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8 Reasons You Might Not Be Getting Many Comments

A Guest Post by Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing.

No matter how big their blog is, every blogger loves and wants comments. When you’re just starting out, there are few bigger thrills than writing something and having people comment and give you feedback about what you’ve written. Veteran bloggers love comments and also know that the quantity and quality of the comments says a lot about the impact of the particular post in question.

But sometimes you write something that you think is awesome and the comment thread is like a ghost town. To say that this is discouraging is to put it too lightly. Not only does it suck, but it’s enough to make you start thinking that your writing sucks, and it makes it really hard to hit write and hit publish the next time, too.

Here’s the deal, though: just because you’re not getting a lot of comments doesn’t mean that your posts suck. Here are eight reasons why you might not be getting comments – and what you can do about it.

1. Your Posts Are Too Long

While it’s hard to say that long post always get fewer comments – there are a lot of different considerations at play – as a general rule, longer posts set a bigger barrier to commenting. I write a lot of long posts, and I’ve seen this bear out time and time again.

There are two things to keep in mind when you’re writing longer posts: 1) most blog posts are short(er) and 2) your readers are busy. If they’re used to reading 500 word posts on other blogs and then hit your 3,000 word post, they’re might be a bit overwhelmed. It’s not uncommon for them to bookmark your post for reading “when they have time” and move on to the next, shorter post, only to forget to come back and read yours. (For more considerations on blog length, check out Post Length ‚Äì How Long Should a Blog Post Be?)

Some bloggers manage to thrive in the long post format, but you’ve got to understand that you’ll be going against the current if you write in that style. That’s not a bad thing – just understand that you might not get as many comments as if you wrote shorter posts.

Once your post is published, it’s probably best to leave it, though. In the future, see if you can take a long draft of a post and split it into a series or discrete post. Also try varying the tempo of your blog by following a long post with a short post and vice versa.

2. You Haven’t Asked Them to Comment

Sometimes a post just ends and it’s not clear to your readers whether you actually want a response. Because they don’t know whether you want a response or not, they might not comment.

Furthermore, if you don’t answer comments at all or regularly enough, it sends the message that you don’t really value comments. Larger blogs get a pass on this one, since many people understand that bloggers with larger audiences can’t answer every response.

When you conclude a post, ask your readers what they think or end it with a question that makes it clear that you’d like a comment. If you haven’t been responding to comments on your blog, start doing so.

3. They Don’t Know What To Say

Have you ever read a post and were so inspired that you felt that anything you might say wouldn’t do the post service, but at the same time didn’t want to say “Great post!”? Or have you read a post that was so deep or complex that you honestly didn’t know how to respond?

I’m sure you have. Now, why don’t you think that can happen with your own posts?

Before you write off a lack of comments as a sign of your utter brilliance, though, check your post to see if you wrote clearly and simply. Ask if what you wrote was relevant, useful, or interesting to your readers>. And if it is a bit of inspirational awesomeness, consider editing it and including a question or statement that lets people know that you’d appreciate some feedback.

4. They’re Doing What You Told Them To Do

If you give your readers a great tip that requires them to do something to implement it, be prepared for the possibility that they might actually go implement it.

Similarly, if you’re doing a link roll-up and you tell people to go check out the links you’re talking about, there’s a good chance that they might go do that.

I know that this is obvious in hindsight, but it’s easy to forget that our words can influence people into action, and it’s possible to unintentionally steer people away from commenting.

5. They’re Chasing Links On Your Blog

Writing posts that include links to older posts or using plugins that show related posts do have an effect on the number of comments you’ll get. If they click a link that’s midway in your post, they’ll probably read the second post before they comment on the first, and if that second post is linked to others, they might just keep clicking.

It’s for this very reason that you don’t find many links on a sales or landing page, and if you do find them, they eventually lead back to the original page. Marketers know that people will click on the links, and if those links lead away from the original page, that’s probably a lost sale.

While it’s not exactly an exclusive either/or choice, think about the relationship between how long people stay on your blog (due to interlinking) and comments. If you write compelling headlines, there’s a good chance that those related post plugins have an effect on the number of comments you’re getting. Change your linking strategy or consider turning those plugins off a bit if you’d like to see if they’re making a difference.

6. They’re Following Your Social Media Trail

This is very similar to the last two points, but if you’ve given your readers a bunch of different ways to connect with you, then that’s another thing that might keep people from commenting.

Think about how many times you’ve clicked to follow someone on Facebook only to get lost in a chat on Facebook, or how many times you’ve followed someone on Twitter only to get engaged in conversations there. The same thing goes for badges and links that send people to blog networks.

If you’d prefer more comments than social media connections, consider placing your social media links further down the page or only keeping the ones where you’re active.

While you’re at it, it’s probably a good time to declutter your sidebar.

7. It’s Hard For Them To Comment

I ran into this one the other day. I wanted to reply to a friend’s blog that was hosted on Blogger and found myself frustrated that I couldn’t just leave a comment like I can on other websites. It gave me five or six different options – none of which I use – and, ten minutes later, I finally went with the “best fit” option just so that I could comment. If she weren’t my friend, I probably would’ve given up.

Some of the other comment implementations like Disqus can also set a barrier to comment. I’ve often bailed on those, too, because I didn’t remember my OpenID and didn’t feel like figuring it out. (Luckily, they’ve improved substantially over the last year.)

The harder your readers have to work to comment, the less likely that they’ll do it. Think long and hard about all the comment plugins you might want to implement – and remember that sometimes the best solution is the simplest one.

8. You’re Posting At The Wrong Time

If you post when all your readers are asleep, then the soonest they’ll comment is the next day, but then your post is in with a bunch of others in an RSS feed. Likewise, if you post after the time that your email subscribers get their daily email, the soonest many of them will read what post is the next day when they get that hit.

Figure out when your readers are active and try to publish when they’re reading posts. This takes a bit of homework and observation on your part, but it makes a huge difference in terms of the number of comments you’ll get on your post.

