How, and Why, to Become a Guest Blogger

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How, and Why, to Become a Guest Blogger

In this era of changing search algorithms and more complex page-ranking systems, guest blogging has become one of the most popular and effective marketing strategies. Successfully blogging on high-traffic, well-respected sites offers numerous benefits with relatively little cost or time commitment. Of course, the idea is not a new one and you will certainly not be the only business approaching the best websites for a chance to share your thoughts with their readers. Learning the best methods for pitching your guest posts will help you get a foot in the door.

What is guest blogging?

This is when outside entities are given license to write blogs and articles for someone else’s website. The topics will vary depending on the site, but it is always important to provide relevant, quality information that the host site feels will be of interest to their users and ultimately benefit them.

Why do it?

Most of us are busy, and the idea of putting a bunch of time and effort into writing for someone else’s website doesn’t necessarily sound like the ideal use of our time. Of course, there is a lot more to consider. There are many benefits to be gained by guest posting, especially if you manage to get your material featured on a very popular site that is followed by your target audience.

Thought leadership

Being given a platform to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your area of specialization is a priceless opportunity. Consumers are inundated with content these days and, as a result, are increasingly looking to find leading industry thinkers rather than simple promotional material that re-hashes things they have already seen. Guest blogging shows off your knowledge and proves that you are respected by other leaders within the industry.

Backlinks

Getting a link back to your pages on a popular website can greatly increase your overall traffic.

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Increase your followers

The first two benefits, when combined with an effective landing page and efficient overall marketing system, should result in a more captivated audience for your site and more long-term followers.

Ok, so you’re now sold on guest blogging as part of your overall marketing efforts, focusing on thought leadership and a multichannel approach to mobile engagement. The next step – and it’s a big step – is convincing these powerhouse websites to accept your blog proposal and give you the chance to get your voice in front of all that new user traffic.

Tips to have your guest post pitch accepted Define your goals

While all three of the previously stated benefits probably sound pretty good, it is usually best to choose one and make it your main focus. Trying to accomplish everything in one blog post is difficult and likely ineffective. If your main goal is to get more people to your landing page to sign up for your newsletter, then shape your topic, content and links to make that happen and let the other factors take care of themselves.

Choose blogs that fit your style and expertise

Trying to be something you’re not to match up with what you think each website’s users are expecting will only result in a lower-quality product. The most important driver of results is impressing the people who read your material. Covering the topics you know best in a style you are comfortable with is the best way to produce an excellent piece.

Match the tone of their site

Having said that, you may occasionally need to adjust your writing to match the target site. If you are pitching a very business-like site that values facts, figures and tables, sending them a whimsical theory piece full of images and high-concept ideas is, first of all, unlikely to be accepted and, secondly, probably not going to appeal to loyal readers of their regular content.

Provide your qualifications

Presumably, you are offering to write on topics you are strongly qualified to discuss. So, make sure you show them what makes you an expert on the subject and why they should consider sharing your thoughts and advice with their readers.

Offer new, original ideas

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of people out there trying to land guest post features. There is also a lot of information. Regurgitating the same topics and ideas that have been covered a thousand times before makes you less likely to be chosen and won’t do much to compel readers back to your site to find out more.

Set up your email template

The nuts and bolts of a great guest blogging pitch starts with the email request. You have a very limited platform to explain your topic, your expertise and to convince them your content would be an asset for them. It is important to be concise while including all the necessary details to allow them to make an informed decision.

Write a good subject line

Use their name

Be assertive

List your qualifications

Explain your motivations

Provide a brief synopsis

Choose your best headline and offer a short outline

Explain why this benefits their readers

Thank them for their time

Lay the groundwork for the next post

Let’s assume you’ve followed all these steps in a thorough and intelligent manner and your guest post has been accepted. Congratulations, not only have you achieved your initial goal, but you now have a tremendous opportunity to turn this into an ongoing project. If you can take advantage of it, having future material featured should be much simpler now that you have your foot in the door.

Build a relationship

Interact, ask questions, compliment other parts of their website that impress you and, overall, just do your best to make this more than a simple, one-off business transaction. It doesn’t take a lot to turn a contact into a partnership.

Produce excellent content

Don’t cut corners, and don’t just throw something together. Producing excellent, compelling content that engages their readers and produces positive results is the number one factor in having a site ask you to contribute again.

