The Secret to Writing about a Popular Topic

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 at 10:21 AM | Category: Blogging, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Writing 1 comment

Image from user rhythms

Before reading Margie Clayman’s Avoid the temptation to write something popular, I saw articles on how to get ideas for blogging and how to write a bunch of blog posts quickly. These tired topics introduce nothing new. Same outfit, different color and style. Blog there, done that.

I’d rather not blog than rehash something that others have said many times, many ways. Like Green Eggs and Ham — these articles have been delivered so many ways possible … on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train.

Is there any hope for writing about popular topics? Yes. Even about Pinterest. Already, every kind of article on Pinterest has shown up: round ups, lists, advice, and so on. Many of them good reads.

Good things about writing about a popular topic like Pinterest:

  • Add fresh content to the blog.
  • Reach newcomers. (Users join Pinterest daily, so they may have ignored past articles on the topic.)
  • Share my experience. (No one can be me.)

Blogging isn’t just for driving traffic. It’s for loading the website with fresh content to keep search engines happy. Because of this, blogging always pays off. Traffic is a bonus.

Yes, there’s a way to make a post on a prominent topic like Pinterest stand out. Although it means reaching a smaller audience, the search engines will love it. The secret: Write about Pinterest with a focus on a narrow topic.

Examples of Pinterest articles with a specific topic:

  • Ways to use Pinterest in the oil and gas industry.
  • How to make Pinterest work for your professional services business.
  • Pinterest for a forklift company? Yes!
  • How a luxury car dealership uses Pinterest.
  • 5 ways to promote your help desk department with Pinterest.

Get the idea, yes? Not many people will be looking for articles on forklifts and Pinterest, but you’re feeding the search engines by having the keywords in the headline and link, such as (This link is fictitious. Any resemblance to real links, living or rotted, is purely coincidental.)

This link¬† provides more keyword power for “service desk” especially if the company’s other content already uses those keywords in the headlines. While few may look for “service desk pinterest,” “service desk” appearing in the headline and link will help the site pump its keyword muscle.

You may wonder if adding obvious keywords into an article like these has a phoniness about it. As a writer, I’m extra sensitive to keyword phoniness in web content. In this case, you treat those specifics as your example.

Be careful, though. Try to write these articles without mentioning your company, product, or service. Why? A client needed articles on how to evaluate help desk software. Go on and give it a shot. Search for “evaluate help desk software” and see what you find. Most of the time, the search engine produces few results. And when they do, the article mentions the company’s product.

Lost. Link. Opportunity. The company needing these articles doesn’t want to link to articles mentioning its competitors’ products. This also makes an argument for having a company blog under a separate URL. Even if the competitor doesn’t mention its products, the company wouldn’t want to send prospects anywhere on the competitor’s site.

What do you think? Should bloggers and writers stop writing about the popular topics? Do the niche thing? Something else?

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Documenting Life

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at 3:29 PM | Category: Business, Life Tips, Meryl's Notes Blog 5 comments

Every year since her birth, I’ve written a letter to my daughter on her birthday reflecting on the past year. Her baby book had a page for “Letter from Mom” and I filled it with the usual corny thoughts of hopes for my daughter. Somehow, I continued the tradition of writing a letter every year since then, and did the same for her younger brothers.

Originally, I wrote the letters by hand. Then I got lazy and switched to typing. It may not be as cool and personal as my handwriting, but it turned out to be a good thing. Some of the handwritten letters were harder to read and didn’t scan well.

I decided to write them until the kids turned 18, and my daughter hit that milestone in February. I had planned to give her the letters, but then an article sparked the idea of turning the letters into a book. Brilliant. A book would keep the letters in one place and make it easier to read. I’ll keep the originals in a safe place as the kids will be going to college, moving and so on.

I’ve been documenting my life in journals since my freshman year of college. Thank goodness! (Of course, I wish I had started earlier.) The journals came in handy when I needed dates or specifics of things that happened in my family’s life.

Documenting your life isn’t just for your personal life and family. It also works well for business.

Early in my career, I ran into a tip to document the work I did and how it contributed to the bigger picture. It was helpful for updating the resume, supporting performance review meetings and remembering things, such as what training I took. The document also provided an overview of my progress toward with business and career goals.

George Angus wrote a post on documenting your writing work in a writing journal. Here’s his suggestion of what could go in the journal:

Your writing journal could have entries for the date, type of writing (blog post, SEO article, novel chapter) word count and even a brief description of what inspired the article. I think it would make for a very interesting read at some point in the future.

Indeed, it makes for a great read in the future. Documenting your work doesn’t have to be time consuming. My career documentation simply consisted of a table with four columns: project, task, accomplishment and date.

Long after you’ve left the position and surpassed those goals, reading about your past work years later can boost your confidence and make you feel proud.

How can you use a journal or documentation of your life? What would you track? How would you use the information? Have you tracked your life or work? What’s your experience?