There’s More To Comments Than Content

What you may have noticed is that the first five of these points have to do with the content of your individual posts and the last three don’t have anything to do with your posts. It’s hard to say what would have the biggest effect since each of our blogs are different, so take a look at your post and blog from your reader’s point of view, pick one that you’d like to tweak, and see if it has any effect. (By far the easiest place to start is by changing your comment plugin/solution, though.)

As you can see, there are a lot of different reasons that people might not be leaving comments on your blog, and many of them have nothing to do with you or your posts being unworthy. Keep writing and testing what works – that’s the only way you can become a better writer and grow your blog.

About the Author: Charlie Gilkey writes about meaningful action, creativity, and entrepreneurship at Productive Flourishing. Follow him on Twitter to get bite-sized slices of mojo.

What Are You Taking For Granted That Might Be Useful to Others?

I recently was chatting with a new blogger and they made the comment that after 3 weeks of blogging that they’d run out of things to write about. They had written 10 posts so far but felt that they’d nothing else to share of value on the topic.

What surprised me about their comments was that the blogger was actually a seasoned pro in their niche. They were new to blogging about their topic but they’d been working in their industry for 25 years and were seen as an expert in their field…. yet they didn’t feel like they had anything to say about the topic!

I dug a little deeper and it turned out that the reason for their issue was not that they didn’t have much to write about – but that they were taking for granted the level of knowledge that they actually had. Much of what they’d learned over the years was now so basic to them that they didn’t realise how valuable it was for someone at a lower level of expertise.

To use an old cliche – they were the type of person who has forgotten what most of us will ever know about their topic.

He said to me at one point – ‘I just want every post I write to be something that cuts new ground – something that says something great that no one has ever thought before.’

I’ve felt this way myself over the years (and still do). For me it often came about in those nervous moments before I’d go on stage to present about blogging. Doubts would creep in….”what do I know?”…. “my presentation is too basic”….. “what if people are too advanced for this?”….

The reality is though that 99% of people in the audiences I spoke to had a such basic understanding of my topic that what I often thought was basic was often a stretch for them.

Often in the Q&A times at the end of such presentations I’d realise to myself just how much I actually did know about my topic and how often in the search for my next profound post that unlocked the secrets to the universe that I was actually over looking a treasure trove of more basic but just as helpful topics.

I’m not suggesting that every post you write needs to rehash the basics of your topic – however I guess this is simple a challenge for those of us who sometimes struggle to feel we’ve got anything helpful and worthwhile to say to realize that we might be over thinking things and could probably serve our readers better by examining what we do know and sharing that.

Sidenote: I was having a discussion that touched on this today at Third Tribe when Valeria Maltoni commented – ‘I also take what I know for granted a lot.

I responded to her with:

I think most of us have stuff in our head that we think is too basic to share with others however it’s real GOLD when we do share it because it’s often things that others are thinking about asking but are too scared – or its something that they need to know but don’t really know that they need it.

How does one get to those Basic but Golden things?

A few ides for posts come to mind:

  • Describe an experience that you’ve had
  • Share a problem that you overcame and how you did it
  • Give an example of where you learned an important lesson
  • Tell the story of how you taught someone something
  • Remember what it was like to be a beginner in your topic and outline the things you wish you’d known
  • Share the answers to some questions that you or someone else once had

Rock Hard Thighs and Cold Hard Cash: Robb Sutton Spills His Tawdry Review Site Secrets

guest post by Kelly Diels

When I was wondering how to create an effective, money-making review site, I thought of Robb Sutton.

Robb Sutton’s review site, Mountain Biking by 198 “pulls in thousands in review product every month” and in the last 15 months has received over $100,000 dollars worth of review product. He’s also got several other sites, including a coffee review blog, and oh yes, makes a pretty decent living as a ProBlogger.

That is, when he’s not hanging out with the likes of me and telling me all his secrets.

Kelly Diels: Robb, tell me all the dirty details about review sites.

[looooooooooooong pause. Isn't it a little early in the conversation to have offended him?]

Kelly Diels: Robb?

Robb Sutton: I’m here. Sorry…was just closing up a few things. Now you have my 100% attention.

Kelly Diels: You know a girl likes that.

Robb Sutton: Yes, they do!

Kelly Diels: I mean, so I’ve heard. Tell me, dahlink, how you got started with review sites.

Robb Sutton: Well, it all started with an idea that had nothing to do with reviewing product, ironically.

Kelly Diels: Go on…

Robb Sutton: I had this idea that I was going to have a trail review site for mountain biking that was all user submitted content. About 5 minutes into the process, I realized that you can’t have user submitted content without traffic. So I started a blog where I reviewed parts, bikes and other related products and that took over what was the user submitted part. Basically, I used it as a traffic generator that became the model for Bike198.com.

Kelly Diels: So you’re inadvertently brilliant?

Robb Sutton: I fell into it…I like to think of it as a progression. I had some experience being on the other side of the fence in the corporate world, so I knew how to quickly adapt that to blogs.

Kelly Diels: How did you get your pretty mitts on things to review?

Robb Sutton: Well, back when the industry had no clue who I was, I relied on current contacts and cold contacting through emails and phone calls. Now it is a combination of them finding me and me finding them.

Kelly Diels: Do you work with PR companies, or companies directly?

Robb Sutton: I work with PR companies, directly with manufacturers, distributers and some retailers.

Kelly Diels: And for those of us who just got really scared, what does that process look like?

Robb Sutton: Typically, I send out an email explaining who the site is, what we do and what the process is. I then include examples with some simple search engine and site stats. If it is a smaller company, you pretty much get to the right person right away. A lot of times through that email and you are off and rolling. For larger companies and some smaller ones, a follow up call is required to get in touch with the right person. Phone calls always convert better than emails, but I always start with emails so they know who you are when they pick up the phone.

Kelly Diels: Gawd, it is almost like online dating.

Robb Sutton: Yeah, a little bit!

Kelly Diels: What sorts of strings get attached to the product and reviews?

Robb Sutton: No strings really. Sometimes you have to return the product if it is super expensive. But sometimes you don’t even have to do that. Most companies know what blogging and review blogging entails these days.

Kelly Diels: Which brings us to Disclosure, baby. Tell me how you handle Big Brother, the FTC.

Robb Sutton: I have a blanket disclosure on all of my sites that is linked up in the footer that explains links, products, etc. I am very up front with my readers on the process so there is nothing that is hidden that could be considered bad by the public or FTC. Everything is up front and honest.

Kelly Diels: And if you’re just not into her the product? What do you do?

Robb Sutton: I write the truth! Bottom line is that you are writing for your readers and not the companies. If you are just going to write glorified advertisements then no one is going to take you seriously. Back everything up with facts and everything turns out ok.

Kelly Diels: Sing it, sister.

Robb Sutton: Even companies I have given poor reviews to in the past still send me stuff. They want to reach the audience and you want to deliver the goods. Its a win/win.

Kelly Diels: All press is good press…

Robb Sutton: Actually…that is very true.

Kelly Diels: Seriously. The first time someone trashed me online (Allyn Hane, lover, I’m a-talking to you) I was delighted. But I digress. What kind of traffic are companies and agencies looking for?

Robb Sutton: They are looking for targeted traffic.

Kelly Diels: What does targeted traffic mean?

Robb Sutton: The specific number isn’t really important. 100 targeted eyes are better than 10,000 that aren’t targeted.

Kelly Diels: How do you demonstrate “targeted eyes”? I feel like we just took a sharp right turn into a gun range.

Robb Sutton: Targeted traffic is basically qualified leads. When someone subscribes to your blog, they are targeted because they want to digest that subject matter. And don’t shoot!

Kelly Diels: I can’t. I don’t even know the process for getting a gun permit in Canada but I know it takes forever. Also I’m a lover, not a shooter…Tell me about a review or a product that got you all hot ‘n bothered.

Robb Sutton: Hmmm…

Kelly Diels: I went to a sex toy party on Friday night and, given the subject of my blog, I’m pretty sure that I can review those products and claim them as a tax deduction. But again, I digress.

Robb Sutton: [laughs, possibly uncomfortably] Yes, you probably could…An example of an interesting product/review was when I got in a fork from a manufacturer because of comments I made about how I didn’t like the direction they were heading.

Kelly Diels: Umm… “got in a fork”? Dude. translation, please. I mean, it sounds naughty but even I’m drawing a blank.

Robb Sutton: Suspension fork. It is the thing on the front of the bike that is the suspension.

Kelly Diels: Oh it is a thing. Not a position. That clears everything up. So why was this fork so fabulous?

Robb Sutton: Because it was sent to me after I made the comments. I backed everything up with facts on why I didn’t agree. And they said…ok…try it out for yourself. I thought that was pretty cool.

Kelly Diels: That’s pretty smart marketing, actually. And..? How was the fork?

Robb Sutton: Great product. Still don’t agree with that one aspect.

Kelly Diels: I had no idea forks were so controversial.

Robb Sutton: They are a reputable company that produces a great product but I just didn’t agree with the “new standard” they were introducing.

Kelly Diels: Ok, Mr. Fancy Britches. I get it. YOU HAVE OPINIONS – which, I’m thinking, is probably why your review site works.

Robb Sutton: Doesn’t everyone?!

Kelly Diels: Yes, darling. That was a compliment in disguise. I think that is what reviews are about – good, solid, well-reasoned opinions…So. You get loads of free products, but how do you make money? You can’t eat forks.

Robb Sutton: Affiliate revenue, direct advertising, e-book sales like my Ramped Reviews (aff), pay-per-click…I like to diversify.

Kelly Diels: And what about all the companies kissing your…site? Do they ever buy advertising?

Robb Sutton: They do, and it is a lot easier to sell advertising space to people you already have a working relationship with.

Kelly Diels: And what does that do to the separation of church and state, editorial vs revenue? Do you feel awkward about reviewing your clients?

Robb Sutton: Not at all. Everything is explained up front. No surprises. Keep in mind that nothing is written that is pure emotion or inflammatory. It is all fact-based opinion.

Kelly Diels: That’s right. We all have niches. MINE is pure emotion and inflammatory prose. So stay outta that one, my love…Ok. Going general: do you think review sites of higher ticket items – like bikes, cameras etc – work better than other kinds of review sites, like say restaurants or experiences?

Robb Sutton: I think it is about equal. I also run a coffee review site (coffeeobsessed.net) that does really well and it is very young. I think the possibilities are wide open.

Kelly Diels: Now you’re speaking my language. The language of love/caffeine.

Robb Sutton: Yeah, I’ll leave that one to you! I’m obsessed…I’ll admit it.

Kelly Diels: With coffee? Or mountain bikes?

Robb Sutton: Nothing better than a great cup of coffee, but both. And blogging, of course.

KellyDiels: I ask because I like coffee and mountain bikers. I may have mentioned this before: THIGHS OF GRANITE.

Robb Sutton: Very true! And a strong grip.

Kelly Diels: If you do say so yourself. With whom can I verify this? I have to fact-check, you know.

Robb Sutton: Any cyclist…but especially mountain bikers because we have to ride technical terrain.

Kelly Diels: Well, there you have it. The secrets of review sites, hot coffee, and rock hard…thighs.

Kelly Diels writes for ProBlogger every week. She’s also a wildly hireable freelance writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about three things we all want more of: sex, money and meaning.

Optimize a Single Post On Your Blog for SEO

This is an unofficial extra task for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook.

SEO-optimize-blog-post.jpg

Today I spent the morning working on a task that I try to do at least once a month – SEO on individual key posts in my archives.

