2013 MN Blogger Conference Recap

In case you missed it last weekend, we thought we’d share some of the recap posts, photos and slide decks from the fourth-annual MN Blogger Conference.

Already looking forward to 2014!

Images for the memories – from @kayloire

Reflections after the MN Blogger Conference  – from @jenieats

A MN Blogger Conference Recap – from @kevinmjack

The MN Blogger Conference – from @thebashawblog

Thoughts from the MN Blogger Conference – from @backyard_life

I’ll Tumblr for Ya – from @noraborealis

Google Analytics 101: Tips for Becoming a Better Blogger – from @jeffalytics
Note: Photos courtesy of @myklroventine and @mnheadhunter
Posted in Conference 2013 | 1 Comment

Q & A with #MNBlogCon Closing Keynote Panel Speaker Greg Swan

By Monika Melsha

It was a true pleasure preparing to learn a little bit more about our panelist Greg Swan. @gregswan is SVP brand innovation and digital strategy at @webershandwick / @wsmpls as well as a music blogger at @perfectporridge. Take this quick journey with us now and plan to stay at Minnesota Blogger Conference™ from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. for our Final Keynote – “The Future of Blogging.”

1. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your professional career thus far?

I’ve loved working with people from such diverse backgrounds, interests and passions. It’s also been a fantastic learning experience writing blogs for over a decade and getting the opportunity to work with bloggers on the marketing side. Most of all, I love working with brands and people who are excited for what’s next. We forget that blogs and social media are very young, and yet their impact to the business world and our everyday lifestyle has been significant. What has changed will change again, and I love that it’s my job to discern upcoming trends and put them into context.

2. Do you feel you’ve needed to make any adjustments to be more effective in various career roles over the years?


My life’s theme is “iteration.” Adaptation and being open to change are critical to staying on top of trends, working with different personalities and learning from others. It’s critical to remember there is always someone smarter, faster and better at things than you. The opportunity comes from seeking out those talents and knitting them together.

3. For which blog does the writing you do give you the most personal satisfaction?

I started a LiveJournal in 1999, interned at an alternative newspaper, graduated from Journalism school, founded an arts newspaper, started my music blog in 2004, wrote for (the now defunct) Minneapolis Metroblog, our company’s blog and manage a personal blog and Tumblr, too. Writing and storytelling are part of me, and I love how technology makes it possible to amplify this passion. As I’ve had kids and life has gotten more busy, I’m writing less but sharing more. I can’t pick a favorite. They are all necessary and if you took them all away, I think I would need to move to rural Idaho and change everything about my life. I would also grow a beard, I think.

4. When did your love of music take root? Do you play any instruments? Are there any instruments that you’ve always wanted to learn?

My mom was a music teacher growing up, and that side of my family is very musical. My sister and I inherited a large instrument collection 20 years ago, and I play many of them (terribly). Of note, I bought a didgeridoo off of Craigslist a few years ago and am still perfecting my style. If only the dogs would stop barking.

5. Thinking back on all the things that you have been recognized for, which are you most proud of?

Being named to PR Week’s 40 Under 40 was a great honor but only because it was actually a reflection of a team of colleagues who do awesome work and make doing the work an absolutely joy to tackle together. I’m less concerned about awards and accolades than doing amazing work with a team of passionate peers who share a common value system.

6. If you had to pick one thing to share about yourself that most people don’t know about you, what would you chose?


Horatio Jones was my 5th Great Grandfather. He was captured by the Seneca tribe in late 1700s, adopted by a Native American family, and later served as an interpreter and cultural liaison for the US government for treaties and archiving the tribe’s history. It seems storytelling, crossing cultural divides and a love of the outdoors runs deep in my family.

7. Do you have a bucket list of things to accomplish in your career before you retire? What are three things on that list?

I want to buy something with my cell phone from a vending machine in Tokyo. I want to check-in at the Oval Office on Foursquare. I want to do something so entirely unique and outrageous that it changes a paradigm.