Optimize your site

Having great content that accomplishes all the previously stated goals can all be for naught if users follow the link to your site and end up struggling through an unattractive, difficult to navigate site. Host sites will quickly cut ties with guest bloggers who don’t maintain well-optimized sites of their own.

The bottom line

Guest blogging is one of the most effective methods available in online business today. Few, if any, marketing techniques can provide so many positive benefits for the cost of something you are probably already doing for your own site. Follow these steps to get your business started in guest posting and watch your marketing jump to the next level.

How Cloud Computing Increases Diversity in Accounting

Technology has historically been regarded as a leading driver of social mobility and change. The tech industry has also garnered a bad reputation with regards to diversity and inclusivity. Highly skilled, digitally fluent people of color are finding other industries in line with their quantitative interests where technology allows them to excel.

This trend is particularly apparent in the accounting industry, and creates opportunities for small and mid-sized firms to hire top tech talent if they have the right digital infrastructure. Cloud-based advances in accounting technology have been quietly reshaping the industry and creating new opportunities for the next generation of accountants.

Current trends show that the next generation of tech-savvy accountants will be much more diverse, upending the status quo in accounting to date and enabling minorities to gain more access to leadership positions. By switching to the cloud, small to mid-sized accounting firms have the opportunity to lead the way when it comes to demonstrating successful best practices regarding diversity in technology-driven industries.

Let's take a look at what businesses can learn from the recent and projected strides made by the accounting industry. 

Why tech-savvy minorities are looking to accounting to achieve success

American tech companies have struggled with diversity and creating a positive, inclusive environment for decades. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 83 percent of tech executives are white and favored for promotions at all levels. This prejudicial trend has not gone unnoticed by non-white employees. According to a Kapor Center study, nearly 40 percent of exiting employees left their jobs because of unfairness and 85 percent observed unfair treatment among others. Culture concerns of this magnitude are an especially important indicator for current students and aspiring employees, who are still deciding how to shape their futures.

The accounting industry is much more representative of the population; according to a 2017 study by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), white staff comprise 78 percent of staff at CPA firms while minority staff represent 22 percent. Seventy-seven percent of the United States population is white and 23 percent are minorities – only a one percent difference, meaning the accounting industry is 30 percent more diverse than tech. While diversity ratios decrease into upper management, strong diversity in the pipeline is a promising starting point for the next generation of accounting leadership, starting with small to mid-sized firms.

How cloud is making the difference, and what companies can do about it

How is the cloud involved? Cloud-based accounting technology is creating new opportunities for success, attracting a diverse group of new accountants put off by the tech industry. Accounting was largely a transactional role, historically, with accountants hired to manually manage payroll, pay bills and file taxes. Advances in cloud-based technology have commoditized most of those routine repetitive processes. This has created time for accountants to add value where computers cannot.

Future CPAs will function in more strategic capacities, with room for growth and the ability to form meaningful connections – which research says supports greater employee success and happiness. The next generation of accountants will therefore act more like financial advisors, or “virtual CFOs” to their clients, providing strategic insight and advice based on a 360-degree view of their clients’ finances. This value building structure is effectively repositioning accounting as a consulting industry, which plays a key role in attracting aspiring CPAs.

Many CPA firms are already adopting this technology to grow their practices and retain top talent, reshaping the career horizons for incoming and future CPAs.

This opportunity is particularly important for small to mid-sized firms that are more nimble, and can digitally transition their infrastructure to cloud-based systems faster and with greater ease than larger firms. This gives smaller firms an edge over their larger competitors when it comes to recruiting the best minority talent, provided they can equip these incoming CPAs with the digital infrastructure they need to succeed. Firms that don’t make that transition are already suffering from decreased employee engagement, a trend that will continue as more of their competitors make the transition to the cloud.

The diverse future of accounting 

As technology shapes accounting into a more advisory, strategic role, students of color are recognizing opportunities within the industry to leverage cloud technology as the key to their success. These highly-skilled, quantitative students see CPA-centric technology as the key to a successful future in a diverse, welcoming environment, unlike that offered by the tech industry.

Small to mid-sized firms have a unique opportunity to capitalize on this growing, diverse base of top talent by upgrading their digital infrastructure and transitioning to the cloud faster than their competitors.

This rapidly ballooning group is showing no signs of slowing down, and the tools and technology that they build into their careers now will support their future success. As more minority CPAs succeed, this in turn will lead to more minority representation in accounting leadership roles, especially at smaller, more nimble firms, making accounting the bellwether for successful integration of diversity and technology.