While it’s important to know and practice the basics principles of SEO in the way you set up your blogs structure and in the writing of your posts – I find it can be very worthwhile periodically going back through key old posts to optimise them even further. I’ve used the following process for a while now and in most cases where I do it I find I’m able to increase my ranking for different posts.

I’m not the world’s best SEO but here’s the process that I use in doing this (I invite you to share yours in comments if you do this type of thing) – I hope you find it useful:

1. Identify Key Posts to Optimize for SEO

Across my active blogs I have 10,000 blog posts so I need to be a little strategic about choosing which blog posts I go back to to give a little SEO attention to.

For me the way that I do this is to dig into my Google Analytics account to work out what posts are already having some success with search traffic – but which could be improved. I generally look for posts that are ranking anywhere from #2 to #10 for their keywords (although sometimes focus upon those which are #1 to strengthen them further).

If a page is already generating some traffic from Google for a keyword but isn’t in the number 1 ranking for the word and increase in ranking should also see an increase in the traffic that the post receives. I’ve seen a variety of studies over the years that show that the #1 ranked result in Google can be getting anywhere from 35-55% of all clicks – the higher you are to the top the better.

Lets look at an example:

I’ve got a page on DPS which ranks #2 (depending where you are) for the term Portrait Photography.

It is a good page to optimise because it’s a relatively good term in the amount of traffic it drives (it’s a term that get a fair bit of searching for in Google) but also because the page is a ‘sneeze page‘ which links to quite a few pages across my photography blog and as a result those who visit that page end up visiting over 7 pages on their visit (the site average is a bit over 2 pages per visit).

The page already generates some healthy traffic (a few thousand visitors a month) so I know if I could get it ranking higher it will generate more.

2. Analyze the Competition

I don’t tend to get this deep into SEO too often but from time to time it can be worthwhile doing a little analysis of what pages that are ranking higher than you for a keyword are doing.

market-samurai-SEO.pngOne tool that I use for this (and other keyword analysis) is Market Samurai. It’s a tool I’ve only been using for a little while but it’s very handy. That link is an affiliate link but it does give you a 12 day free trial. I’ve shelled out for the full version as it has been so handy a tool for this type of analysis.

One of the modules in the Market Samurai system (there are quite a few more) is one that does analysis of what competing pages are doing for a keyword. Lets take a look at what it gives us for ‘portrait photography’ as a keyword (click to enlarge).

portrait-photography-analysis.png

You can see that the #2 ranking is for my site but it also shows a variety of information for other ranked sites in the top 10. Some of the information given is not overly relevant to me (or at least is out of my control like the first column which looks at the age of the domain) but some of the information is useful in getting a handle on how your page compares to other sites.

Knowing this might help you work out what you need to do to rank higher – or it might also give you an indication of whether you have much chance of ranking for the keyword at all (if the site you’re trying to compete against is way beyond what you can achieve it might be an indication that you want to go and work on another page).

In this example lets compare my page with the #1 ranked page:

  • DA – domain age – they have a real advantage here.
  • PR – page rank – their page is a 4 and mine is a 3. Something to work on.
  • IC – index count (the number of pages indexed on the domain) – they are obviously a lot bigger site. This doesn’t mean I can’t rank for the term but gives an indication that I’m up against a pretty established site.
  • BLP – the amount of backlinks pointing at the page. They obviously have more (we’ll do some more analysis of this below).
  • BLEG – links from .edu/.gov sites pointing at the page – they have a couple here while I don’t
  • DMZ – is the site in the DMOS directory (I don’t page a lot of attention to this but some say it can be a factor)
  • YAH – is the site in the Yahoo directory (again, not something that I pay much attention to but some say it can be the difference between getting a higher ranking and not)
  • Title – is the keyword/s in the title tags of the post (we both do this)
  • URL – is the keyword/s in the URL of the post (I have the advantage here)
  • Desc – is the keyword in the meta description tag (not something that I’ve found to impact SEO much but perhaps something to consider with the way your post appears in Google)
  • Head – is the keyword/s in a header tag on the page
  • CA – The Cache Age (the number of days since Google Cached the page)

In this case – the analysis shows me that I’m up against a pretty heavy hitter. It’s an established site with lots of links pointing both at the domain and the page itself. I’m tempted to settle for just ranking #2 for this page but for the sake of the exercise I’ll push on.

Note: Market Samurai also gives you the opportunity to dig deeper into competing sites and can give you a breakdown of the actual links pointing at a page. I won’t do the analysis here (it might be deeper than where people are at) but what I found was that in the case of my competition on this one is that the competing site had a lot of forwarded links pointing at it. I’m not sure what was going on with it but it seems that the majority of the links pointing at my competition are from forwarded domains and not actual live pages. This gives me a little hope so I’ll push on with optimising the page.

3. On Page Optimization

The above competitive analysis might give you a few hints as where to begin in optimizing your page. For example if you’ve not got your keywords in ‘title tags’ or ‘header tags’ – you’ll want to fix that. If your keyword is not in the URL, that’s another thing to consider. Those three tweaks alone could have a fairly significant change (I’ve seen changing title tags to include keywords as increasing rankings significantly).

Once you’ve done that you might want to also look at some smaller tweaks that could play a part. Using keywords in bold, using keywords in alt tags on images etc. These are probably not going to have a major impact but could help a little.

Ultimately if you want to rank for a particular keyword – you need to be using that keyword on your page in key spots (titles, headings, URL). Don’t stuff your page full of the keyword (and whatever you do keep your content useful and readable to readers) but a few tweaks might help.

4. Off Page Optimization

You might find that with some on page optmization that your post is already increasing its rankings – particularly if the keyword you’re looking at is not highly competitive. However at times it can be worth looking at ways of generating some extra links to your page as the number and type of links are important in determining how a page ranks in search engines.

