Bots & Blogs

In my recent blog travels, sometimes known as checking on the other guys, I came across the topic of bots.  These “web robots” are basically software applications that perform automated tasks.  Many, in fact, are programmed to act like humans, so when you talk to them it seems as if you’re asking a fellow being for help instead of simply typing a search item into a search engine.

Hurrah.  Another [new] realm to explore.  Not sure if I should be worried, unhappy and/or stressed, thanks to that technically-challenged [now officially technically-behind] thang of mine, or simply suck it up and gleefully go with the flow.

There are different types of bots—or chatbots as some call them (you say poe-tay-toe, I say poh-tah-toh)—but let’s stick to messaging bots.  They ask questions and alert people about new info.  And they’re not just little mechanical devices anymore; they’re drivers that prompt action.  Some would say they’re similar in concept to email lists—i.e. they notify followers [of something significant].

Use bots to your [blogging] advantage.  Launch one of these chatty avatars, or virtual assistants, to inform followers when you’ve posted, are going to provide instruction or advice (lessons, as the case may be), or are about to host an event such as a contest or podcast.  Have one connect with your landing page viewers.  Invite visitors to subscribe and provide a bit of background as to why they might like to do so.  Make sure your bot is relevant (of interest) to your given followers.

There are tons of bot-related tools and sites.  Given bots are relatively simple to set-up and manage (so they say), you can transfer content as questions and answers, and allow a no-coding platform to handle the rest.  (I’ll leave it to you to do your due diligence and check them out.  Please feel free to share your findings.)

We bloggers know how tough—hear, hear—it can be trying to keep ourselves in the public eye and gain more followers.  We constantly have to find ways to engage people, be it through blog design or content (as examples).  Bots, however, can help simplify things because we don’t have to be available all the time: they can reply on our behalf, share our posts, and provide useful feedback re commencing certain actions.

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Like our blogs, bots should reflect who we are, what we’re about, so creating a memorable bot is key.  We should ensure our happy l’il fellas/gals prove fetching, providing the right info when asked— and with a bit o’ panache.  They’re not perfect yet, but like good wine, they’ll improve with time.

Looks like another “must do” to add to the [growing] list.  <LOL>

Happy bot-ing.

A Dollar Here, A Dollar There

Recently, I purchased angel affirmation cards.  One I seem to pull regularly suggests I consider crowdfunding.  (For those unsure, crowdfunding is the financial backing of a project or venture by securing several small amounts of money from a considerable number of people via the Internet, by and large.)

Unless The Triple Threat Investigation Agency were developed into a film venture, I [personally] would never crowdfund, but as JJ often declares: never say never.  Anyway, way too long story short, it again got me thinking [again] about earning money via a blog.

So, on a similar note to crowdfunding, let’s consider donations—i.e. soliciting for contributions from readers and followers.  Is it a viable method to make some ca$h?  The consensus is yes, but the optimum phrase here: some cash.  While it’s certainly possible to earn a whack of cash, chances are—for the majority of us—we won’t make enough to sustain a living.

Your blog can feature a call-to-action donation button, be it in the form of a PayPal plug-in or one personally designed.  Tip jars are similar in concept.  If you’re going for it, make certain the button stands out and doesn’t get buried in links and the like.  Give thought to placement.

Add a message.  “If you love my blog, perhaps you might consider showing your appreciation” is a bit wordy and vague.  “Donate Now” and “Give Today” are short and sweet.  Maybe too much so?  Perhaps you’ve heard of WordPress’ “Buy Me a Beer” PayPal donation plug-in or “buy me a beer”, “buy me a coffee” requests?  You could entreat the same; it’s not exactly novel nowadays, but hey, it might just work for you.

Consider telling people what the money will be used for; give thought to your reason/need and work with it (you’re the blogger; there’s no shame in blogging about it).  Maybe it’s to pay your blog host?  To fund a blog project?  Honesty has [a lot of] merit.

Some believe the donation button is a thing of the past.  Maybe yes, maybe no.  I still see them in my blog travels.  Depending on who you ask about successful blog donations, you’ll get a “yeah, it’s great” or “no, it doesn’t work”, or something in between.  Requesting donations—and receiving them—tend to work best for bloggers who:

  • don’t have a blog filled with ads and affiliate links
  • have devoted readers/followers
  • provide value-add information and/or services, or
  • cater to a sizable audience.