8. Who is the musical performer that you would most enjoy meeting & sharing a discussion over a meal with?

I would love to eat sushi with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and ask him deeply personal questions about art in 2014, the court of public opinion, the broken music industry, nation-building politicians, and being a father.

about-monikaMonika is currently a RPS Marketing Services Program Manager for US Bank executing multi-channel Portfolio Marketing campaigns and has 20+ years marketing experience in Health Club Management, Loyalty Marketing Operations, Credit Card Marketing, Account Management and Vendor Management. Her personal blogs are melshaunplugged.tumblr.com & http://nightlightjourneys.blogspot.com/. She is pleased to be a contributor on this year’s Minnesota Blogger Conference™ planning team.

Posted in Conference 2011 | 1 Comment

Help create the first-ever #mnblogcon t-shirt

For the first time ever, we’ll be giving away a variety of #mnblogcon “merchandise” at the MN Blogger Conference on Oct. 12. One of those items will be the official #mnblogcon t-shirt!

And, we’d like your help creating it!

We’re planning to stick the #mnblogcon logo on the back (see below) of the t-shirt.

But, we’d like your help–the Minnesota community of bloggers–in choosing the “catch phrase” for the front of the t-shirt.

The #mnblogcon planning committee has brainstormed a few options. Please see below and vote for your favorite by:

* Leaving a comment below

* Posting on Twitter using the #mnblogcon hash tag, or

* Posting to our #mnblogcon Facebook page

Here are the options:

1) I came. I saw. I blogged.

2) Blogging: It’s not for the weak.

3) I blog therefore, I am.

4) Blog. Hard.

5) Minnesota blogs. Nice.

6) Nice. Blog.

We’ll be tallying the results and making a decision by end of day today (Tuesday, Oct. 1).

Like I said, we’ll be giving away the t-shirts to lucky #mnblogcon participants on Oct. 12. We may even give away a few to folks online!

Thanks, in advance, for your help. Looking forward to seeing some of you on Oct. 12!

Posted in Conference 2013 | 2 Comments

Google Analytics Counsel for Bloggers from #MNBlogCon Speaker Jeff Sauer

Interview by Christina Milanowski


Jeff Sauer  - MIMA Board 2011

I recently had a chance to sit down with Jeff Sauer (@Jeffalytics) to pick his brain aboutall things blogging, Google Analytics and, well, Jeffalytics. We’re so excited he’s on this year’s stellar line-up of Minnesota Blog Conference speakers! Read on to learn more about Jeff and catch him on October 12 in his noon breakout session.

1) Jeff, can you tell me more about your blogging background?

I started blogging as a college student, before I knew what a blog was. As a budding programmer, I created my own content management system for posting stupid thoughts on the Web and named it “random thoughts.” This started in the year 2000 at jeffsauer.com and has continued sporadically ever since. In addition to that site I have created somewhere around 100 WordPress sites for friends, family and clients and taught many others how to get started in blogging. My current focus is on two blogs: 1) Jeffalytics.com, where I share in-depth digital marketing research and case studies, and 2) Jeffsetter.com, where I talk about my travel experiences, how to earn points and miles and how to use points and miles for inexpensive travel. My next goal is to never be involved with another website with the name Jeff in it.


2) What do you plan on divulging in your #MNBlogCon talk about, “Using Google Analytics to become a better blogger?”

 Most bloggers are either scared to look at their analytics reports or don’t go beyond looking at the number of visits their site receives. Heck, some bloggers don’t even use Google Analytics to measure what is happening on their site! They are in the minority, as 75 percent of all websites use Google Analytics to track website activity. My talk aims to empower bloggers to dive deep into the robust Web analytics offerings from Google and use this information to become a better blogger. Attendees will gain a better understanding on how they are faring with search engines, what content performs best, and how many people perform positive actions upon visiting their sites (e.g. How often goals are achieved).

I will also share a wealth of resources for making yourself more efficient with Google Analytics, share pro tips that are normally only reserved for advanced users, and give insight into how analytics may play a role in the future success of his or her blog. The key to future success is deeply rooted in your past performance. Using GA to inform future content choices is a key aspect of being a better blogger.

3) Many blog platforms already have analytics built in – what’s the best use of Google Analytics that supplements the most common blog metrics already accessible to them?

 Most blog “stats” platforms are focused on page views. I view “stats” as an entirely different level of consciousness as Google Analytics. Stats can be used to build a report, but analytics can be used to tell a story. As bloggers, we surely understand the importance of telling stories, so it is best to ditch the surface level stats programs and move on to something more powerful. The stats built into blog platforms don’t show you the big picture and don’t even come close to allowing you to tell a story. They are focused on the “what,” whereas Google Analytics allows you to understand the “why.”

4) What is a metric from GA that most bloggers and website owner don’t know about, but should?

While there are many metrics in GA that are probably under-utilized by bloggers, I think that the most important thing to configure right away is tracking goals in GA. All bloggers should ask themselves the question “what is the purpose of this website” and then configure goals in Google Analytics to track how often your visitors are achieving that purpose. Once you start tracking goals in Google Analytics, every other report becomes much more useful.

5) What do you think are qualities of a GOOD blog or, conversely, a BAD blog?

A good blog is one that connects with loyal readers and provides a consistently engaging experience to visitors. A beautifully designed blog may not resonate with anyone, whereas the ugliest blog in the world may get hundreds of comments per post. I have found that the most successful blogs are not an island, but rather a participant in a larger ecosystem of like-minded people. Finding a niche is important for blogs and keeping posts on target with that niche are vital to building a loyal following. Sticking to a consistent schedule is also very important. This is the reason why I decided to separate my writing into multiple blogs, so that I can connect with each audience individually. Unfortunately, sometimes that has come at the expense of posting consistently.

6) Based on your background in search marketing at Three Deep Marketing, what do you bloggers need to know about drawing visitors through search engines?

While achieving large amounts of organic search traffic to websites is becoming more difficult as competition heats up and Google updates its algorithm, blogs are very well equipped for future search engine success by nature of what they represent. Blogs naturally produce content that is high quality, user focused and has strong engagement with visitors. Google is looking to connect searchers with the best possible result and well-written blogs with strong social media signals will perform well into the future. Try to write your posts in the language that people use in conversation and you will do increasingly well in keyword searches.

7) Recently there’s been a lot of chatter about what makes a great blog headline or email subject line (e.g. use numbers, personality, action words). What’s your two cents on the topic?

I seem to notice certain elements in blog post headlines that keep on showing up over and over again. List posts are extremely popular, but often over used. Conclusive words (like Ultimate, Complete, Definitive) often make posts sound formidable, but are now becoming a cliché as well. If you write a post that is 1,000 words, it is likely not definitive. That is, unless you are writing about how to tie your shoes. An amazing tool that I have been using lately to generate titles is the content idea generator by Portent out of Seattle. Simply enter your topic and you will receive more thought provoking post titles than you will know what to do with.

8) What was online and marketing like or defined as when you started your business, and what has it morphed into today?

When I first started in the business, the online marketing industry was not even 10 years old. While there were ample opportunities to make money online, there was an inherent immaturity in the industry. That immaturity came from both young entrepreneurs diving into the online world with minimal experience, as well as too little time for the industry to begin to mature.

Today the online marketing industry has just started to get out of adolescence and enter into young adulthood. That means we are becoming more mature every year, but we still have a lot of room to grow. As a business owner, it’s all about bringing our company into maturity by improving our processes for doing work while maintaining flexibility to adjust to an ever-changing world. It is the mature companies that will last the longest in the end.

About the interviewer:

christinaChristina Milanowski is a blogger at MaccaPR and serves as social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. She serves on the planning committee for #MNBlogCon.

Posted in Conference 2013 | Leave a comment

Q&A with Minnesota Food Blogger, #MNBlogCon Speaker Kate Selner

Interview by Christina Milanowski


I’m pleased to introduce you to Kate Selner (@KateNTheKitchen), long-time local blogger at Kate in the Kitchen. Kate will be speaking alongside Ed Kohler, Kate Arends and Aaron Wahlstrom in a panel session that kicks off this year’s Minnesota Blog Conference. Read on to learn more about this Midwest faith-driven nature girl whostrives to tell stories that matter – with a fork in hand!

1. Kate, what do you plan on divulging in your #MNBlogCon “How I got started blogging” talk?

I hope it’s a good exchange of questions and answers that’s casual and wholly organic in nature. I hope that we all can share what inspired us to begin this journey and, really, what’s held us together and kept us going.

2. Can you tell us a little more about the beginnings of your blog, why did you start it and what have been your biggest ah-ha moments as a food and lifestyle blogger in Minnesota?

