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Triple Your Traffic by Guest Blogging for Backlinks [Case Study]

This guest post is written by Joseph from GuestBloggingTactics.com

Guest blogging is all the rage now; it’s easily the #1 marketing technique used by both individual bloggers and online corporations.

Unfortunately, most people are seeing guest blogging to be different from what it was originally painted to be.

It’s no longer the sure-fire, high-traffic formula. It’s no longer the thing you must do if you want to increase traffic to your blog. In other words, guest posts on blogs that would have sent you 500 visitors a year ago will barely send you 50 today.

Well, what if I told you you’re doing it wrong?

What if I told you I was able to get 120,000+ visitors as an indirect result of guest blogging to one of my websites in one year? And that from less than 50 guest posts?

You’ll probably want me to share the sites I guest posted on so that you can write for them, too.

But it no longer works that way. Even if there was a magic site that sent thousands of visitors per guest post, it’ll barely be able to send ten per post in a few years time once everybody bombards it with guest posts.

The good news is: it’s not about the site you choose, but the approach you use.

Most people see guest blogging as something that has to be direct, and that has to deliver results instantly.

However, by seeing guest blogging in a new light—by focusing on using guest blogging to build links instead of direct traffic—I was able to triple traffic to my blog in one year. To be specific, I experienced a 340% increase in search traffic—over 100,000 visitors—in one year.

Here’s a screenshot showing traffic to my blog a year before I started my guest blogging campaign:

Here’s a screenshot showing traffic to my blog a year after the guest blogging campaign:

How did I do it? That’s the question this post will answer.

Guest blogging and SEO

While there are many reasons people build links to their websites, the #1 reason is often to increase their search engine rankings.

Search engines are the number one traffic referrer online.

When most people have problems or issues they want to solve on the Internet, they visit Google and type a keyword that can provide solutions to the problem they’re experiencing. You do it and I do it too, every day of the week.

That’s why search engines, especially Google, are the top traffic source to almost every website on the Internet.

Getting ranked well for your desired keywords in Google and other search engines can be left to luck, a game of waiting and praying that things get right, or you can try to take control by actively building high-quality, high-value links that will improve your rankings.

One of the best ways to build these high quality links today is by guest blogging.

When most people guest post, they do it for the traffic and often ignore the link aspect. I’ve observed that the links you can get from guest blogging are much more powerful than any traffic you can get.

Why not start actively building links to your blog from your guest posts?

A personal guest blogging case study

I dedicated a month to writing and getting guest posts published for one of my sites last year. I started a guest blogging campaign to publish over 30 guest posts on several quality blogs.

The guest posts were written in a way that ties the topic of each blog I approached to the topic of my blog, without sacrificing quality, and with a focus on getting quality anchor-text backlinks instead of traffic.

In other words, since every blogger has to get an author bio below their guest post, instead of just linking back to my homepage, I used my guest posts to link to internal pages and posts on my blog with specific keywords.

I knew that doing this would be very effective, but I never knew it would be much more effective than I anticipated.

While most of the guest posts I submitted didn’t result in a single visit to my blog, and every guest post I submitted, combined, resulted in less than 50 visits, I saw a significant jump of 100 additional daily visitors in my search traffic a week after the campaign ended.

Ever since, without any active SEO effort on my part, traffic has grown significantly to up to 340% more visits a year after the challenge.

For me, that was an additional 120,000 visitors.

Of course, the guest posts I wrote in that month alone weren’t the only factor contributing to the increase in search traffic, but when I did the math I estimated that each guest post I wrote then would have attracted at least 2,000 search engine visitors in the span of a year.

Even if I’m not accurate and it’s half of that, receiving 1,000 visitors for a single guest post is very rare these days.

The campaign enlightened me and made me realize that guest blogging doesn’t always have to be for direct traffic and an instant boost in subscriber count. A link-building guest blogging campaign can also be very effective.

It doesn’t have to be “immoral”

Due to how widely abused guest blogging for links is today, most people immediately come to the conclusion that guest blogging for links is a bad thing.

It doesn’t always have to be. It’s just like SEO: there’s good and bad SEO, but when most people talk about SEO they talk about it as if it’s unethical. Does that mean you should ignore SEO? Not if you want your online business to survive!

Guest blogging is a natural thing for bloggers and it is okay to expect something in return when you write guest posts; instead of ignoring the real estate you have in the author bio of every guest post you write, why not focus on getting a high quality backlink or two that can improve your own blog’s ranking?

With that said, whether you’re a blogger or a company utilizing guest blogging, quality should of course be your number one focus. This is especially important for agencies using guest blogging, and something Georgina recently talked about here at ProBlogger.

So let’s look specifically at the steps you’ll need to follow to make this tactic work for you.

5 Steps you should follow to guest blog for backlinks

Here are the steps I take when trying to guest blog for backlinks.

1. Have effective content marketing in place

While guest blogging is effective, doing it alone won’t help you get results.

Guest blogging should be a part of a bigger content marketing plan.

In other words, before you get started, you should have a blog that constantly publishes relevant articles; you should then develop a campaign focused on ranking your landing pages and pillar articles on your blog.

For a business, this might sound like something that won’t be very effective. After all, why put all that guest blogging effort into blog posts?

However, recent changes to Google’s algorithm and those of other search engines have made it very clear that content and social are the future of SEO. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for static web pages to rank well in the search engines—and that’s where you come in.

Of course, to really get the best from this you’ll need to ensure that articles published on your blog are properly aligned with the goals of your business; this could be getting leads, selling a product, or getting readers to take a particular action, for example.

The point is it’s easier to rank a detailed blog post that can get comments and social shares than it is to rank your blog’s homepage.

2. Prepare a set of keywords you want to rank for

Based on the content of special blog posts you’ve written as well as key pages on your website, prepare a set of keywords you want to rank for.

In most cases, these keywords should be centered on a particular major keyword.

So if I’m trying to rank for “guest blogging”, for example, instead of letting all the anchor texts I use in my author bio be “guest blogging”—which can be very dangerous—I’ll target a host of other keywords such as “guest blogging tactics,” “guest blogging tips,” “guest posting,” and so on.

If possible, try to avoid using the same keyword twice—even if it’s the main keyword you want to rank for. Instead, develop a set of keywords that center around your main keyword and use them in your author bio.

By using them, you’ll be able to rank for both those keywords and the main keyword you really wanted to rank for, giving you double benefits for your effort.

3. Research and select a list of blogs you want to guest blog on

They don’t always have to be as big and massive as Problogger.net, but in choosing the blogs to guest on, try to avoid link farms and poor quality blogs as much as you can.

If you can find a relevant authority blog in your niche, great. If you can’t find a relevant blog, however, you can look for a way to write content that’s relevant to both your audience and that of the host blogger to benefit.

For example, if I were to start a guest blogging campaign to rank ProBlogger for major blogging keywords, I can easily benefit from targeting entrepreneurship blogs and even law blogs by writing articles along the lines of:

  • “7 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur Should Blog”
  • “Why Not Having a Blog for Your Law Firm Could be a Disaster”

You get the idea?

The focus should be on quality. You don’t have to worry about the relevance of the blogs; your focus should be on making your content relevant and this is very easy.

4. Write great content for your guest posts

Now, don’t get this wrong. Because you’re writing a guest post ostensibly for the purpose of gaining a quality backlink, that doesn’t mean it has to be poor content.

On the contrary. Look at this particular guest post I’m writing here on Problogger.net; it’s helpful to you, and I’m able to get a quality link back to my blog at the end of it.

By focusing on quality for your guest posts, you’ll benefit. Social signals are starting to influence how Google and other search engines view any post published today; this includes the number of social shares across various social networks, the number of comments and engagement on the post.

These are things you can’t achieve by writing poor posts; you may get links, but that’ll just be it. The real value of this strategy I’m talking about comes from the value of your post months after it has been published, not in the few days it spends as the number one post on the homepage of the blog you submitted it to.

5. Spend some time on your author bio

While it’s important that your post is great, it is also very important that your author bio isn’t neglected. Don’t let your author bio look as if all you want is a link. It doesn’t have to!

Make your author bio as professional and descriptive of you as possible, and also include the link; when adding that, here are a few tips you should follow:

  • Don’t use the same keyword in all your author bios. You might want to rank for “health blog” but that doesn’t mean you should use only that keyword in all your guest posts. You can use variations such as “health tips blog,” “top health blog,” “professional health blog,” “best health blog,” and so on. Do you notice how all those keywords are variations of “health blog”? That will have much more impact on your rankings than just targeting a single keyword.
  • Don’t use the same author bio in all your guest posts. Search engines don’t list duplicate content, and duplicate content isn’t about your articles alone. Using the same author bio in 40 different guest posts makes your bio duplicate content; it’ll be the same in all 40 guest posts and will be seen as unnatural, thus making it difficult for you to even get the value of one of those links.
  • Not all your anchor text has to include keywords. Feel free to use generic keywords such as “click here,” “check him out,” “visit his website” etc. as they make your links look more natural than focusing on keywords.
  • Limit the number of links you include in your author bio. Depending on the blog, don’t have more than two or three links in your bio. If you include three links, include two to your blog and one to your social profile. Anything more is unnatural and makes it clear that you only want the backlinks.

Tools of the trade

Guest blogging outreach and research can be very difficult; knowing what to write, which blog to contact and who to pitch is tricky. Here are my favorite guest blogging and content tools:

1. PostJoint

If you’re a guest blogger, especially if you’re guest blogging on a massive scale, then outreach can be difficult and sometimes stressful.

Of course, sometimes, reaching out personally is great but you can also save time if you have access to a platform or directory of blogs that not only accept guest posts but that make the process easy; PostJoint removes the hassles that comes with pitching guest bloggers and waiting for weeks for your guest post to be published.

2. MyBlogGuest

The premier guest blogging community online, MyBlogGuest can be a powerful tool in the arsenal of any blogger.

MyBlogGuest is a guest blogging forum where you can collaborate with other bloggers for guest blogging; it’s effective whether you want to publish or get published and there are bloggers in almost any niche.

3. Customrank

Customrank is a better alternative to Google pagerank and Alexa rank; unlike Pagerank and Alexa rank, Customrank isn’t overinflated.

Every website is ranked from 0–100 and the higher a blog’s Customrank, the more value you will get from guest posting on it.

4. Quora

Quora might seem just like an ordinary question-and-answer site, but to the discerning blogger it is a goldmine.

Whether you want to get ideas for blog posts on your own blog or ideas for guest posts, having an endless source of content ideas is important. By browsing questions related to your niche on Quora, you’ll be able to get more ideas than you need for your guest posts.

5. Google Keyword Tool

Before writing my guest posts, I come up with a list of keywords that inspire my writing and that I can also use as anchor text. There are a lot of quality tools online but a lot of them are expensive. The Google keyword tool is free and reliable and it provides data from Google.

Conclusion

What you just read is practically all there is to building links with guest blogging for beginners. It was what I did a year ago to experience the kind of increase I gained in my search traffic; I still do it for myself and my clients today, and it’s phenomenally effective.

Have you ever had an experience guest blogging for links or traffic? How did it go? Please share your tips and thoughts with us in the comments.

Joseph is a guest blogging professional with over 2 years of experience. He writes about all things guest blogging at GuestBloggingTactics.com. If you want to take your business to the next level by guest blogging, especially for links, you should hire him! Joseph is also available on Twitter @gbtactics

Redefining “Quality Content” … And Writing It

Sometimes, I think that if I hear the cliche “content is king” one more time, I’ll scream.

…Okay, maybe I already have. Everyone’s talking about content marketing now that Google’s put (more) emphasis on “quality content”, but no one really seems to be talking about what “quality content” actually means.

Is it content that converts? Content that’s shared? Content that ranks well in the search engines? Content that “resonates” with readers? All of the above? Something else entirely?

And: where can we start creating this “quality content”—if, that is, we’re not doing it already…?

Enough with the cliches! What we need are some answers.

Quality content: a new definition

I think quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Something that has value for me may have no value to you at all. So quality is closely linked to audience, to the idea being communicated, and to the way it’s communicated. But ultimately, I think it’s a pretty subjective description.

As a freelancer, I’m sometimes asked to write content that I’m not exactly excited about. Obviously as bloggers, we would never publish something we’re not proud to put our names to on our own blogs. But if you’re paid to write, sometimes client desires can see you writing copy or content that bores you to tears, or worse: makes you cringe.

Well, if “quality” is subjective, then I think our most basic definition of the term should entail a level of interest that captivates us as human beings. If your writing doesn’t intrigue you, how will it ever intrigue someone else?

So my new year’s resolution for writing is: don’t write what you don’t want to read. (Easier said than done with some clients!) To me, that’s the basis for quality content.

The elements of interest

There’s a lot that goes toward making a post interesting. Topic, writing style, angle, and presentation are just some of the keys to keeping readers reading, and minds cranking over.

Of those, topic and presentation are probably no-brainers for most bloggers and blog posts, most of the time. But if you see blogging like that, you’re probably headed for writer’s block and a blogging rut. If you decide you’ll only ever use text and images, and you won’t look at certain topics in your field because they’re not really “you,” you’re already cutting of your options for creating real, genuine interest among your readers. And, most likely, for yourself.

As for angle and writing style, these are two areas that I think can interact really well—two aspects that can help each other to develop if you let them. How? With the help of the Golden Rule for Better Blogging.

The Golden Rule for Better Blogging

That Golden Rule is: try something you’ve never tried before.

It sounds deceptively simple, but in practice, it can be daunting. Here’s how it might play out for your blog writing:

  • Never written a sales page before? Write one. If you don’t have a product, imagine one of your competitors’ products is yours, or dream up a product you’d like to offer and write a sales page for that.
  • Wish your writing was more sensitive/dynamic/powerful? Study an author or blogger you feel has this talent, work out what they do, then try to apply those techniques in your own writing.
  • Scared to pen an opinion post? All the more reason to draft one. Now.
  • Been putting off making approaches to other bloggers about teaming up on a project? Open up your email and start writing … from the heart.

Better blogging is about pushing the boundaries of what you know you can do. Better blog writing is a variation on that theme. Pushing the boundaries of your blog writing capabilities can be hard when you feel you’re not sure where those boundaries are, or you’re overwhelmed by the amount of advice that’s available to help you overcome that particular challenge.

The answer is to take it one step at a time.

An example: my writing style sandbox

Toward the end of last year, I realized there were certain bloggers and writers whose styles I really admired. At first I wished I wrote more like them, but I soon realised that what I actually wanted was to develop a more engaging writing style of my own.

I studied their techniques, but instead of emulating them, I wanted to use the feeling it gave me as grist to my own creative mill.

So I developed an idea for a blog, wrote a couple of posts, and launched it. The idea is to experiment with personal narrative as a vehicle for deeper connection with readers.

For someone who’s more used to writing other people’s product sales pages and email autoresponders, this is a bit of a shift. It’s outside my comfort zone. It’s beyond the boundaries of what I usually do. And the whole point of it is to experiment with writing techniques—to have a sandbox in which to play.

Your writing style sandbox doesn’t need to be a blog—it doesn’t need to be available to the world, and regularly updated. You could have your sandbox take up an hour every Thursday night, and a new folder on your desktop. Your sandbox could comprise a mutual writing critique session with a trusted friend once a month. It could be whatever you want.

No aim, no gain

The objective of this post is, first, to get you thinking about how you define “quality content” and second, to encourage you to set a goal to reach for better quality content every time you put fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper).

The important step is for you to look at writing that you believe reflects the qualities your own content lacks, and from there, to set a goal to work on those elements in whatever way suits you.

Without an objective, you’ll find it hard to improve. While we could look to our traffic analytics, shares, and so on for “proof” that our writing “quality” is improving, since the measure of quality is to write something you want to read, the best measure of your “success” will probably be a feeling rather than a figure.

What does “quality content” mean to you? And what are you doing to move toward it? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

What Content Works Where? Smarter Traffic (and Revenue) Building Through Social Media

Every time we publish a post on social media here at ProBlogger, readers comment that social media takes so much time—how can they get smarter about it?

Girl using computer

Image courtesy pictureYouth, licensed under Creative Commons

Today I wanted to give you a quick way to get a better handle on your social media activities, in about five minutes, using nothing more than your site stats (I’m using Google Analytics).

You don’t need to get any software or be using a certain tool to share your content. This is just a short, quick technique that anyone can use—social media newbie or superstar.

Is your social media “working”?

First, let’s look at the question we’re trying to answer here. Most of us want to know that we’re getting some return on investment on social media, but we also want to improve our work within each network, so that our communications are more targeted, and our returns keep improving.

So the broad question, “Is social media really working for me?” or “Is it worth my time?” are probably better refined to:

  • How much traffic am I getting from social media?
  • What’s that doing for my bottom line?
  • How can I improve on those figures?

That first question is very easily answered; any stats package will tell you how many unique visitors and pageveiws your blog is getting through social channels. It’ll also tell you what percentage of your traffic overall comes from those sources.

You can easily extrapolate that to an actual (if approximate) ROI provided you have an idea of the value you get from, say, each ad impression on your blog. Divide that by the number of hours you spend each month or week on social media and you’ll know exactly how much money you’re making for your time right now. It’ll be harder to track the ongoing, growing value of that time expenditure in less tangible terms, like what it’s doing for authority-building within your niche. But this is a start.