(Caveat: it’s been said having a donation button when new to the blogging scene can be construed as gauche, among other things.)

donationblog4If you decide to go the donation-request route, make sure to thank those that make contributions (manners are not—yet—a thing of the past).  And if you want to keep it professional/business-like, provide receipts.

Due diligence got me looking at alternatives to traditional donate buttons/plug-ins.  There are a lot of sites out there related to donations.  Flattr, a Swedish “micro-donation provider” sounds interesting.  “Do what you love, make money, effortlessly.  Flattr users automatically pay you as they enjoy your work.  It’s that easy.”  I adore easy.  But with a little more reading, I’m not so sure.  Will have to return and research more intently.  Hmm.  . . . Another post perhaps?

 

The ABCs of . . . Reviewing Reviewed

Hurrah!  I’ve been wanting to do book reviews, but time serious constraints as you know, have made that nearly impossible.  I’ve agreed to do one, because I really like and respect this fellow blogger-writer, who shall remain nameless until the review post is published in two or three weeks.  (The intention [but net yet a bona-fide promise] going forward: do one review every four months, until such time that the ol’ schedule allows for more.)

Past posts have revolved around acquiring reviews, receiving reviews, doing reviews as an income, but not really touched upon the process of writing one.  So let’s look at it from the fiction standpoint (and leave non-fiction for another time).

A review is a critical evaluation and interpretation—yours.  It’s usually short, maybe 1000 words.  It provides followers/readers with a summation of a story and an analytical appraisal.  It generally advises whether said followers/readers will like it.

Make sure to include the following in your review:

  • title and author’s name, which goes without saying
  • genre / theme
  • publication date
  • number of pages
  • price

Just as you would (should) do with your blog posts, hook folks with a snappy/catchy opening sentence and/or heading.  Make them want to read that review from beginning to end.

Take into account the following:

  • title (is it effective, appropriate?)
  • genre (does it conform?)
  • point of view / author’s writing style
  • main character(s)
  • plot and setting / mood and tone
  • believability factors (do the characters seem real?  is the story-line plausible?)
  • connection component (is there something you can relate to?).

Ready to write that review?  Do this:

  • review the book honestly
  • write for your readers (consider your audience)
  • provide a small plot summary
  • include the author’s background (other books written, website/blog, reputation, qualifications)
  • advise/recommend who the book would appeal to and why.

If you loved the book, share why.  If you didn’t like the book, share why, but be fair (never rude or discourteous).  Maybe there’s something that didn’t ring true, or something that could be changed?  reveiwwriting1

To keep it simple, break your book review in these parts: introduction, evaluation, summary and recommendation.  You’ve no doubt seen point or grade systems on different blogs/sites: feel free to use one, but if you’re doing this regularly, stick with the same one.  Consistency and all that.

Happy reviewing.

Liking You, Liking Me

I got to thinking (I excel at that now and again) that while I reply to comments, I never do to likes.  And it dawned on me yesterday, hmmmm, am I being rude by not doing so?

So-o, I decided to ask the great oracle—known as Google—should you respond to likes?  Read some interesting opinions.

Some folks say you don’t need to do a thing; others say it’s nice to say “thank you” for the like because that individual not only took the time to read your post, but found it entertaining, helpful, and/or interesting.  I totally get, and appreciate, that.  Courtesy is a very good thing.

On the flip side, some believe that if you regularly say “thank you” or “thank you for liking me”, or something equally pithy, it does tend to sound mechanical or insincere.  I confess, the odd time I’ve typed this in a response, I’ve pondered that: i.e. am I sounding genuine, because I’m certainly not saying overly much?  But, as an FYI, my thanks has always come from the heart (so maybe I shouldn’t worry so much).

Given most of us want to increase our followers/platform, encouraging and nurturing a relationship or rapport is a must.  Thanking someone for his or her like is a bona fide place to start.  And this need not be to promote business—i.e. you’re hoping to [eventually] sell a product or service.  It could simply be to maintain an on-line “friendship”.  I’ve met a few bloggers I regularly support because I truly, truly like them; they’re personable, write well, and have noteworthy or fun info and thoughts to share.

