Friday, 27 September 2013

How Blogging Drives My Business By Chiara from Hoobynoo World

Hoobynoo World is a place filled with happy, bouncy characters, all illustrated by myself with accompanying character profiles written by my husband, a children’s author. Before I started this business I was a freelance graphic and web designer. The business is just over a year old and running it from home, the biggest challenge is getting yourself out there and found by the general public. Like most small small businesses, I don't have a huge marketing budget so I did a lot of research on how to market myself effectively and for little cost.

The answer to that was quite simply, blogging!

Aside from the obvious benefit of creating posts to promote your product/service when you blog, you create more opportunities for you to appear in Google and be found in search. But blogging is so much more than a search engine tool, it allows you to connect with your customers and your audience, it puts a personal face on your company or brand and builds trust between you and the consumer.

In order to create variety and keep readers coming back to your blog, it's very important not to just use your blog as a sales tool but to provide valuable content that offers advice or 'How Tos' or provide valuable information that would be relevant to your readers.

I will often write fashion posts as this is relevant to the products I sell, focusing on new trends or collections. I also offer advice on social media at a basic level as it is something I have had to learn myself over the years.

As I am very involved with the handmade community, I will post trips to craft fairs, and craft tutorials. This provides a variety of content that will appeal to a wider audience bringing more people to my blog and then to my website. The other benefit of blogging, is guest posting, such as this one I am writing which provides links to my website which is good for my Google rank and SEO.

I also welcome other bloggers to guest post on my blog as this provides a wider range of interesting content for my readers and offers a different perspective. I look for bloggers who are an expert in a particular field and will offer real value to my blog and its readers.

The blogging community itself is huge, which offers other opportunities for you to connect with other like minded people. There are blogging conferences, Twitter hashtag groups and many bloggers will use Blog Buttons or a Blogroll to promote other bloggers.

The other way that your blog can help to drive your business is through advertising, many of the well established blogs feature paid advertising from large companies, this is a fantastic way to create an additional revenue stream for very little work.

So with a little effort you could create an amazing marketing tool for yourself simply by adding a blog to your website or creating a free one. Results will not happen overnight but it is much more likely to give you a return on your investment than say a full page spread in a magazine.

Chiara Stone is a designer and owner of, where you'll find these  funky acrylic fashion jewellery, phone covers, handmade accessories, wall stickers and much more.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth this September with National Cupcake Week by Jessica Aleisha Dodds

Since 2008, the cupcake phenomenon, in the UK, has grown like a well risen sponge, taking over most confectionery and baked treats as the most fashionable and sort after edible fancy. With the likes of Magnolia bakery in New York launching in 1996, it took a while for UK market to catch up, but in recent years the cupcake has gone beyond all cup-cases of the imagination, with flavours, toppings and edible art.

Cupcakes, in my opinion, have become so popular due to the selfish streak in society, not wanting to share the deliciousness of cake. In all elements of cookery, customers thoroughly enjoy portioned parcels and the cupcake is no exception. There is something convenient and cute about a cupcake, with it being well-contained, easy to transport and suitably portioned.

Once a simple treat for kids, cupcakes have now become a sophisticated, yet fun alternative to the traditional slice of cake. The rise in demand supported the birth of businesses, all over the UK, selling these easy, crafted treats and for the cake artists among us, the boundaries of the simple cupcake were being stretched. Challenging new flavours replicating sweets, such as rhubarb and custard, tantilised children and adults tastebuds alike and with artistic detail, beautiful bouquets, wedding towers and edible art collections were created. With a history of larger cakes being the best canvas for edible art, the cupcake was able to offer a miniaturised version of these grand works of artistry; a singular portion of cake offering all the excitement, design and flair of a whole cake, but in a tiny format.

The cupcake has become an easy versatile tool to fit all occasions. A whole market has been established to cater for the demand, with Perspex towers, cupcake cases, sprinkles and for the more creative, cupcake parties have been born. People, such as Ming Makes Cupcakes have even dedicated blogs to the desirable delicacy. National Cupcake Week, from 16th – 22nd September, is a celebration of the last five years of incredible cupcake creations, from the simple and tasty to the most artistic, but debate has opened about what the new and upcoming craze will be.

