Second Round Interview Questions for Paul Woodhouse http://www.butlersheetmetal.com/tinbasherblog 1. How did Butler Sheet Metal itself get started? How long has the business been in operation? It started in 1997 after John and Matt were laid-off by the sheet metal company they’d worked for since leaving school and they decided to go it alone. 2. How did you become associated with Butler Sheet Metal? Do you have other roles within the company besides being the resident blogger? Simply by John being married to my sister. I’m also the company webmaster and am very involved with the design, sales, marketing and general running of Tinpot Alley. I also make the odd brew now and again. 3. You told us quite a bit about establishing trust with potential customers. How has blogging helped that process? Blogging allows you to be open, honest and transparent as a business. The vast majority of people, especially those online, are savvy enough to see through the gumph most companies peddle on a regular basis. Therefore, even though we might not completely bare our souls as a company, we do present ourselves as we are which people can quite simple take or leave. Honesty is the best policy. 4. Were you involved in blogging at all prior to starting the Tinbasher blog? Only in so much as I commented and read other blogs. I also wrote a couple of silly blogs. However, this all helped me gain confidence and experience of the various aspects of blogging. 5. Paul, you’ve talked a little about the tools you’ve used to put the Tinbasher Blog together. Which tools or software would you recommend for a complete newbie to get a blog up and running? I’d suggest newbies read other blogs and comment on other blogs prior to setting one up to get a feel for them. Once someone decides to take the plunge you can go with blogger, a free hosted service by google, or wordpress.com, which is the hosted version of wordpress. There are also plenty of other hosted services, paid and free, which you can go with. Hosting your own blog on your own server, whilst not difficult, might not be the best newbie option. However, many people who begin on something like blogger will invariably want to move to their own hosted blog further down the line. Subsequently, it might be a good idea to bear this in mind as moving your blog’s content, although nowhere near as tricky as it used to be, can still be a touch time consuming and potentially fiddly in parts. 6. Besides you, who else writes or contributes content for the blog? Do you collaborate over your choice of blogging topics with other members of your staff? Just little old me. We’ll chat about the blog over a brew but we don’t have power management meetings over its direction. It’s simply a case of somebody suggesting a decent tale or topic. 7. How do you go about choosing subjects or topics for your entries? I tend to go by the rule of thumb that anything related to the business or about the business is fair game. I also think that anything about me that impacts the running of the blog is fair game too. It’s a combination of common sense and what you feel comfortable talking about. 8. What is the ratio of posts with a more personal tone to ones more directly related to the running of the business? What benefits do either kind of post bring to the overall value of the blog? I tend to keep personal posts to a minimum. However, I try to vary the posts as much as I can. Posts that harp on about the same thing can get quite boring in the long run. Some business blogs just use them to display products or as cheap pr exercises. It has to be a mix for it to be effective. Go with the flow. Personal posts show there are real people within the business and can connect with people in different ways. On the other hand they can bore certain people stupid. Posts about the business, if done correctly, can show people what you’re capable of. You should be prepared to be as warts and all as you feel comfortable with when writing these types of posts. They simply help you to become believable in the eyes of the reader and then you’re perceived as an authentic voice and then you’re trustworthy. 9. What tips and tricks would you give blogging beginners for doing effective blog SEO? If you’re writing for an existing business then don’t worry about blog SEO in every post – you aren’t trying to live off adsense revenues. However, it makes sense for the occasional post to be optimized more than another. You can simply write a keyword title and then write you post with the keywords in mind. Remember to alt text your pics as well. 10. How does blog SEO differ from regular web site SEO? The principles are probably very similar apart from the fact that you optimize each page in a static web site and very rarely change it. With a blog you can say the same thing in many different ways over a longer period of time. 11. Tell us a little about your use of tags and categories on the blog. How does this impact the searchability of your content? Tags allow you to appear in the big blog ranking and usability service, Technorati. So, if you have a tag of sheetmetal and somebody searches for sheetmetal on Technorati then you’ll be found amongst all the others talking about the same topic. However, the more recently you wrote the piece in relation to the search, the higher you’ll rank. Bots will index your blog pages, categories and archives. Therefore, you’re being indexed far more than you should. 12. What importance do you place on blog-focused search engines as opposed to the standard search engines? They’re obviously very important, as you can’t put a static site into a blog search engine. 