Maybe you take that “thank you” to another level—thank your “liker” and pose a question (about your post, them, or whatever you believe might be appropriate).  Time is an issue for many of us, and for those that have a lot of followers, engaging every “liker” in an on-line dialog may not always be possible . . . but, you know, it’s not impossible either.  Food for thought.

In “fond farewell” (re today’s post), for those of you who’ve liked me . . .

I’m extending a great big heartfelt THANK YOU!  You truly do make my day.

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We have Lift-Off . . . or . . . Launching your Career with an E-book Launch

What an exhilarating sigh of relief when you’ve completed that final edit and organized all the related elements like formatting and cover design.  Maybe you’ve published and placed it in an e-bookstore.  That’s great.  But it’s going to sit there . . . unless you put out the word (and we’re not talking about those found in your magnum opus).

Long before the e-book is done, consider keeping your readers/followers constantly updated.  Continue building your mailing list (the more, the merrier).  Let your voice be heard across the social media spectrum.  Truly, you need to build that platform.

Provide a progress report now and again.  Ask for feedback on a scene or section, or cover.  Get your followers involved.  Consider pre-selling.  A landing page for your e-book wouldn’t hurt, either.  And don’t discount beta testers for viable feedback.  Apply what you’ve gleaned.

When you’re ready to launch, will you do it in-person or on-line, or both?  To do a live launch, give thought to some [advantageous] factors—are you:

  • super connected (to attract a reasonably sized crowd)
  • able to pull some weight with local media
  • going to rent a room/hall, which also means food/drinks, or
  • suss out a viable venue (perhaps a local coffee shop or lounge, library or educational setting)?

It may even be possible to wangle an in-store book signing.  (A friend was given a small table in a fairly known book chain where he could sit for an afternoon to sell hard copies of his book.  Where there’s a will, there’s [always] a way.)

Give thought to blog tours and guests posts in addition to promotion.  Provide plugs and pitches.  Search for sites that will allow you to promote for free.  Seek reviews and testimonials.  It’s been said (many times) that giving an e-book away free is a good way of acquiring a following and working toward future sales.  There’s probably some truth in that—if you already have a few e-books.

There is sooooooo much advice and guidance out there—some free, some not—that it can prove overwhelming.  Why not ask fellow writers and bloggers about their experiences, what’s worked and what hasn’t?  A lot is trial and error, because we learn best when we do.  And, yes, we may not necessarily succeed the first time, or even the second.  Stick with it.

Now, get out there and create some hoopla (also known as buzz and hype).  Sell your e-book and yourself.  You can do it.  blogsat3

E-Book Ca$h-In$

It’s Linda on post duty today.  The Boss asked me to do the post—more like ordered, actually.  She claimed JJ and I should do our share; Rey can’t take over every time some other “duty” calls her away.  Fine.  So I miss a day of surfing on the North Shore.  <sigh>

Continuing with the theme of making money via your blog, let’s touch upon selling e-books as a potential way.  Given The Boss has three, with a fourth coming out soon, I thought this might be worth discussing.

There are two options re selling e-books on your blog.  #1: look for ones to sell.  #2: write your own and sell.  Let’s opt for the latter and touch upon the other another time.  As JJ might [like to] say: easy-peasey.  In theory, it is.  Create your e-book.  Proofread/edit.  Format it.  Create an appealing cover.  Convert it.  Add the e-book to your blog.  Promote it.

Writing an e-book is super easy.  Writing a great e-book is not.  Depending on what you’ve been writing/blogging, your e-book could serve as a diary or journal, how-to guide, the chapters of a book or work of fiction,  or a “package” of your posts, among other things.

Determine what you’re going to write.  Maybe a popular genre or about a popular topic?  If you don’t know much about either, be aware: you’re going to have to commit a lot of time and effort, and research.  If you’ve got all three to give, have at it.  If you don’t, consider writing about something you know or are comfortable with.

A how-to guide or instructional manual can certainly prove profitable—if it’s of value to your readers/viewers.  Fiction, unless you have a name and/or large following, could prove more difficult, but again, as JJ often asserts: never say never.

If you have a reasonable number of followers, you may want to ask what they’d be interested in.  Get a feel for what direction to take and take it.  Do an outline.  Follow it.  Finish it.