I don’t tend to do much of this type of SEO as I find my site tends to get a nice number of links pretty naturally from other sites but I know those who are more into SEO will work hard on some of the following:

  • analysing where the competition is getting their links and looking for opportunities to get links there too – for example if a link is coming to your competitor from a forum discussion or blog comment you might also have an opportunity to leave a quality comment there with your own link.
  • links from other blogs you own (particularly one on a relevant topic) link to your page from it
  • internal links – this is something I do do – basically its about interlinking your posts. While internal links don’t count as much as an external link they can help a little.
  • pitching links to other blogs – if you have a relationship with other blogs in your niche try pitching a link of the page that you’re optimizing to those bloggers.
  • sharing links in social media – most social media sites like Twitter and Facebook put no-follow tags on links so they don’t count directly for SEO but I find that an occasional push of an older post on social media sites can lead to indirect links from other bloggers. I also suspect that search engines are paying more attention to what links are being shared in social media sites so getting your links into them (without spamming) could be useful if you have a network of people who will pass them onto their own networks.

Note: the generation of links can be a fairly ‘black hat’ game at times. It can also be pretty addictive and become an obsession. I personally would prefer to spend my time producing quality content than spending my days asking for links. Do be a little careful with link building – not only can it be a time suck but if you engage in tactics that Google sees as against their Terms of Service (buying links for example) you could also be jeopardizing your sites ranking in their index.

Further Reading on SEO

Do you ever go back and optimize individual posts on your blog for SEO? If so – I’d love to hear your approach to it. This is the way I do it but I’m certain that there will be many other approaches that others take.

9 Ways to Become an Exceptional Guest Poster

Image by kwerfeldein

exceptional-blogger.pngIn a session I did with Brian Clark at Third Tribe last week Brian made the statement – Guest Posting is the New Article Marketing.

In days gone by the way one of the best ways to build a website’s ranking in search engines and to pull in traffic was to write articles for article marketing sites and allow others to republish them on their own sites. In return you’d get a link or two back to your own site.

While I know some bloggers do use article marketing as part of their promotional mix the evidence that I’ve seen lately shows that links in these types of articles tend to count for less than they once did as Google gets smarter in the way that they rank websites.

I wouldn’t write off article writing completely but in the last couple of years we’ve seen the emergence of guest posting as a primary way for bloggers to build their profile, traffic and generate some SEO Google Juice to their sites.

Over the last few years I’ve seen numerous guest bloggers really build careers for themselves in a variety of niches. People like Leo Babauta and Chris Garrett are two that come to mind who built solid reputations and sizeable audiences for themselves through the tactic of guest posting.

While Guest Posts can be a great tactic to use to grow your presence – as someone who uses quite a few guest posts on my blogs I’ve noticed an incredible variety in the quality of guest posts that I’m pitched. I get 20-30 guest posts per week – I couldn’t use them all even if I wanted to – but there are some things that make some guest posters much more attractive to me than others.

In this post I want to explore 10 things that I’ve noticed about the best guest posters that set them apart from the field. These things make them more attractive to me as a blogger evaluating a guest post – but they also make the guest post more effective – which has flow on effects for the guest poster.

1. Offer Your Best Posts

I chatted with one blogger a few months back that told me that his guest post strategy was to give away his 2nd rate posts as guest posts to other blogs. He kept his best stuff for his own blog and whipped up half hearted posts for guest spots.

While I understand the temptation to keep your best content for your own blog and give a half hearted effort for other blogs if you want to maximise the chance of getting a guest post published on a well known blog and you want to maximise its impact upon the readers of that blog – you need to keep the quality up in your guest posts.

2nd rate posts are not likely to get published and if they do – they’ll not drive you the traffic that a first rate post would do.

So take the time to carefully craft your guest posts and to make them as useful as possible.

2. Use Images

This will vary a little depending upon the blog you are submitting to but I know if a guest post is submitted to me that has a good creative commons licensed image with it that I am much more likely to use it.

I love images – they lift a post to a new dimension and make it attention grabbing to readers – if a guest poster goes to the effort of finding such an image I’m always impressed.

3. Optimize the Images

If you do send in an image to go with the post make sure you take a few moments to optimize it and make it ready for posting. By this I mean:

  • reduce the file size of the image so it’ll load fast
  • make sure the image width will fit into the post box on the blog you’re submitting to so that the blogger doesn’t need to resize it
  • name the file something that will help the SEO of the post (use a keyword in the heading).

These things are all small touches that can not only make an impression upon the blogger but help the post load fast, look good and rank a little higher in search engines.

4. Do a Little On Page SEO

While we’re talking search engine optimisation – take a few moments after writing your post to think about SEO. You might not think there’s any reason to do this and that its the blog owners job – but if your guest post ranks well in Google you’re more likely to benefit from the post for the long term as it’ll continue to attract traffic (it’ll also help pass on some Google Juice to your own blog through your byline links).

On page SEO includes making sure you work out what keywords you want the post to rank for and then using those keywords in places like the title of the post, header tags, image alt tags etc.

5. Format Your posts

Another tip to think about before sending off a post is to look at the styling and formatting that the blog normally uses for its posts.

For example – does the blog use headings in posts? If so – what header tags does it use? If it’s <h3> tags, put your own headers into <h3> tags.

If the blog uses blockquotes – consider using that. If the blog has a byline in a certain style or format – include yours in that format. The more ready your post is to publish the better.

6. Send posts in the Right Format

This leads me to my next point – wherever possible send your post to the blog you want to appear on in a format where it can easily be copied and pasted into the back end of that blog. I LOVE it when guest posters send me text files already marked up into html so I can copy and paste them straight in. I generally do a little re-formatting but it is so much easier if things are already formatted in html to some extent.

The best way to do this is to simply write the post up as a draft in your own blog – then copy and paste the html out into a plat txt document to send over. If you’re including images I generally would attach them to the email and indicate in the post where they should be inserted.

If you’re not sure about what format the blogger prefers to receive guest posts in – shoot them an email to ask. Alternatively some guest bloggers I’ve worked with will send two versions of a post – one in a Word Document and one in html.

7. Link to Other posts on the Blog

One technique that some of the very best guest bloggers go to the effort of doing is making sure that their guest posts interlink to other posts on the blog that they’re submitting to.

This is good for a few reasons including:

  • it shows the blogger and their readers that you’re familiar with the blog you’re writing for
  • it helps the SEO of the blog you’re submitting to
  • it gives readers more to read and increases page views on the blog you’re writing for

It certainly takes more work to do this step but it does make an impression.

8. Monitor and Interact in the Comments of the Post

Some guest bloggers feel that their job is done when they send the post off to the blogger for their consideration. However the best guest posters going around see this as just the beginning.

One extra task that can lift the guest post to another level is to monitor the comments being left on the post and interacting with those who read it. This shows a willingness to followup with readers and can make the post more useful to everyone.

9. Promote the Post after its launched

One last task that can also make the post all the more effective for both you and the blog you’re writing for is to take some time out once the post is live to promote it to your own network.

Link to it on your own blog, tweet about it, submit it to other blogs in the niche to see if they’ll link to it, promote it in forums, email it to your newsletter list…. etc

The benefits in promoting the guest post are numerous:

  • it makes an impression upon the blogger who is using your post (which could lead to further guest posts or opportunities)
  • it can make an impression upon people in your own network to see that you’re published elsewhere
  • it can help the SEO of the post to have it linked to (which has flow on effects for you both in terms of traffic and SEO)

All in all – the more successful the post is the better for all concerned so do take the time to give it some promotion – as if it were your own.

What Tips Would You Give Guest Posters to Help Their Posts Become Exceptional?

Dear FaceBook Friends, I’m De-Friending Most of You [It's Not You, It's Me]

Dear Facebook Friends,

I’ve been wondering when and how to do this for a while now but the time has come for me to bite the bullet and clean up what I’m doing on Facebook.

For 99% of you – this means that I’m about to de-friend you from my personal account on Facebook.

It is nothing personal – in fact…. that is what this is all about…. my personal account on Facebook does need to be personal and its not.

To use a phrase Ed Dale used in doing this same thing – It’s not You It’s Me.

I hope you’ll allow me to explain why I’m doing this and and provide those of you who wish to remain connected with some alternatives.

What I’m Doing

In the next 48 hours I’m returning my Facebook account to a personal account (in fact the process has already begun). This means a number of things:

  1. I’ll be pulling my all talk about my blogs out of my Facebook account
  2. There will be no more auto Tweets pulled into my status updates
  3. My videos about blogging, updates from my blogs etc will all be removed from my Facebook account
  4. I’ll be de-friending almost everyone – all that will remain will be real life family and friends who I regular catch up with (or those who I want to keep in touch with).

Why Am I Doing This?

When I started using Facebook it was largely something that I used for real friends to share updates of what I was doing.

However in time, as Facebook grew, I began to see how it connected as an opportunity with the work that I do with my blogs. I saw the opportunity to use Facebook to create secondary points of connection with my readers, build a brand and even drive some traffic to my blogs.

As a result my Facebook account became more and more focused around my blogging. As it did so it became less and less relevant to my real life friends and family.

I began to promote this account on my blogs and it quickly got to the point where I had 5000 friends (99% of whom I don’t actually know in real life).

5000 is the limit Facebook allows so I was then at a point where I was rejecting peoples friendship on Facebook – it suddenly became quite exclusive. In the last few months alone I’ve rejected thousands of friend requests – it’s even started to become a little nasty with a number of people thinking I’ve snubbed them.

A while back Facebook started to offer the opportunity for its users to create pages. I started a couple up – one for each of my two main blogs – one for ProBlogger and one for Digital Photography School.

Pages don’t have a limit of how many people can follow them yet they have many of the same features as a personal profile.

Now that I have pages set up and working my personal account on Facebook has become a little redundant for talking about those topics – in fact much of what happens is duplicated and it means my attention is split between updating three accounts.

Since setting up the pages I’ve just felt plain weird about using my personal Facebook page. I’m updating friends on my blogging stuff which doesn’t have any relevance to them (in fact last week I told my parents who are new to Facebook that I didn’t want to friend them because I didn’t want them to have to wade through all my blogging related updates) and I feel like I’m just sending out the same stuff multiple times to others who do want my blogging related stuff. I don’t feel like I’m really achieving anything for anyone with the account.

As a Result – I’ve decided to move all my blogging related updates purely over to my Facebook pages and return my personal account to being a purely personal one – a place where I connect with real life friends and family.

So I’m going to remove all people that are not either friends and family who I see regularly and want to stay in touch with.

My hope in doing this is:

  1. anyone who want to keep connecting with me on the topics of my blogs will still have a place to do so (not limited by the 5000 number)
  2. friends and family will have a more relevant place to connect with me
  3. I will feel slightly less torn each day about what to post (and what not to post) on my personal page

I’m also looking forward to have a private place to just be me – living so openly on the web for so long has been great but a guy needs a place to let what little hair he has down.

If You Do Want to Stay Connected

If you’d like to connect with me around one or both of the topics I blog about I would encourage you to become a fan (I wish they didn’t use that term) of one of my Facebook pages:

Alternatively – much of the Facebook updates that have previously been here on this Facebook account have been pulled in from Twitter. You can get those updates directly from twitter at http://www.twitter.com/problogger – my Twitter stream at @problogger will continue to pull in both blogging related stuff as well as some more personal stuff from time to time also.

I hope this sheds some light on what is about to happen on this Facebook Account.

In terms of WHEN it’ll happen – I’ve already started to pull out some of the blogging stuff from my Facebook page – but I’ll be starting to de-friend people later today. It will take me a while though to de-friend close to 5000 people!

If you’re a real life friend and I do de-friend you – my apologies. I’m sure I’ll mistakenly do that with a few as I go through everyone – I’m certain that going through 5000 people is going to be a process with a few mistakes! Please friend me again if this is you so I can fix it up!

Top Ten Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Small Business Blog Using Twitter

This is a guest post by Mark Hayward on driving traffic to your small business blog with Twitter.

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Based on the success of the recent ProBlogger post, Top 10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Using LinkedIn, I thought it would be useful to put a resource post together for small business owners who would like to use Twitter to drive targeted traffic to their blog.

We all know that blogging is a powerful medium for any small business owner that wants to improve SEO, create a social media footprint, or share their backstory.

But how the heck do you use Twitter to drive more traffic to your small business blog?

If you are a small business owner like me, then you are no stranger to the fact that learning how to master Twitter can seem a little bit like wrestling a hungry alligator. Meaning, there is a steep learning curve and if you mess up it can be deadly.

Figuratively speaking, of course!

After using Twitter for the past couple of years, and following a lot of trial and error, below are ten ways that I think you can begin to use Twitter to drive more traffic to your small business blog.

#1: Change the Default Logo

After creating your small business Twitter account, change the default logo to one that represents your style and helps to brand your small business. Twitter is not a ‘join it and they will come’ small business marketing tool.

If you are hoping to reap the rewards and added blog traffic that Twitter can offer, then you have to be willing to put in the time to build trustworthy relationships with potential customers. To that end, when it comes to any business on Twitter, people want to feel like they are engaging with real human beings.

The profile picture is the first thing that new followers will look at. You need to create a logo that quickly gains follower interest if you want them to carry on further and check out your small business blog. By all means, if you use a personal picture make sure it does not portray you as an axe murderer.

Below are two examples of small business profile pictures, and I’ll let you be the judge of which one will work best.

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I think this next one is better. How about you?

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#2: Show Up

As noted in the intro above, there can be a steep learning curve when it comes to using Twitter to drive traffic to your small business blog. According to a recent article in Adweek:

Only 17 percent of Twitter users updated their accounts in December — an all-time low. An earlier study by the Nielsen Co. revealed 60 percent of Twitter users do not return from one month to the next.

However, I think a lot of small business owners show up once and send a Tweet similar to the one below.

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When business owners don’t get any @ replies, identify any new customers, or gain new traffic to their small business blog they feel like they are wasting their time and are gone for good.

Using Twitter properly as a tool to drive blog traffic requires a long term outlook, persistence, and a consistent effort every day.

#3: Complete the Bio Profile

Similar to a mini ‘About’ page, Twitter gives you 160 characters in your profile so you can write a brief Bio to describe who you are and further specify your business. Make sure the link to your small business blog appears somewhere in this section. Or, even better, include your blog as the one html link you are allowed to have.

I am amazed at how many small businesses skip the Bio step. The results of not taking the time to fill out the profile section will give your business a look similar to the one below. Ask yourself, would you visit the small business blog of the ‘iamabusiness’ profile?

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If you are not getting targeted traffic for your small business blog from your Twitter Bio, try spicing it up with something similar to SmileMakers INC. When I read the profile for SmileMakers INC I don’t have any questions as to what business they are in.

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#4: Brand Your Small Business Twitter background

The available Twitter background space is like getting free real estate where you can create an online billboard. When properly used, the background can help to build your small businesses image and highlight your brand. If you struggle with design work then use one of the many online background creation tools that are available, such as, TwitterImage, TwitBacks, and TwitrBackgrounds.

Although ProBlogger is not a ‘brick & mortar’ small business, Darren has an easily identifiable Twitter background that helps to pique interest in what he is about and can drive casual follower traffic to his blog.

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#5: Social proof matters

When it comes to getting traffic for your small business blog on Twitter, the ugly truth is, social proof absolutely matters!

The number of followers you have, the number of people you are following, and the number of Tweets you have sent out will all be a determining factor in the minds of potential customers.

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You don’t need to wait until your small business account has as many followers as ProBlogger, Chris Brogan, or even John Jantsch. Although, it certainly helps to have a few hundred followers and to be following a few hundred (see: #2 show up above) before you promote your small business blog on Twitter.

#6: Be Sincere

If you are sincere in your interactions on Twitter, after the initial frustration and dip of feeling like you’re in an echo chamber, you will slowly gain a following that you’ll be able to direct to your small business blog.

Try starting off the morning with a friendly greeting like Jonathan Fields.

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When you interact and engage on Twitter in a sincere manner, and follow Jeff Pulver’s 95% giving & 5% taking rule, potential customers will slowly begin to trust you and this will gradually open them up to visiting your small business blog.

#7: Use Twitter Search

Twitter Search is a valuable tool for any small business owner who wants to increase traffic to a website or blog. Searching for relevant keyword terms related to your business niche, and finding traffic for your blog, is made much easier with this tool.

However, when using Twitter Search the key is to provide valuable and helpful information in your @ replies and to not press people with spam.

For a bit of a real life example, the other day on Twitter I was looking for some input on web hosting companies. The amount of spam I got back in my Twitter stream was unreal. The reply below stands out in particular as an example of ‘How not to drive traffic to your small business or blog’ when using Twitter Search.

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I know you are going to be absolutely shocked! But when you click on the link included in @forsgren’s Tweet you find out that he actually OWNS the company and website that the link directs to.

For the record, I have absolutely no problem with him directing an @ reply to me. However, please be honest and disclose up front that you own the hosting company. In this particular case, my trust has been lost and the potential for him to gain my business is gone. Additionally, I will never look at his blog. Period.

#8: Collaborative Relationships

When attempting to get more traffic for your small business blog, find out who the thought leaders and influencers are in your industry and connect with them on Twitter. It does not always get discussed out in the open, but collaborative partnerships, particularly with people in your industry, can send a tremendous amount of targeted visitors to your blog.

