The Business of Ghostblogging

Deconstructing a Post

The headline: "Bed Bugs Get a Man Banned From the Library."

The post: One of Stern's Chatter Blogs, the website for Stern Environmental Group, an exterminator in Secaucus, N.J.

The blogger: "Sqrlgirl."

Sqrlgirl, in fact, does not know her way around a can of DDT, nor does she work for Douglas Stern, the owner of the company. She is actually a ghostblogger with McCord Web Services, an internet marketing firm in Waldorf, Md., who was hired to humanize the company and generate trust, confidence and sales.

Did she succeed? Mostly. Here's what works about this post:

  • It uses a widely reported story about a retired minister whose bedbug-infested apartment infected 31 rare library books--and got him fined $18,000.
  • The headline grabs attention.
  • A breezy style and clear images--an old minister, 200-year-old books, creepy crawlers--help humanize pest extermination. It also conveys an idea anyone can relate to: No good deed goes unpunished.
  • Embedded links lead readers to the real intent of the post: Hiring Stern Environmental Group to solve bedbug problems. For example, the "bed bugs" link leads to a page on Stern's website that serves as a primer and identifies Stern as "The Best Bed Bug Exterminator" in the region.
  • The post also pitches Stern's products, providing links to the PackTite Portable Bed Bug Killing Heat Chamber ($330) and The Bug Oven ($4,100) "for bed bugs in industrial proportions."
  • The blog preys on the weak. By recounting how an infestation threatened the financial viability of a poor, old clergyman, it scares readers into action.

Here's what doesn't work:

  • The post doesn't include enough key search engine words that would help Stern climb higher in a Google ranking.
  • At 309 words, it's too long for an Internet reader.
  • Although the story is engrossing, it does not serve Stern's true mission-- sell, sell, sell--until the final paragraph, especially if the reader doesn't click on the links.
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This article was originally published in the February 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Ghost Speaks.

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