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Get Organized: Folder Naming Tip

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 at 8:20 AM | Category: Business, Life Tips, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 2 comments

Office DeskI’m a neat-aholic. When I enter a kid’s messy room, my mind overloads and my body stiffens. Though I’ve trained myself to accept a little messiness in my home, the exception to the rule is my office space.

My youngest occasionally came into my office to color, play with toys or do projects. That was fine with me as long as his stuff goes with him when he left the office.

The neatness thing carries over into my cyber space. I organize my documents and emails into folders and subfolders. It lets me find things quickly. This way I don’t feel overwhelmed by all the files in one folder. Searching is an option, but finding files in organized folders is faster.

I ran into a new problem. In backing up my files and accessing the backup from another device, I’d see two folders with the same name.

For example, I have a top level folder for Clients and a subfolder for Others. I have another top level folder for Contacts and a subfolder for Others. In running a search, Others pops up and it isn’t clear where the file I need lives.

In another case, I needed to backup two folders with the same name and they appear as top level folders in the backup system.

The trick. Add another keyword to separate the generic names, such as others-clients and others-contacts. Beware this won’t always be possible as several folders are system folders. At least, you’ll cut down the confusion.

What tips do you have for managing your documents? How do you organize your cyber properties?

More tips and resources available on my Facebook page. Hope to see you there.

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Guest Post: Recalibrate Your Online Presence in the Age of Pinterest

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media 3 comments
Pinterest Home Page

Pinterest home page

Watch out, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+! There’s a new kid on the block who’s gaining popularity by leaps and bounds. And the kid’s name is Pinterest.

The social media world is changing and evolving all the time. Pinterest is only two years old but over the past several months, this precocious little kid has exhibited phenomenal growth. In a period of only six months, the site’s registered user count has leapfrogged from under 200,000 to well over 7 million! And it is still growing.

So what exactly is Pinterest and why is it so popular? Simply put, the site is an organizable bulletin board for images. It allows you to post images and then sort them onto different boards representing specific categories. You can “pin” something new whenever you want for your followers to see. And once you do, your image can be commented on, liked, or re-pinned by any of your followers to their own boards. Just like some YouTube videos, it’s always possible that one of your Pinterest pins will go viral.

Pinterest - Meryl's page

Meryl’s Pinterest page

One of the biggest reasons for Pinterest’s enormous popularity may be that it gives users the nearest online experience to how people like to shop. Think about it. When people enter a store or a shopping mall, do they always know exactly what they want? Sometimes they do, but very often they depend on the store displays to tell them what they want. For many shoppers, the joy of shopping lies in the experience of browsing — seeing what is on display, what looks nice — all the time looking forward to being blown away by something that might catch their eye which they never imagined they would ever see.

Up ’til now, the most common form of online shopping consisted of typing a search phrase for something you want to buy and hoping that the results lead you to a successful purchase. Pinterest is a little different. You can still narrow down your search to certain categories, but the rest becomes visual instead of text-based. You can look for what you want, find something you never knew you wanted, or simply have a great time looking at a bunch of interesting pictures.

So how does this relate to you, your business website, and your online marketing approach? Do you need to do a complete overhaul out of fear of being trampled by the Pinterest stampede? The answer is: probably not. Instead of an overhaul, it’s more likely a recalibration is in order. Take a closer look at what works for Pinterest and, where appropriate, make the same kinds of things work for you. Along these lines, here are a few things you can think about doing:

1. Jump aboard Pinterest.

OK, let’s start with the obvious one. Keep in mind that Pinterest works better for some businesses than others. If your product or service is highly visual, then joining the site will most likely do wonders for your business. On the other hand, if what you do or sell doesn’t project in particularly visual terms, then maybe Pinterest isn’t for you. Either way, it’s worth a shot. Set up an account and pin relevant images — be careful not to start off overly-promotional. Instead, focus on making the images interesting, funny, or captivating. Then follow others and re-pin the content of theirs that you like. After a while, start displaying your products with links back to your site. You may even want to post special deals or coupons for your followers.

2. Place a greater emphasis on images over text. 

One lesson that Pinterest is teaching us is not new: A picture is worth a thousand words. And, another lesson we’re learning is that the quality of the picture not only matters, but matters a lot! A stunning image captures the eye. This is as true on your site as it is on Pinterest. Start paying more attention to both the quantity and the quality of images you post on your site.

3. Think less linearly in your website design.

More than one designer has noted that Pinterest uses a masonry layout rather than a linear one. Images are arranged vertically, than horizontally like a grid — it resembles a mason arranging stones in a wall. This type of arrangement not only neatly categorizes content into visual sections, but also allows users to scan and digest a large amount of information quickly. You may want to make greater use of this type of design on your own site.

In a very short time, Pinterest has evolved from the “just catching on” stage to one of the top players in the market for click-through referrals. Obviously, it’s doing something right. As a smart business person, you might be able to take that “something” and recalibrate your own marketing efforts to make Pinterest’s success work for you.

Have you jumped on the Pinterest pinwagon? If yes, how do you use it? If no, why not?

About the author: Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized
pens, promotional pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and mugs and customized calendars.

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