3 Important Steps When Bringing in New Technology to Your SMB

For many entrepreneurs, these must be the most interesting times to run a business.

At every turn, some tech startup is coming up with a new solution to a problem businesses struggle with. From 3D printers that can generate spare parts in minutes to AI bots that can run your customer service department, technology is changing every facet of everyday business operations.

Still, bringing in new technology isn't without its challenges. It's often a double-edged sword, especially for SMBs. One MIT study found that 63 percent of managers interviewed did not believe the pace of tech adoption within their respective organizations was sufficient, with most reporting a huge discrepancy in the way staff members understood the benefits of newly implemented tools.

Splashing resources on the newest tech can make any business extremely competitive, but it can also bring organizational and strategic disruption, financial losses, and a whole list of negative effects that can leave any SMB scrambling to rebuild. As such, it is important to prepare your business for even the slightest of technological additions around the office.

Here are a few important things to do before jumping into the next tech trend.

1. Ensure your infrastructure can handle it.

The past few years have seen significant breakthroughs in business technology, with the likes of machine learning, blockchain and quantum computing receiving significant press. However, much less attention has been paid to the infrastructure that powers them, which often sees startups and SMBs incorporate technology blindly without understanding what is required to integrate and maintain them.

Bringing in new technology should always begin with thorough infrastructure assessments to ensure different elements of your business can work with the tech. Assessments should cover your network infrastructure, end-user devices such as desktops, disaster management capabilities, servers (both physical and cloud-based solutions), and data storage and recovery capabilities.

The resulting assessment report will show you how well your business can handle any new tech installations and help you prepare for any future tech demands.    

2. Mitigate internal technology risks.

Even with an in-depth infrastructure assessment report, business owners must take into account the risks associated with bringing in new technology. Every new piece of software or hardware around the office opens up your business to dozens of potential threats – not just external threats, but also from internal elements.

While external threats have been well documented in recent years, internal vulnerabilities remain largely out of the spotlight. Internal threats can take many forms but often center around poorly trained, unmotivated and sometimes malicious employees. In the U.S., for instance, new technology within the healthcare industry contributes to the rise of financial abuse, a worrying trend for businesses in this industry. Financial abuse costs victims and businesses over $2.8 billion annually, thanks to employees who either don't understand the new technology or take advantage of newly installed systems – such as integrated payment systems – to siphon funds from unsuspecting customers, causing huge losses for businesses.

Therefore, to mitigate such risks, never bring in new technology without the involvement of your staff. Implementing a CRM system, for instance, without teaching your employees how to feed data and process the outcomes might do more damage than good. Invest in workshops, seminars and online training programs on a continuous basis way before implementation, making sure to subject them to regular monitoring and evaluation schemes at all stages of integration.     

3. Take your time.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, always resist the impulse to rush, even when every other competitor is diving in. According to the 2018 edition of the Gartner Hype Cycle, blockchain, AI, internet of things and many other tech trends will achieve maturity in 5-10 years, making them grossly overhyped for many SMBs. Consequently, businesses that rush into decisions involving such technology run the risk of systemic failure down the line.

Rather than overhauling whole systems and workflows within your business, start small and scale as you grow. For instance, instead of moving whole operations to the cloud, start by implementing simple cloud-based solutions such as Office 365 that will allow everyone around the office to familiarize themselves with the cloud. After months or years of using these simple solutions, it will be easier for everyone to naturally migrate to more complex solutions when the time comes.

At the end of the day, 7 out of 10 businesses will fail at some point, so make sure your business's latest tech adoption isn't among the potential reasons for failure. Focus more on value addition than on playing catch-up, and don't underestimate the value of going low-tech or avoiding technology altogether when your business relationships are at risk. 

MIT Sloan Management Review

Dedication from Mohan Subramaniam: Bala Iyer, my research collaborator and a dear friend of many years, sadly passed away recently. I would like to dedicate this article to his memory.

IBM’s purchase of Red Hat is the largest acquisition in the history of software. According to The Wall Street Journal, this $33 billion acquisition is expected to shore up IBM’s position in cloud computing services. Yet, this is an expensive bet to seek parity with other cloud service providers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Just a few years back, IBM was betting the farm on artificial intelligence through its Watson platform. That strategy has yet to deliver promised results. Is it going to be any different this time with Red Hat?