Once completed, consider hiring an editor or proofreader; some are very reasonably priced.  You can also hire someone to design your cover, but give thought to creating your own; there are good, easy-to-use tools out there and many are free!

The world of e-books is different from that of traditional publishing.  There won’t be an agent or a publisher to provide insight or advice, but with some due diligence, you can learn all that’s necessary to carve out an e-book niche—like marketing and promotion, two vital components.

Think about sales: how are you going to make them happen?  The Boss would likely say this in itself is a full-time endeavor.  Maybe yes, maybe no.  But definitely, you will have to dedicate a substantial amount of time, so determine a set schedule (this will enable you to remain committed and focused).

An e-book launch is part of the equation, so contemplate how you’d like to handle that.  (I’ll let The Boss post more on this.)  Price?  Yes, it will make a difference.  Take a look at what other e-book sellers/writers are asking. download (2)

If I’ve tweaked your interest re e-book selling on your blog, I’ve accomplished my mission.  Truly, an e-book could be written solely on e-book selling, there’s just so much information to share.  It’s really about determining what you want to do and then assembling the “building blocks” to make it happen.  Nothing comes easily . . . for most of us.  The success of any endeavor is a result of trial and error, learning what works and what doesn’t.

Look at Rey, JJ and I—we’re still fairly new to the private-eye game.  Our methods can be clumsy, brash or rash, and sometimes quite ineffective.  Ultimately, though, we accomplish what we set out to do.  Blogging and making money at it—through whatever forum you ultimately choose—is no different.  It’s all about gaining knowledge and acquiring experience.  Nobody need be a newbie forever.

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Reviews & Ready Money

Rey’s super stoked about posting these days (who’d have guessed!?).  She provided some worthy ideas for the next making-money-through-blogging post.  I’m going with one: writing reviews, because that’s something I’d like to eventually do [for fellow writers].

Research revealed a number of sites that pay for reviews—and a lot of them sound quite appealing, if not fun.

If you’re new to the idea, the first thing to do is determine what to review.  Certainly the sky’s the limit, but you don’t want to be all over the map.  If you’re going to do product (or service) reviews, you may want to stick to ones that are central to your blog’s niche.  You might also want to give some thought as to whether those products (or services) are ones you’d use.  For example, if your blog is about sharing your travel adventures, perhaps you could review products/services that would appeal to fellow travelers.  Consider your audience.

Become acquainted with what makes for good reviews.  Note how they’re written.  Some are straightforward appraisals; others are personal stories or accounts.  Photos, images and artwork complement reviews, so take those into account, as well.  How will you make your reviews stand out, be eye-catching, and be read?

Write about the pros of the product (or service).  What about it appeals to you?  Why are you promoting it?  Be sincere.  Yes, you can add cons, but don’t be negative, critical, or condescending: be constructive by being factual.  Truly, you’re writing the review to sell, not deter, so bear that in mind.

Three “remember” items:

  • most brands will have review guidelines, so make sure you follow them
  • when you start approaching businesses/sites, include your blog stats and ensure you have a media kit
  • links and tags should be added for all reviews.

Per Rey’s last post, check out FTC regulations; you need to disclose when you’re blogging to receive reimbursement of any kind.  A disclosure can be something as simple as, “I took delivery of this product with the purpose of review, but the opinions provided are solely my own”.  Also, as appropriate, insert something like, “This review is sponsored by XYZ Inc.”.

You’ll want “no follow” for your links (a nofollow tag, as an FYI, is how publishers tell Search Engines not to count some of their links to other pages as “votes” in favor of that content).

Making-money-through-reviews sites are too many to list here.  The following are but an extremely small handful that have received some good reviews themselves—and, again, I’m by no means endorsing any (do your due diligence).

SponsoredReviews.com is a blog post service that “connects advertisers with bloggers willing to write paid posts about their services and products.” You’re able to post written sponsored posts or re-post content that’s appeared elsewhere.

BlogExpose “helps brands increase their exposure through sponsored posts and helps bloggers earn extra money from their blogs”.  There’s also an open job board for bloggers.

SeedingUp enables you to “consistently fill your blog with new ideas and market it efficiently and profitably”.  According to the site, you’re able to earn money “in just a few steps with articles on your blog”.

Get Reviewed enables bloggers to earn money by “sharing honest insights about extraordinary products”.

LinkfromBlog is “a marketplace where Advertisers buy blog reviews from niche blogs”.  You can “write reviews, surveys or opinions of advertisers products and services”.

Blogsvertise: “Our bloggers become your brand advocates capable of amplifying your marketing message quickly and effectively.  When their audience becomes your audience, everybody wins.”

PayPerPost has been touted as one of the more popular blog sponsored review sites.  You have to sign on (Create Account), though, to view anything.  Not wanting to do so [at this time], I didn’t progress beyond the first screen.  But the one question at the top—“Want to make money creating content?”—has me wanting to return.

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Mucho Moola

Moola, moola, moola, moola
Everything is good, and everybody
’s your friend

Jordy Birch’s song (“The Moola Song”) popped in my head and I had to run with it.  Sorta.  <LOL>

The Boss was surprised (stunned, really) when I asked to write another “making money blogging” post.  She cast a skeptical eye, not because she doesn’t think I’m a decent poster or anything like that (I think), but because she never sees me volunteering for things outside my save-the-monk-seal and acting worlds.  . . . Got her good, didn’t I?  <ROTFL>

So, let’s continue with earning income through blogging.  Selling ads and/or becoming involved with Affiliate Marketing, as stated previously, are bona fide ways of earning income.  But what if you don’t want to sell or display ads to your viewers/followers?  That’s okay.  Some folks don’t particularly care for them and will totally ignore or avoid them.

You may want to try the sponsorship route—that is, getting sponsored blog posts through companies that pay you to represent their product, service, or share your experiences with their specific brands.  Sponsored blog posts usually incorporate one or more links to promote the product/service being reviewed and a brand story.

A brand story, by the way, is more than just a “story”, a tale you tell.  It’s a combination of facts, thoughts, analyses and/or explanations.  The intention: to inform your readers, to gain their trust, to make a sale.  You want it to serve as a basis to building your platform (in terms of yourself or the company you’re representing).

Give some thought to what you’re sponsoring/promoting.  Which products and services would you like to have on your blog?  Are they relevant to your blog?  Will the sponsored posts drive traffic?  If not, what do you need to do to make sure they do?

imagin1A sponsored blog post can be written as:

  • a straight-out review
  • an account of how a product or service changed or affected your life
  • a list of pros or awesome (“selling”) facts and features
  • a news-type article
  • a press release
  • a video or deck or presentation, or
  • whatever your imagination dreams up.

No matter which creative route you take for sponsored blog posts, make sure they’re sincere.  Don’t promote or offer something you don’t believe in.  Integrity is everything—you want to be remembered and in a positive way—so be totally truthful with your readers.

I did mention “moola”, so I’ll touch upon getting paid for sponsored posts.  Payment is between you and the sponsor.  Some will pay in cash, others in products or services.  How much effort and time, and extras (like photos, artwork, tutorials) are you going to put into it?  Assess and negotiate accordingly.  And do not sell yourself short.

A quick FYI: publishing sponsored posts requires meeting disclosure laws, so get to know them.

Where did the time go?  I was planning to provide at least one more method of earning money through blogging.  Ah well.  I’ll leave that for The Boss.  As a follow-up to this, though, I may suggest she post about brand stories or maybe getting paid to do reviews, which would also be a viable continuation . . . unless she’s ready to announce a Triple Threat Investigation Agency e-book contest giveaway (she’s been mulling that over and over).

Looking forward to sharing more findings soon, my friends.

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Loving—uh—Making Money

It’s lovely l’il ol’ me again—Rey.  The Boss is off on one of those tangents and asked me to do the first post on making money through blogging.  Apparently, she’d promised to do two or three so a wee while ago.

I’m not into researching or shi-uh-stuff like that, so I told her to forget it.  But she reminded me I was a P.I. and P.I.s investigate; they find things.  Who could <bleeping> argue with that?

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From what I’ve read, making mega bucks through a blog isn’t guaranteed.  It can happen, but you have to be dedicated, commit the time and make the effort.  Blog traffic is going to play a key part, too.

So let’s take a quick gander at a couple of common ways to bring in a few extra bucks (I’ll let The Boss cover others in the next post): Affiliate Marketing and Selling Ads / Google AdSense.

Affiliate marketing is said to be the easiest way of making money.  You get to promote a lot of different products.  Basically, you recommend a product (or service) to your viewers/followers with special tracking links.  You can also join affiliate programs through on-line products and services.  A seller gives you an affiliate code that you use to direct folks to the appropriate site.  In either scenario, you receive a referral fee whenever someone buys something after clicking your link or using that code.

You can also earn fees (commission) through different affiliate program payments.  Pay per sale is money earned when a purchase is completed.  Pay per click is money earned based on the number of people you send to a seller’s site.  And pay per lead is money earned when referred people provide contact info on the seller’s site.  Find out who has what.

What are some good things about affiliate marketing?  It’s cheap: no overhead or production costs to speak of.  The sky’s—er, the world’s—the limit: think “global opportunities”.  No costs; you don’t have to pay to join a program.  You don’t always have to be on-line, but make sure you have your ducks in a row.

As The Boss would say (drives me crazy, but who am I?), do your due diligence.  Get to know what’s out there.   Become skilled at promoting.  Check out Amazon, for example, to see which products you might like to sponsor/support.  Ask viewers and followers if they have an affiliate program you can sign up for.  Discover different affiliate marketing tools and apply them.  Lastly, and maybe most importantly, have a plan.

Perhaps you’re thinking that selling ads might be a bona-fide way of generating income.  It can be; just be aware that price negotiation and admin-related tasks, among other things, enter the equation.  Consider blog traffic and design/navigation, which will play crucial parts in determining how much money you’ll actually earn through ads.

money8Google AdSense is a Google product that lets you place targeted ads on your site with the objective of, yes, making money.  You get paid per click when someone clicks on, or looks at, the ad.  The advertiser will put ads on your blog, so you’re not out any cash.  You’ll also have to create an AdSense campaign, with ads relevant to your site.  Realize money earned can be inconsistent, because every ad click brings in a different amount.  You’ll also have to be approved; so, again, make sure you have those ducks in a row.  Review Google Adsense’s site to see what’s required (uh-huh, that due diligence again).

There’s also the option of selling (“renting”) banner ad space on your blog, which offers some earning wiggle room.  To be successful at this, though, your blog’s traffic has to have wide reach; if it doesn’t, advertisers aren’t going to be overly keen on placing ads on your site.

Look at blogs similar to yours to see what they’re up to.  Maybe they’ll inspire you.  Consult fellow bloggers; they may be willing to share thoughts and processes.

Whatever hat I’m wearing (private eye or actress), I always try to do—and give—my best.  As a blogger, you should too.  If you’re going to become involved in affiliate marketing and/or selling ads, make sure it reflects your blog and you.  That, my friends, is called integrity.

 

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Lookin’ Good with a Logo

?  Logo = Branding  ?

Basically, a logo is a visual (pictorial, illustrative) symbol or representation that identifies you—as an individual, company, or business.  Some might refer to it as a trademark or identity design.  Branding is distinctive name or trademark identifying a product or service, company or business.

Are they the same?  Not really.  But they work hand in hand.  Branding encompasses different components: market/marketing, voice, promotion and positioning, to name but a few.  Brand identity is a broader but more defined approach; it embraces the logo.  It’s said that if brand identity is successful, a person can recognize the brand even if he or she can’t view the logo.

So, let’s touch upon that magical symbol.  I have a new one, er, rather the private-eye gals at The Triple Threat Investigation Agency have one.  It’s simple.  It conveys what the “product” is via the words: Triple Threat Investigation Agency Series.  The magnifying glass and high heel present concepts: sleuth/detective and female.  I like it, but this doesn’t mean others will, of course.  For those following this blog, I’d be happy to receive your valuable input.

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So, what makes a good logo?  Visual appeal, unquestionably.  It should:

  • be crisp, clean, and uncluttered
  • define you, your product or service, company or business
  • be unforgettable.

Because your logo’s going to be around for a while, ensure it’s strong and definitive.

Whether you’re designing your own, or having someone do it for you, go with the one that grabs you: it has to feel as right as it looks.  Make sure to receive feedback, too.  Ask friends and family, coworkers, clients.  Is the message clear?  Does it set you apart from others (specifically, your competitors)?  If your “reviewers” aren’t getting it, your [future] audience likely won’t.  Consider going back to the drawing table.

An appealing, memorable  logo will enable you to connect with your audience . . . and have it remember you.

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