Similarly, if you have a special promotion you’ve been plugging through social media, you should be able to track how much traffic it’s sending to your landing page. And if it’s a dedicated landing page for social media traffic, you’ll be able to clearly see how well that traffic’s converting.

But what about the last question: How can I improve those figures?

The answer lies in looking a little more closely at what, specifically, is pulling the traffic through from each network.

An analysis

If you’re not sure how your social networks are performing when it comes to generating traffic, you might be surprised to look at your stats. Here are the most popular URLs on ProBlogger for the last month, for Twitter:

  1. 40 Cool Things to Do with Your Posts After You Hit Publish
  2. Ramit Sethi Exposed: How He Earns Millions Blogging
  3. Neil Patel’s Guide to Writing Popular Blog Posts
  4. Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn Millions in Your Flip-flops Framework [Case Study]
  5. How to Make $30,000 a Year Blogging.

And here are the most popular for Facebook:

  1. 15 Bloggers to Watch in 2013
  2. 40 Cool Things to Do with Your Posts After You Hit Publish
  3. Are You Wasting Time Guest Posting?
  4. Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? 7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging
  5. 20 Linkbaiting Techniques.

What stands out to me here, above all else, is the potential for older content (like that last post in the Facebook list, which was from 2006!) to get traffic through reshares.

Obviously, with all your stats at your fingertips, you can go much further than the top five, but this snapshot gives a fairly clear picture of the differences between the content that appeals to the users of different networks.

Even at a glance, we might make some hypotheses based on these results:

  • Twitter users in this space prefer case studies and personal advice that comes with a sense of authority.
  • Facebook users in this space like list posts.
  • The most popular topics on Twitter seem to be about making money blogging.
  • The most popular topics on Facebook are about blog promotion techniques.

So of course, the next step is to test those hypotheses. I could go back into the stats archive to see if those statements are true over, say, the last six months. And I could test those statements using articles I have queued up for the next week or month.

There seems to be a bit of a dichotomy between headlines that work well on each network, so I could try different headlines on different types of posts and see how that goes. But it’s also important to remember that reshares aren’t just about headlines—they’re also about content.

So rather than just coming up with some great direct, list-style headlines for list posts in an effort to boost traffic from Facebook, I could see try other types of headlines on some list posts, and see how they perform on that network. In this way I can narrow down how important the headline is on each social network, as well as which types of content are likely to do well.

What next?

As I mentioned, this kind of analysis doesn’t take long—a five-minute review once a week (or, more likely for me, once a month!) will give me the information I need.

This information can help me shape my content to attract more users from each network, but it can also help me to devise information products or offers that best suit each network’s users. This can, again, help me optimize clickthroughs and conversions from those sources.

The more I get to know the data over time, the more effectively I can communicate to users of each network about things that interest them, and in ways that impact them. This can help me to build broad rapport but also to do market research, make valuable relationships, and more.

Not bad for a five-minute review! Of course, there’s a lot more you can do around social media tracking and assessment. But as I explained at the outset of this post, I wanted to show all those bloggers who think social media takes too much time that getting quantitative answers about the return on that investment isn’t hard or time-consuming.

And neither is making use of that information to make your social networking even more productive.

What sorts of social media traffic and revenue tracking do you do? Let us know in the comments.

How Interview Blogs Work [Case Study]

This guest post is by Janelle Allen of The Grand Life.

In September 2012, I launched my latest online venture, The Grand Life, where I interview creative professionals and entrepreneurs, and quickly realized that I had a lot to learn about building a successful interview site.

Although there are a few resources on interviewing, what I really needed was to chat with other interviewers who were willing to share their strategies and thoughts on generating traffic, converting subscribers and attracting revenue.

Fortunately, I secured interviews with the founders of three different sites, each with varying levels of success: Shelia Butler of Successful Women Talk, Tim Jahn, co-founder of Entrepreneurs Unpluggd, and David Siteman Garland of The Rise to the Top.

Each of these individuals shared tons of insight and helpful tips, which I now share with you.

A little background

Can you give us a quick intro about your site and it’s mission?

SB: The premise behind Successful Women Talk is to interview successful women and share their stories. About two years ago I started following some of people like Andrew Warner, David Siteman Garland, and I thought, “You know what? I needed a mentor and I didn’t have one. What better mentor for a woman than to have another successful woman that’s walked that path before her?” I just wanted to give someone else the idea—to show them that you can do it.

TJ: At Entrepreneurs Unpluggd our goal is to help early stage entrepreneurs move forward with their business idea or whatever it is they’re working on. Entrepreneurs Unpluggd provides advice and resources to help solve the problems that new entrepreneurs, and those thinking about taking the leap, experience in the early stages.

DSG: We work with online entrepreneurs. I call them mediapreneurs. A lot of times they’re creating some kind of media related to their business: a web show, a blog, a book. Some kind of form like that. We deal with a lot of experts and people that have a passion that they’re looking to turn into an online business—that’s really the types of people that come hang out with us.

When did you launch your site?

SB: I started the show in March (2012), so it’s a relatively new site.

TJ: We launched the site portion in the Spring or Summer of 2011, but we started with events in the beginning of 2011.

DSG: I started in 2008. When I started it was a different approach from a lot of people because my site started out as a local website. So 2008 and 2009, it was really for local entrepreneurs in St. Louis, Missouri, where I’m from.

Strategies for growing your site

How much traffic do you currently generate per month?

SB: I’m at around 1000 unique visitors each month.

TJ: I don’t know the numbers offhand. Right now our numbers aren’t anything huge. So that’s a goal going forward.

DSG: Our onsite traffic is somewhere around 100,000 to 125,000 unique visitors a month.

What are your top traffic sources?

SB: Organic is still my number one, then Facebook and then probably Stumbleupon or Pinterest; but Facebook and organic traffic are the biggest ones.