Many speculative comments have been made; regarding the future of the cupcake, yet there is belief that due to its adaptability, the cupcake will survive. One opposing argument suggested that the cake pop will eventually take over the mass market, yet due to being smaller, more expensive and complicated to make, I doubt any success will overlook the cupcake’s reign. The Great British Bake Off is further supporting the baking boom in Britain and supermarkets, bakers and chefs alike are releasing specialist books on cupcakes and decorations. Locally, bakers are trialing new combinations, such as crownies, brownies and cake, and others are experimenting with pastry, following BBC Good Food’s prediction that miniature choux buns, were the next best treat to tickle our fancy.

One thing for sure, however, is that this week plenty of cupcakes WILL be eaten. I for one will be indulging in a carefully crafted cupcake or two and even through talk of new trends, the cupcake is still a highly popular, deliciously delectable treat. So what flavour will you choose?

Keep up to date with Jessica Aleisha Dodds and her blog, Red Velvet Baking by visiting You can also follow Red Velvet Baking on Twitter @RedVelvetBaking, Facebook and Instagram.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Five Blogging Lessons from Helen Yuet Ling Pang, Food and Travel Blogger

A few years ago I had a successful food blog, World Foodie Guide, which I maintained for two years then stopped updating just months after being shortlisted for the Guild of Food Writers New Media award in 2009. I made the decision one afternoon on a subway train in Tokyo. After two weeks of travelling in Japan, I was exhausted and didn't even want to blog about it. My last three posts, about the Japan trip, were truly a struggle to write. I then announced my 'retirement' from the world of food blogging.

Now I'm back with my new blog On The Frog. I'm older and hopefully a little wiser too. And I’d like to share a few lessons that I've learnt from blogging, taking a long break and finally coming back to it.

1. Be clear about why you blog 

There are numerous reasons for starting and maintaining a blog. It could be a creative and enjoyable outlet where you share your thoughts and tips with others, or perhaps you hope to turn professional and develop a second career, so your blog is a potential means of making money, directly or indirectly. With both blogs, my intention has never been to make money, so I've always turned down advertising and sponsorship requests. And once you know why you blog, you'll know whether or not to accept freebies. I learnt from my old blog that it's near on impossible to be completely honest and objective when reviewing a PR-organised restaurant visit. Accepting freebies can really affect the credibility of a blog, so tread carefully and always make it clear if you haven't paid for something yourself.

2. Choose a subject you're passionate about

Choose a subject you're truly passionate about, otherwise sustaining a blog in the long term will be difficult. Readers can tell from your writing whether you care about the subject or not. I chose food for my first blog because I've always loved it. My parents owned restaurants their entire lives and so the enjoyment of food is a big part of my life too. I also liked sharing my restaurant tips with friends and that's why I started blogging. When I realised I wasn't enjoying restaurant reviewing quite as much, I tried to switch the focus of my blog to travel, my other great passion. That didn't work out either because I was simply couldn't keep going at the intense pace that I'd set myself. Although travel is now the subject of my new blog On The Frog ('on the frog' is Cockney rhyming slang for on the road), I've learnt to pace myself and I'm enjoying blogging again.

3. Pace yourself 

Blogging is tough anyway, as you have to do everything yourself. I pushed myself far too hard with World Foodie Guide and set myself a punishing schedule of three substantial posts every week. By the time I realised I couldn't do it anymore, even just slowing down wasn't an option anymore. My husband had complained a lot about being sidelined, and since I’ve stopped restaurant reviewing, we've had more time to spend together again. So take it easy with your blogging. It should be fun and not take up too much of your time. With my new blog, I now write when I feel like I have something to say.