I had just left the 18-month culinary arts program at St. Paul College in the Spring of 2006, where I’d immersed myself in food daily, with 20 other people who were just as driven and excited about food as I was. We cooked, talked, explored, ate and argued over food, a discourse that I embraced and enjoyed and when it ended, I had no outlet for that passion. I needed that outlet to talk about food, as well as for the enormous desire to use my writing skills. A blog was a perfect option.

3. Who are your peers in the blogosphere, and how do you stay connected?


The best part about the rise of the food community in the Twin Cities is the ability to find the deep friendships that come from the sharing of good food together, and I love the relationships I’ve built through this means. Staying connected is easy with social media, but the friendships that have moved beyond 140 characters and in to my life, that have sat at my table and clinked a glass with me over a good meal, or sat down in a restaurant and shared life, a plate of food and a glass of wine, those are the ones I value for the sharing of information, the exchange of ideas and plans and the sheer love that comes with enjoying a good meal with each other. Food is the common denominator in all of it. What’s better than that? When a friendship forms around that, with mutual support and admiration, it’s even better.

4. What’s your favorite Kate in the Kitchen blog post of all time and why?

I’ve been blogging for seven years, and have written over a thousand blog posts in that time. Every time I change my site design, I eliminate more posts that have become irrelevant. Is there a favorite? Was there ever a favorite? It’s hard to say. The posts where I open my heart and share what’s in there, the ones that evoke the sense of unity over a shared feeling or expectation, that show me I’m not alone in trying to blog authentically and true to who I am, those are the posts that I’m most proud of, the ones that I feel good about writing. My goal with my blog is to connect to others. When a post does that, it resonates deep with me, and reminds me of why I blog in the first place.

5. Conversely, what’s been your most popular post of all time – and why do you think Internet readers loved it so much?

eggs banana

I wrote a post back in 2007 about the health benefits of bananas that was featured on the Reuters international news site of Health and Wellness. “Banana Facts, Jack,” was posted, re-posted and linked in dozens of different ways. The post contained so much factual information about how good bananas are for you, and that made it travel far, and fast.

A second post, that was picked up by The Kitchn website was a post I wrote about baking an egg inside a baked potato shell. At the time, “Inspirational Eggs,” contained some of the best photos I’d taken as a food blogger, which, with the simple point and shoot camera I used then, was saying a lot. It generated multiple days of astronomical hits on my blog, and was linked to for more than a month afterwards. It was just a simple experiment that I did, a delicious idea that was culled by a very well-know site. It was pretty unique and I think that’s why people enjoyed it so much.

5. How do you interact with brands and companies, and what’s your opinion on sponsored posts?

I will not do any sponsored post on products that I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen and I decline way more offers that I ever accept. I research products before even accepting samples offered, and if I can’t, I won’t accept them. I want to know that a product isn’t made with a bunch of chemicals and additives, that it contains pure ingredients and will be a good food to eat. When you see a product review on my blog, it’s because I believe it’s a good thing, has value for the consumer and merit as a product.

6. What do you like to do in your spare time and, most importantly, what’s your favorite food 🙂

I read incessantly in my spare time. I love knowing what people are talking about with regards to food; I love seeing how people are changing what they eat and how it’s made. I love to read history, too, especially anything on natural history. I read literary magazines and magazines that provoke thought and share remedies for healthy living in the mind and body. I exercise regularly too, love to garden, spend time at my lake home and with good friends. I’m crazy about my two cats as well.

And my favorite foods change with the seasons, so right now I love tomatoes from my garden. In a month, the root vegetable love will take over. I eat mostly plant-based foods, with a little meat, raised humanely.

7. What have you learned along the way about yourself?

Writing a blog is an act of self-promotion, without a doubt. You need to have a pretty high opinion of yourself to sit down and share it with the world like we do, as there’s a lot of ego involved. It’s a snapshot into someone else’s life, and it makes me examine what I’m doing within my life so that I feel it’s as authentic as possible. It’s pretty easy to share only certain aspects of yourself online, as no one can really know what’s real and what isn’t; the community I’ve found because of it has given me a deeper appreciation of knowing and understanding the person behind the scenes, both in myself and in others. I don’t over-share, but what you see on my blog is the real me. That’s very important to me.