TJ: Twitter is the highest.

DSG: Google is number one, Facebook is number two.

What strategies did you use to attract readers when you started out?

SB: I had previously built a website and I knew I wanted to optimize the site for SEO as much as possible. I wanted the site to be clean; I wanted an opt-in option and to do video because it’s another way to market yourself. So those strategies and also trying to be different by interviewing women. I’m slowly but organically putting myself out there. I have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. That’s been my strategy: putting it there and trying to be as SEO friendly as possible.

TJ: We focused on three things: Producing really good content. Everybody says that, but to us that means we produce videos for our events. We also have the interviews that I used to do.

And we also like to produce really good written content. So when it comes to a blog post, whether it’s one of our team members writing it or it’s a guest post, it needs to fit certain criteria and be useful in our eyes to be considered good, quality content.

Also, we’re constantly working on ways to promote our content in a higher way. We’ve been focusing on social media, in addition to constantly tweaking our email newsletter.

DSG: I’m one of those who likes to share everything transparently—everything that I’ve tried, attempted, worked, failed … whatever. When I started it was a different approach from a lot of people because my site started out as a local website. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have people elsewhere, but my focus was local interviews with interesting entrepreneurs. So I went on a local tirade to try to get people’s attention. Besides using social media channels and things like that, I made sure that I networked with all the major media sources in St. Louis at the time. St. Louis Business Journal and Small Business Monthly of St. Louis, St. Louis Magazine and Alive Magazine, radio, TV—anything local that would listen to me.

I was doing TV interviews and radio interviews. And honestly the way that I did it was no magic formula: I just emailed people or called them up [and said], “I’m 24. I’m starting this show. We’re interviewing entrepreneurs. Here’s the website. The mission is that I’m trying to encourage young entrepreneurship in the city.” And that led to a lot of early traffic. That was, believe it or not, one of the first of many, many strategies that I used to get it off the ground.

What have you learned from some of the strategies that you’ve used? Are there any unsuccessful strategies that you would advise people to avoid?

SB: I think the biggest thing is not to focus on the number of followers you have, but the quality with those followers and how much engagement you truly have with them.

At first I would beat myself up because I didn’t have ten thousand Twitter followers. But it doesn’t really matter because I’ve found that the people who love what I do continue to respond, continue to comment, continue to watch and continue to spread my stuff. I think that you need to put more value in the few quality people that you have and when you do that you gain traction.

I also started putting themes around my content each week, with the interviews I’d do. I think that helps because then I’d also link to articles that were related to my theme of the week or the person that I’m interviewing. Just trying to be more strategic about it.

TJ: What I’d recommend other people to work on is to figure out which channels apply to their audience. You mentioned things you shouldn’t do: a while back we were promoting to sites where our audience wasn’t hanging out, so it was pointless for us to take the time to share our content there. So take the time to figure out which sites are actually worth your time and have an audience that will actually be reading your content.

DSG: A thing that worked really well was we did live events. We did 85 live events in two years in St. Louis. Not big ones, but getting 30 entrepreneurs together for dinner and discussions or Rise Lunch, as we called it. These little branding opportunities were great because it gave people the touch and feel of the brand.

I think that if I were to start again from scratch, I don’t think I would focus as much on the local as I did in the beginning. I would focus on [building] critical relationships with other influencers in the space, which has always been a success strategy and that’s part of interviewing. I would do more book reviews on video and give credit to authors, for example. I would do more ways that you can connect with people. That’s really the best way anything spreads, not asking people, “Can you promote this for me?” It’s better to ask “How can I promote and help other people?”

Another thing that I want to emphasize is that I’ve always been obsessed with the design of the site. I love a high-end design. I’m not talking about spending millions of dollars here, but spending time and money and effort to really get that brand down. Everyone says content is king. I agree, but it’s really about what it looks like and how it makes people feel and your connection with a person and the audience.

How has your site evolved over time and how have the changes impacted your growth?

DSG: When I started, I didn’t know who it was for. I was going for young but I didn’t know the demographic that was going to happen. The way that I learned to evolve it was just from doing the interviews. I would interview people and think “That guy wasn’t that cool. I’m not feeling this.” So slowly, I would narrow and narrow [my target audience] down over time and I think that’s one of the keys to success. I’m not afraid to say “We’re going in this direction,” even though it may piss some people off.

Here’s the funny mistake that happened too: first [the focus] was entrepreneurship, then it naturally evolved to online entrepreneurship and where it’s at today is what I call mediapreneurship or lifestyle entrepreneurship. Between the shift from online to mediapreneurship, I knew something was missing. So a shift that I made very quickly was to go more broad and interview successful people in all types of industries. I did that—and honestly, I love those interviews—but it was off-brand. I knew something had to change but I should have gone narrow, not broad.

Then I figured it out and realized I was right about needing to change, but wrong on the direction. When I went narrow, that’s when I really started honing in on the topic and the types of people who were tuning in. That’s when it went to the next level in terms of everything: revenue, business model, traffic, community buyers–everything went in the right direction once we went that way.

Strategies for converting readers to subscribers

How many email subscribers do you currently have?

SB: I just looked and I have about 175 email subscribers right now. It’s a start. But it was more than what I thought, so I got really excited!

TJ: We have a little over 5000 or so. That’s something we’re always thinking about. We’ve found that people who are on the email newsletter are the most engaged and into what we’re doing.

DSG: One of my fun mistakes early on was to not focus solely on email. Now on my site you won’t find social media buttons or anything. We push everything through email. If I had done that when I started, we’d be doing this interview from my yacht.

Our email subscribers right now are somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000, and going up exponentially each month. By the end of next year, it could be close to 100k.

What strategies do you use to convert people to subscribers?

SB: I try to have a really clean site and focus on my opt-in box [locations]. At the bottom of every post, I have an opt-in. I also included a “free updates” page and I’ve gotten quite a bit of subscribers from that.