4. Keep up with technology

Blogging has changed considerably since I first started in late 2007. Returning to blogging a few months ago, I found that even Wordpress had changed dramatically. I initially struggled to perform even basic tasks on my blog. However, it didn't take too long to brush up on these skills and now I think I've mastered most things I need to know. Otherwise, I have a technology guru husband. I also continued using Twitter over the years and love Instagram for its simplicity and ease of use. These days, people share information and tips over a wide variety of social media platforms, so blog commenting has reduced noticeably and appreciation of a post is now indicated by tweets and Facebook likes. I also recently created a free iPhone app, beautifully designed by Everplaces, which is a guide to the best of traditional London.

5. Be prepared to accept criticism as well as praise

This is really important to bear in mind. Just because you think your blog is the bee's knees and that your opinions are deep and meaningful doesn't mean that everyone else will agree with you. That's just life. Everyone has an opinion and with the development of social media, a voice. Share your thoughts, defend your standpoint and accept the views of others, whether you agree with them or not. And don't take blogging too seriously!

Food and travel blogger, Helen Yuet Ling Pang from has recently released her own iPhone app, On The Frog to London, a guide with 50 tips for discovering some good old British traditions alive and well in modern London.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Top 5 Tips For Getting Your Blog Seen by Jessica Hodkinson

Blogging is one of the most talked about activities that takes place online and the option to blog has given budding writers a chance to share their thoughts and knowledge with others in an open space. So how does it all start?  Well, you take an idea and then apply your passion for writing or photography and select a platform like Wordpress, Blogger or Tumbler to publish on.

I started PR Company two years ago as a project when I was learning about digital PR and SEO. The blog was almost used as a working diary to start with and then I began writing about topical subjects that others could relate to. Someone told me about a little thing called page rank which Google uses to determine the importance of your site and typically link to pages that have the highest keyword density.

PR Company now has a page rank of 4 which makes it credible in the SEO world and I get a lot of great feedback about the blog.  I then decided to start a new project and as I have a lot of knowledge about retail/fashion, I decided to home in on a niche and select something that would be appealing to the Mummy blogging world. was born! Harper Beckham is already a little mini fashionista and appears in national press on a frequent basis. Therefore I thought this blog would have great potential now and later on in life when she becomes as big as her Mother, Victoria Beckham.

Even though blogs may look great, getting the word out there in a cluttered blogosphere can prove to be challenging.

Here are a few tips when it comes to marketing your own blog!

1. Guest Post
A good way of getting the word out there about your own blog is to guest post on others that publish content that covers the same topics as yours. It takes a bit of effort as you will need to approach editors and pitch a good topic with appeal to their readers. Most guest posts include an author name and a link back to the author’s blog.

2. Twitter, Facebook, Google+
This is an obvious one but plugging your blog on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ is a very straight forward option which provides instant results and hopefully directs traffic to your blog. Using the correct hashtags like #socialmedia, #PR, #fbloggers will also enable your post to be picked up by people searching for these topics.

3. Comment on other blogs
Commenting on other blogs and leaving a link to your own blog is an option that will enable you to tell others about your work and it will also assist with SEO efforts which means your blog could quite possibly rank higher. However be cautious as this can also look quite spammy if overdone or comments are placed on irrelevant blogs. You need to make the comment worthy as leaving a comment about ‘Fish and chips’ on a beauty blog about skin care just wouldn’t work and it would probably get deleted.

4. Get involved with conversations on websites that have high authority
This takes a little more effort but networking and getting involved with debates on websites that carry authority like the Guardian Online, will give you the chance to plug your blog and get it out in front of a large audience. Here is an example of something I took part In: Working in Fashion PR: ask the experts.

High end links like this are also very valuable in an SEO strategy.

5. Word of Mouth
A very obvious method but one that can be just as effective,  speaking to people and telling them to go online and take a look at your work. If they like what they see, they may follow you and spread the word to others.

For more information on Jessica Hodkinson and PR Company, visit Jessica works as  Senior PR and Marketing Exec for Daniel Footwear. Jessica recently won a competition with Nokia and will be reporting at Social Media week in Mumbai.You can follow Jessica on Twitter @onlineprpixie and @harper7style.