13. You use a lot of great photos and graphics in the Tinbasher blog! How much time do you spend focused on the look-and-feel side of the blog versus the text content? They tend to go hand in hand to be honest. You can write a blog post quickly or take your time over it…that’s the beauty of the thing. I’m always looking at ways to improve the look and feel of the blog in terms of its usability. There’s always something I want to tweak and change. Although, that doesn’t apply to a post once you’ve written it – always say when you’ve updated a post. 14. How have you participated in the larger blogging community? How did you go about connecting with other business bloggers? Could you recommend any directory or community sites that were helpful to you? You participate by reading and commenting on other blogs – something I haven’t done to my eternal shame for a while now due to severe time restrictions. This is the simplest way to get yourself known. Bloggers are also nice enough to reply to your emails. It’s not too dog eat dog to be fair. I’ve also been asked to speak at blogging conferences and such, but have mostly declined or missed them due to one thing or another. You can also connect with other business bloggers via the tracking service Technorati – it tells you if you’ve been linked to by another blogger. You should always know about what is being said about you. A very good place to ping your RSS feed is Pingoat. 15. How do you drive traffic to your blog? I don’t really pursue traffic for traffic’s sake. If anything I’m very mindful of not attracting traffic that wouldn’t benefit from visiting the blog. You can find yourself ranking very highly for certain search term, which bear no relevance to what you’re really talking about. For example, I did a little experiment to see how high I could rank for the term ‘prices of potatoes’. Two days after writing the post it ranked in the top three on google and hasn’t shifted since. 16. Do you actively promote your business in your blog? That’s one of its primary functions. 17. What percentage of blog readers become customers? Ah! The million dollar question. Blogging is notorious for ignoring ROI in this respect. Some see this as a distinct chink in its armoury. I honestly can’t answer this question as I see the blog as part of the web presence as a whole. The blog supports the main Butler Sheetmetal site. We have existing customers who read the blog and it’s now a talking point between us when they ring up and certain people have made enquiries both on the phone and via email and referred to the blog and/site as a reason for getting in touch. Also, do they read the thing regularly or have they come through the blog via a search for the first time? 18. Have you found that many of your readers to subscribe to your RSS feed? How do you promote this option to your audience? This is something I have to address. RSS feeds are fine for those who know what they are in the same way that the majority of people think the blog is just part of the site or a site in its own right. I intend to write a page educating people as to what a blog is and how to use it and RSS feeds. 19. How do you respond to the feedback you’ve received through your blog comments? Do you do any kind of comment moderation or editing? I always try and respond to any comment made on the blog. Sometimes I’ll also email the commenter. There is moderation in place to prevent spam – the bane of all bloggers. I’ll also delete any comment, which is not related to the post in question. However, I won’t edit comments and I won’t delete anything critical of the blog or the company. 20. Is there a strategy behind your leaving comments on other blog sites? Not really. If I want to comment then I’ll comment. The only thing is to try and ensure the comment adds to the post. 21. You mentioned running competitions on the blog for research purposes. Was this an effective tool? What kind of participation did you see? What were the results? It worked very well. The one competition was to name the price of a stainless steel vase, which the closest person won. We received over twenty comments, which is still the most any post has received. 22. Have you received links to your site on other business blogs? How do you approach exchanging links with other businesses? What impact have inbound links had on your position in the search engines? I’ve received plenty of links from other business blogs and am just about to go on another linking spree. You can exchange links in two ways on a blog – either on the blogroll or in a post. Obviously a link in a post is more beneficial from a search engine point of view. Bloggers are much more open to exchanging links than your average webmaster. I also try and filter the pagerank from these links through to the main sites. 23. How quickly after starting the Tinbasher blog did you see an impact on your page ranking in search engines? Was this traffic headed for the blog, or the main Butler site? It obviously took until the next update. Blogs tend to receive a higher pagerank as a rule from the off than your average website. Currently, Butler Sheetmetal has a rank of 5/10 and the blog 6/10. The blog has always received more traffic than the main site. 24. What fresh or unusual markets or audiences do you feel you’ve reached through blogging, specifically, as opposed to other methods of advertising and promotion? Well I’ve found myself in The Guardian and been asked to appear on BBC Radio 4. On average we tend to be features by something or somebody related to business blogging at least once a month. 25. What are the top five tips you would give a beginner business blogger to start them off on the right foot? 1. Don’t feel you have to start one – they’re not for everybody. 2. Read other blogs and be inspired. . 3. Comment on other blogs. 4. Write a dummy blog that you can always integrate later once you feel comfortable. Don’t worry that there might be other blogs in a similar business. After all, you’re not the only business in your field surely? 5. Realise they’re much harder work than you possibly envisaged and also more enjoyable.