I’ve also started asking people to share, which is something that we as women have a hard time with: asking for things. I just launched my podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, so I put a Facebook post up asking people to subscribe. So, I’m going to ask and I think asking is really important.

TJ: We’ve played with different calls to action on our site. At the moment we have a welcome mat, which is a full page that you see when you first come to our site. If you’ve never been to our site before, you’ll see it and it will encourage you to sign up. It doesn’t force you (there’s a Skip this button), but it works very well.

There are some sites that implement that technique on only the home page, but we implement it on every page. We also have calls to action at the bottom of every post and at the top of every page.

DSG: First and foremost, you will notice if you go to my site—boom—right at the top there’s an email signup. I’m a big believer in using your real estate well. There’s also an email signup on every page and some of the hidden pages that people don’t use, but they should, like the About page. A couple other ways I do it: it’s always under every episode and I always verbally say it in each episode.

Another thing is that once you start putting things for sale and you start getting some really awesome customers, they start spreading the word. You end up with more word of mouth conversion when you start charging people for things. It’s a good thing.

Have there been changes or events that spiked your conversion rate or has it been slow growth?

SB: I think I’m too new to say. So far it’s been slow growth. But I have interviewed some well-known people lately and I get more followers from that. I’ve noticed that if I interview someone with a bigger following, if they share it, that makes a big difference.

TJ: The welcome mat definitely made a huge difference in terms of conversion rate.

DSG: Here’s a little lesson that definitely increased email subscribers: I used to say “Hey guys, you like this … you want more … blah, blah. Join The Rise VIP list and you’ll have more.” Now here’s where it gets interesting! I realized that’s annoying because people could be on another site, or they might be on iTunes or listening to it on Stitcher Radio. They’re going to look below and say, “What are you talking about?” So what I did was very simple: I just made a URL to therisetothetop.com/vip. The URL is just a sign up for the email list. So on episodes or anything that I’m doing where I’m talking or doing an interview, I just say go to rise/vip, where you’ll hear about new shows, etc. As long as they remember that URL, you don’t have to be as concerned about where people are watching or listening.

Another thing that helped was I changed from sending out a very generic automatic email when shows went up. It was an RSS autoresponder that went out whenever there was a new post. I completely changed that. Now I do a straight-up email like it’s coming from a friend. I send every single one myself and I get more emails back from people now. I include something funny about my day or weekend or whatever. That was a huge shift. It sounds small, but what ends up happening is people share that email. They’re like, “This is funny. Have you seen this? You should check it out.”

Strategies for building revenue

Are you currently able to fully support yourself financially from your site?

SB: I am not, but it is a goal. I do have another business, so I do a couple of things. I have gotten several consulting clients from the site.

TJ: It’s definitely something we want to make regular revenue from, and we are but we’re not making full-time revenue.

DSG: Absolutely. I just hired my dad who is a full-time employee.

How much annual revenue do you generate on your site?

DSG: We can’t release it fully but I can tell you that it’s over $300,000.

What revenue models did you use for your show when you started out and what lessons did you learn?

TJ: Sponsors and events. [In the future], we’re going to experiment with different ways of doing sponsors, maybe sponsored content or some sort of interactive content between the sponsor and our community, which only works if you have the right sponsors. The sponsors we seek and will continue to seek are those who have products and services for our community.

My co-founder and I are very data driven. We like to make decisions based on the data, so we pay close attention to which types of posts work and what kind of content works. When I say “work,” what it really boils down to is what your goals are. If your goal is to make money, there’s no point in doing anything that’s not going to make you money.

It only makes sense to do things that support your goals, right? So start experimenting with things. Try list posts. They traditionally work well in our industry, so try it and if it does well, try another one. If it doesn’t, try a different type of post until you start to build data on what works. We did videos for a long time. My interviews were about twenty minutes long. We’re going to experiment with cutting up the videos to see which lengths work. Will people respond to a five minute video versus a fifteen minute video? If so, then we’re going to make five minute videos.

DSG: When I was starting out it was all based on local ads and sponsorships and I learned that local ads and sponsorships suck. It kept me afloat, so I can’t rip it, but it’s not a sustainable model, because if you’re going to do advertisements and sponsorships, you’re now in the media mindset versus being an educator.

When you’re in the media mindset, it’s all about volume. You have to get more people in; you have to do more shows; you have to get more advertisements, but there’s a cap on how far you can go with that, especially if you’re in a niche. The more niche the better; however, you have a smaller potential audience. So, when you do sponsorships the challenge is that your revenue is controlled by someone else. If they wake up on the wrong side of the bed, if they’re going out of business, if they get bored and move on to something else–that could be a massive revenue hit to you if you don’t control it.

I still have sponsorships and advertising, but I can tell you that it’s not a sustainable business by itself. It just isn’t. You’re going to end up having pressure to grow more audience when that may not be the best way to go about it.

Let’s put it this way: I have made six figures from my first online product launch with an audience of less than 500 people who bought it. The reason is because I get all the revenue. I created it and it’s $495 dollars. If I went to a sponsor and said: “We’ve got 500 awesome people. Do you want to sponsor this?” They’d say no.

That was a huge shift because my goal at the beginning was that I was going to grow this and have sponsorships and that was the model. I can’t remember the moment when I had the awakening, but I think when I started learning more from other people I realized that my business model was flawed. Not in terms of revenue, but for long-term growth and potential. Now, I see us as a show and products and online events–which have been hugely successful—and we’re also going to move into having a membership component as well. It’s going to be a multi-faceted approach.

I think the number one takeaway is that people think that they’re just going to do a show and have these sponsors and advertising come in and sprinkle you with happiness. It just doesn’t happen. Once you get into that creation mindset and begin to charge people, I think that’s where it’s at.

Final thoughts

When it comes to hosting an internet radio show or having a site that focuses on interviewing people, what are two or three key lessons that people should absolutely do when starting out, in terms of successfully growing an audience?