First, it’s important to look at the appeal of this acquisition. Red Hat’s business model is built on the Linux operating system, which came to the fore in the 1990s. Over the years, Linux has emerged as a stable and reliable OS that supports a vast ecosystem of software developers that meets most computing needs of users and enterprises, spanning all kinds of industries across the globe. In addition to its popularity and widespread use in computing devices (from desktop to mobile to smart devices and household appliances), Linux is open source software, available for free.

So why did IBM place such a big bet on free software? Why is this any different from its earlier bet on AI-driven Watson?

To understand the change in IBM’s expectations, it’s important to understand the modern IT industry stack. This stack has three layers — infrastructure (consisting of hardware, operating systems, and middleware), applications, and a newly emerging AI and analytics layer. An AI engine that resides in this new layer is designed to solve specialized problems based on transactional data in the applications layer. For example, H&R Block’s applications layer may automate taxpayer information, calculate returns, file returns with the IRS, and prepare clients for refunds. Watson’s AI engine, with its intelligence on millions of tax codes, can identify unique tax saving opportunities or inadvertent errors that the standard algorithms in the applications layer may have missed. In doing so, it complements the applications layer in unique and specific ways.

IBM expected to see an exponential growth in the demand for such specialized, complementary add-ons to all kinds of applications. It hoped to benefit from an IT spend on AI similar to that of the applications layer. That reality did not pan out, as IT spend on AI remains a fraction of what companies spend for their applications layer.

By contrast, IBM’s investment in Red Hat is a bet for expanding into cloud infrastructure. Red Hat’s heavy investments in cloud services and the Linux OS connect to the infrastructure layer. With the acquisition of Red Hat, IBM can expect demand for its infrastructure solutions to grow and to make inroads into the cloud services sector by shoring up its position in cloud computing.

Migrating to cloud-based services has become a mainstream effort among enterprise companies, as the cloud offers many benefits:

Freedom from lock-in. Companies can switch cloud providers to suit their needs without fear of being locked in to a permanent hardware solution. Accessibility and self-service. Cloud services can be accessed from differing devices and platforms globally, and companies have the ability to scale up or down services when needed. Service and workflow plug and play. This supports a suite of cloud services and workflows that allow the realization of business processes and functions within a cloud-type environment. Increased transparency. Enterprises have the ability to verify and manage the history, location, and application of their data in the cloud for traceability purposes and compliance issues.

Although these benefits are well-known, only 20% of companies worldwide have moved to a cloud-based infrastructure. However, further growth is inevitable, and IBM estimates this market will grow to $1 trillion in value. Going back to IBM’s recent acquisition, it’s important to note that Linux, Red Hat’s main investment, controls over 95% of the infrastructure software market, and this number is rising. This gives IBM ownership of the largest percentage of software used in the infrastructure layer.

With this acquisition, IBM is initiating a new battle that while emanating from the cloud is likely to have more widespread aftereffects. An immediate consequence may be more intense confrontations for market share vis-à-vis key competitors in the multi-cloud environment, especially Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. IBM may aggressively go after more market share in cloud computing, given that Red Hat provides a more seamless interaction of its cloud infrastructure and an edge over its rivals. Given that a bulk of Red Hat’s software is open source and will continue to be available to all competitors, the degree of advantage for IBM here remains to be seen. Nonetheless, IBM now has the opportunity to benefit from a built-in community of approximately 8 million developers on the Linux platform, which also gives them the opportunity to influence and incentivize the community to better integrate middleware and apps with the Linux OS.

Another consequence may be farther off but could have an outsize impact in the cloud-computing market. Because of its dominance in the infrastructure layer, every cloud player — including market leaders Amazon, Google, and Microsoft — has to interact with Red Hat whenever they introduce a new application or service above their infrastructure layers. Red Hat consequently becomes a sensor for IBM, helping it to not only sense and interpret competitive moves in the cloud, but to acquire early signals for the kinds of applications or services that are trending or growing in demand from global users. Thus, IBM takes its battle with its key competitors not just to the infrastructure layer but to the layers above as well. Red Hat offers the opportunity for IBM to consolidate its competitive strength in all its layers, including the one where Watson’s AI platform sits.

The competitive asymmetry mushrooming from the Red Hat acquisition will soon be evident (if it’s not already) to IBM’s competitors. They will plan their own countermoves — whether in the cloud or in the other layers remains to be seen. A strategic competitive battle has just begun, and while it started in the cloud, it is inevitably going to impact all layers of the modern IT stack.

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