As a personal example, the actress Alyssa Milano happens to be a passionate animal rights advocate. At present, I help to do the social media activities for the animal rescue organization on my tiny island, and through the magic of Twitter I was able to connect with Ms. Milano.

The animal rescue organization has (what is essentially) a small business blog, which is used to update people on stray animals who need help and any current rescues who are looking for a home. On a couple of occasions now Alyssa has been kind enough to help get our message out over Twitter. In fact, back in June she Tweeted about one particular dog that was really in dire need of some help.

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Because many of her followers are also animal lovers (i.e targeted traffic), below you can see the spike in visitors that was generated to the animal welfare blog from her Tweet, which is a site that typically gets about fifty visitors per day.

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#9: Useful Links & Hashtags

Once you have gained a few followers and created some collaborative relationships, you should start sharing useful links that are related to your small business. Sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit make it easy for you to search and discover the best of what’s on the web in your niche.

If you’re sharing good stuff and educating your followers, then their natural tendency will be to investigate your profile further and visit your small business blog.

For example, if I owned a bike shop and wanted to drive traffic to my business blog, I would begin Tweeting all of the useful links that I could find on the subject of bikes and bike riding.

When it comes to increasing follower count, resource posts always seem to get ReTweeted well. Be on the lookout for ‘Best of’ and ‘How to’ posts. When Tweeting links, if space provides, you might want to create a branded hashtag for your small business as well.

#10: Power of the Picture

Who you are and what you do on a daily basis at your small business matters to your followers. Tweeting pictures provides a contextual basis to your daily activities, which goes beyond the normal status update.

In order to gain more targeted traffic to your small business blog, I would highly recommend utilizing a Twitter photo-sharing site like TwitPic or Yfrog. These sites allow the small business owner to share cool photos from their typical business day, or while plying their craft, so that people get to know you. Photos help to build social trust and intrigue, which leads to more traffic on your small business blog. Have a look at this Tweeted photo that I just sent this past Friday and one of the responses I received.

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Below, Tim demonstrates perfectly why photos matter!

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As a final note, I have said this before, but its importance cannot be overlooked. It can take a very long time to develop a trusting follower base for your small business on Twitter but it only takes one Tweet to alienate and lose the trust of your followers.

What other suggestions would you offer to those small business owners who are looking to use Twitter to drive traffic to their small business blog?

Mark Hayward owns a small business in the Caribbean and when it comes to social media he is passionate about helping other small business owners with avoid the online mistakes he has made. You can follow Mark on Twitter @mark_hayward and you can subscribe to his RSS Feed for weekly small business social media marketing tips.

Welcome to ProBlogger – A Quick Tour for New Readers

In the last 24 hours we’ve had a lot of new readers to ProBlogger after a couple of links from sites like Yahoo.

If this is your first time (or you’re newish to ProBlogger) to ProBlogger.net then I thought I’d put together a quick tour of my online home.

darren-rowse.jpgFirstly, my name’s Darren Rowse (that’s me posing with my computer monitor trying to look like that’s a normal thing to do) and – I’m a full time blogger. I blog both here at ProBlogger but also at Digital Photography School.

ProBlogger is a blog that is devoted to helping bloggers improve their blogging and explore ways to earn an income at the same time by writing about topics that they love.

More and more bloggers are now making at least a part time income blogging – with some even having gone ‘Pro’ with full time incomes.

I write more about the reasons for this blog and my experience as a blogger in my About Page. You might also like to see some of the ways that I make money from my blogs for an introduction into how bloggers make money blogging.

If you’re new to blogging you might find this ‘what is a blog?‘ article and my series on Blogging for Beginners helpful.

If you like what you read here you can follow my future entries (I write 1-2 posts per day) in two ways – either using our RSS News feed or you can get daily updates by adding your email address to the field at the top of my sidebar.

I also send weekly(ish) newsletters out with updates from this site plus extra stuff just for subscribers. You can sign up for that here.

Resources for Bloggers

Most of what you’ll find here on ProBlogger is 100% free – however I’ve also produced 3 resources that you might find useful:

  1. ProBlogger the Book – a hard cover book I co-authored two years back that is ideal for beginners wanting to explore how to make money online.
  2. 31 Days to Build a Better Blog – an e-book for people with blogs that have stalled and in need of a little inspiration and motivation.
  3. ProBlogger Community – a community of bloggers who come together to learn and collaborate to improve their blogs.

If you’re looking for a blogging job – also check out the free ProBlogger Blog Job Boards.

Thanks for stopping by – I hope you enjoy your stay at ProBlogger. If you do have any questions feel free to drop me a note in a comment below or via my contact form.

A Lesson from Curious George for Bloggers

Curious-George.gifThe books of choice at bed time in my 3 year olds room are all Curious George books at the moment. He’s crazy for George.

Needless to say that the 6 Curious George books that we have are getting read again and again – I pretty much know them off by heart…. to the point that I’ve started taking less notice of the story itself and more notice of HOW its been written.

There’s one thing about Curious George Books (or at least the ones we have) that I’ve noticed that really makes them more engaging than some of the other kids books my boy reads.

Do you know what it is?

It’s something that draws my boy further and further into the book.

Any ideas what it could be?

It’s a technique that actually causes my little guy to ask me to turn the page – something that gets him thinking about what is coming next – something causes him to be curious – just like George.

What do you think it is?

This technique is not only a page turner – its something that draws my boy from being a passive listener/reader of the book – but actually gets him interacting with the book – talking about it as I’m reading.

Have you guessed what it is?

The technique is simple – on every second page there’s a question.

It’s not a question that needs an answer – but it’s a question that engages the person reading the book and draws them deeper into the story.

They are questions about what will happen next, questions about what the reader thinks or knows, leading questions that draw readers to keep reading but also to become engaged.

It’s a technique that is powerful not only in children’s books – but in all kinds of writing. Perhaps it’s something worth experimenting with in your next blog post.

If you do – I’d love to hear how it goes.