8. What’s your advice to the new, mid-level or established blogger?

At any level of blogging, be true and authentic to who you are and write from the heart. Be willing to share the triumphs and the trials, the good and bad, the messes and weaknesses, and don’t hide behind some perceived notion of perfection, or what you think should be posted on your blog. Don’t follow the herd. Ever. Don’t ever mimic the style of others. Find your own voice, create your own style, make your own niche and write what you want. Be consistent, but allow for natural changes through the years, a progression to what you are truly passionate about.

christinaChristina Milanowski is a blogger at MaccaPR and serves as social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. She serves on the planning committee for #MNBlogCon. Stay tuned for more speaker interview posts!

Posted in Conference 2013 | 2 Comments

#mnblogcon Schedule Announcement

Announcing the 2013 #mnblogcon Schedule!

For the last three years, some of the best and most prolific Minnesota bloggers have spoken at the MN Blogger Conference.

Lee Odden, Kate Hopper, Julio Ojeda-Zapata, Patrick Rhone, Lauren Melcher, Erik Hare, Mykl Roventine, David Erickson, James Lilkes, and Nancy Lyons, just to name a few.

We’re proud to announce today the topic and speaking line-up for the 2013 MN Blogger Conference, which will be held on Sat., Oct. 12 at Concordia University:

“How I got started blogging”  – Ed Kohler (@edkohler), Kate Selner (@katenthekitchen), Kate Arends, and Aaron; moderator: Paul DeBettignies (@mnheadhunter) (OPENING KEYNOTE)

“Bringing out your passion in your blog” – Sara Lien, Zhenya Hutson (@beingzhenya), Jennifer Prod (@jenniferprod); moderator: Amanda Ingle (@amandaingle)

“I’ll Tumblr for you”  – Nora Pulmort (@noraborealis)

“How to grow your blog via community, e-newsletter and search” – John Bonnes (@twinsgeek), James Svoboda (@realicity), Emma Wilhelm (@emmasota); moderator: Alex Haider (@alexhaider)

“Legal issues and blogging”  – Anna Berend (@motherlylaw)

“Using Google Analytics to become a better blogger”  – Jeff Sauer (@jeffsauer)

“A Non-Designers Guide to WordPress” – Mykl Roventine (@myklroventine)

“How to mobilize your Blogging”  – Curt Prins (@curtprins)

“How to Blog for a Living”  – Sven Schneider (@gentsgazette)

“The Future of Blogging”  – Greg Swan (@gregswan), Blois Olson (@bloisolson), David Brauer @dbrauer); moderator: Julio Ojeda-Zapata (@ojezap) (CLOSING KEYNOTE)

Registration for the 2013 MN Blogger Conference will begin this Thursday, Sept. 12, at 9 a.m. Follow @mnblogcon for all the latest information.

Tickets typically go fast, so be sure to be following along at 9 a.m. on Thursday. If you miss your chance then, no worries. We’ll be offering up two more rounds of tickets on Monday, Sept. 16 and Wed., Sept. 18, too.

Hope to see you on Oct. 12 at the 2013 MN Blogger Conference!

Posted in Conference 2011 | 5 Comments

Want to present at #mnblogcon on Oct. 12?

Want to present to more than 150 fellow bloggers from across the great state of Minnesota on Oct. 12 at Concordia University in St. Paul? Here’s your chance!

Were looking for three speakers who can speak to topics that are relevant to the beginner and advanced blogger.

We’re giving you two weeks to put together your best proposal. Here’s what we need from you:

  • Send an email with your idea for a session, including suggested title and short description to arik@arikhanson.com.

  • Include 3 bullets that highlight what you hope bloggers will learn as a result of your session.

  • Include relevant speaker experience you may have (not a requirement, but ideally, would like to see bloggers with some speaking experience).

  • Finally, include a short bio and head shot/photo with your note.

We’ll take submissions through Friday, Aug. 30. After we’ve received all the submissions, the #mnblogcon planning team will cull through them to select the three lucky winners (who will then be notified by email).

Good luck! Looking forward to seeing some great ideas from our wonderful Minnesota bloggers!

Posted in Conference 2011 | 7 Comments