SB: I think the best thing is that you’ve got to be authentic. I’ll give you a good example: I almost didn’t start a talk show because of my Southern (American) accent. I was really embarrassed by it and I thought that people would think I was uneducated or whatever the stereotype is, but I get the most positive compliments about my accent than anything. So be yourself and don’t be afraid to go out there and try something new.

Secondly, having a good look, design and brand is important.

Thirdly, be consistent. Sometimes it’s hard to post when you say you will. Even though I have a small following, they are a dedicated following and they expect something to happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I think being consistent is huge.

TJ: First, don’t do what doesn’t work. The argument there is that if I’m just starting out, I don’t know what doesn’t work. Well, that brings me to my second point: do it and iterate as quickly as possible.

We’re constantly iterating. It’s not always something big, sometimes it’s small tweaks. Go out there and just start doing it. You’re going to make mistakes and screw up and figure things out but that’s when you’re going to start building data to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That’s when you’ll be able to begin only doing things that work, because you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. You’re never going to get to that point if you don’t start.

My co-founder and I, when we want to do something, we just do it. We don’t sit down and think about it for a week and have a big meeting, we just do it. We get on chat and say “Should we do this? What’s the data?” If it doesn’t work, we learn that pretty quickly.

DSG: First thing: You have to spend some time and a little dough on the brand. One of the biggest secrets to getting people to say yes is that you actually look like you know what you’re doing.

Second, is not to start with the top of the mountain. Don’t try to reach out to A-lister type people because you’ll get pissed when they don’t respond. Start with people you know, people you can practice on. Build up your portfolio a little bit before you start reaching out to [A-list] people.

Third tip: When you start reaching out to people that are bigger, the best time to get someone is when they’re promoting something. A book is the best possible thing because the publishers pressure everyone to go promote their book. When people have something to promote, they become much more likely to be interviewed.

Bonus tip: I’ve done hundreds of interviews and I’ve never once asked someone to promote my interview. I know people that do it and they like to send a link and say “Please promote this,” but I like to come from a place that’s more about gratitude. When I interview someone, after the interview is up, I send a link, thank them and that’s it. Good things will happen from that.

Every time someone sends me a link and says “Can you promote this?” I don’t want to do it. Interestingly, anytime someone sends it to me and doesn’t tell me to promote it, I promote it. You don’t want to make people think that you only did the interview because you want them to send it out. You want to throw a party for the guest. It should be fun and easy.

What is one piece of advice that may be unconventional or that we just don’t usually hear that you would recommend people follow?

SB: I’ve been told and I’ve read that you can’t be too broad, but when I do interviews outside of my niche, they are sometimes my most popular ones—so try not to be too close-minded and think outside the box. Give people the benefit of the doubt and learn how to pull something out of the interview that speaks to your audience.

DSG: It’s not about bringing in as much traffic as you can. What it’s about is: At some point you’re going to start to get a little bit of love. You might have two fans, but you’re going to get a little bit of love. A comment. An email. A Facebook like; something like that. These early adopters become your superfans—take care of them. What do I mean? Respond to them. I respond to everything that I possibly can, even now. This engagement builds fans that spread the word for you.

Let me give you an example: a lady named Debbie. I didn’t know Debbie but she was having issues subscribing and she sent me an email saying “I want to subscribe but I can’t figure it out.” So, very simply, I went in and subscribed her and sent her an email saying “Hey, Debbie. I’m so excited to have you in and I want to apologize for the problems. It’s all set. You’re in!” I got the warmest, kindest email back, thanking me. I just did this because I wanted to help her, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff that Debbie has spread for this show since then. She’s our number one fan. She spreads everything. She buys everything. She attends everything. When I hosted a live event one time, she couldn’t make it so she sent a bottle of wine. People often wonder how you create these kinds of super fans; it’s by treating them as individuals.

Conclusion

Building a successful interviewing site takes more than just finding interesting people. You have to combine savvy interviewing skills with technical know-how and strategic marketing. Hopefully the strategies shared in this article will help you build a successful site. If you’re new to interviewing or thinking about starting, there are a few resources you should check out, namely Andrew Warner’s How to Interview Your Heroes guide and David Siteman Garland’s Create Awesome Interviews training videos.

Beyond that, I can only suggest you follow the advice you’ve read here: set clear goals, don’t be afraid to change directions, honor your fans and, above all, just start.

Do you do interviews for your blog? Share your own tips and advice with us in the comments.

Janelle Allen is the founder and author of The Grand Life, where she interviews creative entrepreneurs about creativity, freedom and work, with a focus on telling stories about work that matters. Learn more about her here and connect with her via Twitter.

Top Journalism Techniques for Smart Bloggers

This guest post is by Matthew Brennan of Matthewlbrennan.com.

Stop for a second and consider this blog post opening:

“Matt rose from his unpadded chair, and stopped to scratch his head and stare at the empty document on his computer. He tiptoed through his pitch-black apartment at 2 a.m., careful not to step on the sleeping cat.

“He opened the refrigerator, stared into the bright light, and settled on making a ham and cheese sandwich, even though he wanted turkey. As he arranged the lunchmeat over the bread, inspiration struck. Once he returned to the computer, food in hand, he began clinking away on the keyboard, knocking the words out.

“Matt defeated another case of writer’s block…”

How to make your readers invest in your work

It’s time for small business bloggers to reconsider how they package their blog posts. Search results always turn up several (or more!) posts on the same subject. Providing a new twist will help yours to stand out.

Journalists can teach bloggers something when it comes to enticing a reader. A good journalist is always considering how to make their story stand out. They’re regularly competing with their counterparts from different newspapers, but also with the journalists who wrote the stories that surround theirs.

They crave the attention of a reader. They act on it by capitalizing on the human element.

Journalists are master storytellers

They implement a little-known writing secret: people want to read about people. Journalists know that readers want a little action with their morning coffee.

