Tuesday, November 16, 2010

HOW TO: Turn Your Expertise Into Dollars Online - Yahoo! News

Darren Waddell is vice president of marketing at MerchantCircle.com. He can be found on the MerchantCircle blog and on Twitter.

Every time you search for a topic online these days, it seems a few webpages pop up with advice from "experts." Whether these websites are pages on Yahoo Answers, medical information sites or part of a community of small businesses like Yelp, they’ve become increasingly important sources of information for web searchers looking for answers to specific questions.

If you are an expert in something, you can offer your advice online -- and turn that expertise into dollars. Small business owners are especially good candidates to become online experts, because they know their industries inside and out. Millions of small business owners have turned to blogging, writing articles, sharing tips on Q&A sites, and participating in forums as a way to drive traffic to their websites and build business credibility.

Expertise Pays

Small business owners possess a wealth of knowledge about their industry or sector, and when they share this knowledge with Internet searchers, it lends credibility to their business and attracts new customers. Blogging is a key medium for sharing your expertise. The most recent Merchant Confidence Index, a survey of 10,000 small business owners conducted by my company found that nearly 30% are blogging and 35% plan to blog in the next three months. Those who are blogging have found that creating impactful content that people can find online is one of the best marketing tools available -- and it’s free. According to data published by Internet marketing firm HubSpot, companies that blogged realized 55% more visitors to their site, 97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages.

Michele Gorham, owner of the Andover, Mass.-based Cookie Central bakery, is one small business owner who has turned her expertise into dollars online. She has created hundreds of blog entries about how to build a business, run a bakery, and other helpful topics; and she continuously answers customers’ direct questions through various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. Because of Gorham’s rich content contributions, her listings on various sites are highly trafficked and regularly found by search engines -- generating more sales for her business.

Getting Started

So what’s the first step if you want to start creating expert content online? The first thing you need to do is think about the topics you want to write about. What advice can you offer that would be useful to your potential customers? What are you knowledgeable about? Make a list of the topics you’d like to write about.

Next, you’ll need to develop a voice for your content. The most successful expert content is straightforward, informative, backed up with examples and research, and helpful to those who’ve searched for a specific term. Your articles should not be self serving. For example, if you're a mechanic, don't write an article that advises that the best way to fix a carburetor is to come into your shop and pay you to fix it. Instead, offer practical, step-by-step advice that can actually help someone with a problem. At the end of your article, you can add a gentle plug for your business and add your URL; don’t turn the article into an advertisement.

After you’ve written your article or blog post, you need to publish it online, and there are lots of options. Your goal should be to get the most exposure possible for your article, to drive traffic to your business website. You can publish your article on a personal, business or community blog, then add links to your article on your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can answer an open question on Q&A sites, or pose your own and then go back and answer it. Remember, though, that if consumers like your advice but can’t find you, your efforts are being wasted. So make sure to create a detailed listing on local business sites, some of which will let you answer customers’ questions directly or publish your expertise via a blog or newsletter, and make sure you have your own web site. Also, fully fill out all profile information on any sites you utilize.

Some sites, such as Associated Content or Demand Media, pay experts a small sum to write topical articles, then syndicate that content to online newspapers and other websites. Demand Media pays up to $15 for a 500 word article. Other “citizen journalism sites,” like Examiner, pay based on page views. You won’t make millions by creating content for these pay-to-write companies, but if you blog regularly, your content will show up more regularly in searches for related topics, and you’ll build credibility in your industry -- which is much more valuable than a few dollars.

In fact, most places where experts contribute their expertise online -- blogs, forums, Q&A sites, and business directories -- don’t pay contributors. But, as a small business owner, it’s still incredibly valuable to share your expert advice online, because your content builds exposure for your business, and that drives more people to your website and increases revenues long-term.

Making Sure your Content is Discovered

Wherever you decide to publish your articles, make sure the site is credible. The site should be populated by experts, such as small business owners or service providers with professional storefronts. Or if it’s your own blog, make it informative and professional -- a useful site that your target customers will turn to again and again for information. For example, if you are a real estate professional, you could create a blog with inside information about a particular neighborhood, detailing not just houses for sale, but information on local schools, city government initiatives, community events, local businesses, and other things of interest to people living in that area. Such a site not only builds your credibility as a real estate agent, but delivers a valuable service to your potential customers that keeps them coming back for more.

To get your content found, make sure the sites you post it on optimize content for search engines. Embed links in your articles, and link to your articles from other places on the web as much as possible. Add links to the article on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites, as well as on your online business directory listings pages.

The bottom line: the quality of the expert content you produce online is critical to how well it works to build your credibility and boost business leads in the real world. If your articles are helpful and informative, they’ll be read and passed along, and that will increase the visibility of your content and your business. Offer helpful advice, and you’ll see how quickly your expertise is rewarded with new business leads.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Lessons Madison Avenue Can Learn From Startups
Why the Best Online Marketing May Be Headed Offline
HOW TO: Get the Most From a Small Business Social Media Presence
HOW TO: Run Location-Based Google Ads
What’s the Value in a Brand Name?


Any questions, please drop me a line.

Follow us on:



Linked In:

Nursing Entrepreneurs, Nurses In Business




Andrew Lopez, RN
Nursefriendly, Inc. A New Jersey Corporation.
38 Tattersall Drive, Mantua New Jersey 08051
http://www.nursefriendly.com info@nursefriendly.com ICQ #6116137
856-415-9617, (fax) 415-9618

150,000 + Nurse-Reviewed & Approved Nursing Links


No comments: