analytic resources. These types of websites work just fine for my aunt selling jewelry out of her living room, but for an ambitious business, quality counts, and people can tell. Don't underestimate your potential customers.

The average Internet user visits about 6 – 10 new sites per day. With such abundance, this has resulted in an overall low tolerance for cookie-cutter websites. If 9 of those businesses have used a DIY kit, and you've got a one-of-a-kind, customized website, you're really going to stand out.

This abundance also means smaller attention spans. When driving potential clients to your website, you have a very small window to make a great first impression. The attention span for your average Internet user is about ten seconds, meaning if you aren't able to capture their eye or differentiate yourself in that time, it's bye-bye business. And remember, there's more to it than just clicks to your site – you ultimately want people to familiarize themselves, and explore every page.

There are certain tactics that work, and certain ones that don't, when it comes to getting people to your site, and having them stay once they arrive. A beautiful, customized website ultimately lends you credibility by letting people know you're there, setting yourself apart, and grabbing attention when you most need to, in a world where it's most difficult to.

Demographic Data

By utilizing all of the resources available to you, you can operate your business smarter. Having a quality website, complete with all of the current tools, can help you determine who's reaching out to you, as well as where – what part of the country (or world) – they are; when people are buying your products, and oftentimes why they are getting such good use out of them. These resources can allow you to deeply familiarize yourself with your client base, predict purchase patterns, and ultimately identify and target new business.

Brand Identity

In creating a website, it's important to think about the big picture. A critical aspect of any business is the branding and marketing persona you wish to put forth, and your website should be an inseparable appendage of that. It's almost a guarantee that competitors in your industry also have a website. But simply choosing background colors and writing adequate content isn't going to cut it here in 2014.

A truly good-looking website can use subtlety to say a lot. Visitors to your site may not realize it on a conscious level, but they will feel that everything you do is unified and deliberate. With a website like this, you go from having people click to your site, scanning the first paragraph and ducking out, to people who are interested, who want to see what each page has to offer, and who will ultimately reach out to you.

In summation, a quality website helps you to run your business smarter, sets you apart from the competition, and overall, helps you grow your client base. When you build a custom website with HDM, you are given access to a wide range of user-friendly resources that will help you track data and stay in the know. We have years of experience building websites, and as so, have stayed on the cutting edge of the latest design technologies. Finally, we also specialize in brand marketing, and will work with you to make sure that your website says everything it ought to, up front and between the lines.

Please take a look at our portfolio to see some of our pieces. We take great pride in our work, and strive to make each website unique and beautiful. Or, for any questions you may have, please feel free to Call or Contact Us anytime.

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