So, when you sit down to write a “list” blog, why not give us those tips with a little action? My initial example could easily be summed up in a short sentence on a list blog:

“To defeat writer’s block: Get up and move around. When you walk away from the computer inspiration can strike.”

Sure, this might be helpful, but seeing it in action creates a stronger mental image. I guarantee your competition will likely not write about the creative inspiration stirred up while fixing a ham and cheese sandwich at 2 a.m.

A personal story shows that your tip or trick works. It shows the frustrations that come with writer’s block, and the corresponding action to battle it.

Zoom in, zoom out

Journalists give us a close-up image. Think of it like a magnifying glass on somebody performing an action. Once they have a reader hooked, they pull the magnifying glass back to give us a view of the big picture.

Say, for example, you own a health club. Instead of just dully writing about the three best exercises for flatter abs, maybe you begin the blog writing about your workout, or the workout of one of the trainers.

If it’s working for the poster child of the physically fit, readers will be more interested when you pull the magnifying glass back to establish the bigger picture.

Try these techniques yourself

Bloggers could benefit a great deal from a dose of personal storytelling. It creates a stronger investment from your reader. The greater the investment, the better the chance they will complete your call to action.

Go ahead, pick up the New York TimesWall Street Journal, or the USA Today. There’s a great deal you can take away from the high quality of writing these publications offer.

Don’t be afraid to go tell a personal story! What are some of the better examples that have worked for you in the past? Tell us in the comments.

Matthew Brennan is a freelance journalist and copywriter, telling stories in the Chicago area. He blogs and runs his copywriting business at Matthewlbrennan.com.

7 Practices That Make You Look Like a Rookie Blogger

This guest post is by Lior Levin.

One of the main reasons why any company or individual starts a blog is to demonstrate expertise and professionalism while courting new leads and customers. So failing to customize your blog or to learn some basic website management practices could do more harm than good. Here are seven rookie mistakes to avoid on your blog.

1. Using a common, unchanged theme

There are plenty of free, high quality website themes that you can use with a blog CMS such as WordPress. You don’t have to stick with the default website theme your blogging service provides. In fact, you really shouldn’t, as there are plenty of rookie bloggers who leave their themes unchanged.

Instead, use a unique, professional theme and then add your own custom tweaks or hire an HTML company to customize it for you.

2. Low-quality stock images

Whether you use a free service like Stock Exchange or pay for an account with a premium service, using high-quality stock images with your posts will help set your blog apart from the competition. If you use watermarked, blurry, or irrelevant images with your blog posts, no one will take your website seriously. While a great image can’t save poor content, a bad image can discredit great content.

3. Poorly aligned images

Even if you do manage to add high-quality images to your website, you also need to learn the basics of aligning them with your text properly so that the text wraps around the images and the images don’t crowd into the sidebar. It’s not hard to modify images, but before you hit Publish, make sure you preview your posts to make sure the images appear in the correct position relative to your text. A blogging program such as Windows Live Writer makes cropping, resizing, and aligning images easy.

Most of the time, you’ll want to align your images to the left or to the right at the top of your post, but if your columns are narrow for your main content, you could resize your image so that it runs across the whole column.

4. Meta information in your sidebar

When you first load up your new blog, you may see a “meta” information section with links to the blog’s administration panel and feed. This is unnecessary. You should include the link to your feed at the top of your blog and bookmark the login page on your own browser. Blogger Brankica Underwood writes, “There is absolutely no need for that widget to be in your sidebar or footer, leak link juice, and confuse people.”

5. Large chunks of paragraph text

One of the most important tips for blog readability is to avoid large chunks of paragraph text. No matter how good your ideas may be, you’ll look like a rookie if every blog post has enormous chunks of unbroken text.

Blogging is not the same as English composition in college. Keep your paragraphs short, use bullet points, and incorporate sub-headings when you can. All of these simple practices will make your posts easier to read and make you look like a competent blogger.

6. Neglecting your pages

There are two essential pieces of information that every website should have: an About page and a Contact page. Missing either of them will make you look either unprofessional or disorganized—that is, besides simply making it hard for readers to find the information that many of them want to know.

If you add a new page to your website, but you don’t have time to fill it in completely, there’s no problem with writing some “placeholder” copy, such as “More information coming soon.” Just make sure you follow up and fill it in.

7. Spam comments

Depending on the blogging service you use, spam comments may become a problem on your blog that could make you look bad. That doesn’t mean you should inundate your readers with hoops they need to jump through in order to comment—such as illegible captcha phrases or requiring readers to register in order to comment.

By adding a professional comment management service such as Disqus, you’ll filter out the spam comments and make it easy for readers to both leave comments and to follow up on the discussion. In fact, the advantage of Disqus is that it notifies commenters of replies so that they are prompted to return to your blog.

Get a handle on the basics

While it’s incredibly easy to start a blog, it’s even easier to manage a blog poorly and to discredit yourself and your business in the process. By integrating some basic blog management tools and learning how to use them effectively, you’ll be able to use your blog to effectively build your online reputation.

Lior Levin is an adviser to startup that created a passbook solution to follow credit card charges. Lior is also and advisor to firm that offers a shopping cart abandonment tool for ecommerce websites all over the world.

Bloggers, Think for Yourselves: Reject the SEO Rumor-Mongers!

This guest post is by Dustin Verburg and Jeriann Watkins of Page One Power.

Matt Cutts spoke, and the internet started to buzz about guest posting. This unsettled blog owners who were already uncertain about accepting contributions from strangers. SEO industry veterans declared “and from this day forth, all link building is spam, especially through guest posts!” with bitterness and vitriol.

Soon after, some more fresh-faced SEO professionals came along and gave link building a few new names. Blog owners remained unconvinced. All sorts of fingers were pointed and all sorts of names were tossed around. “Spammer! Black hat! Link builder!

And, in the end, nothing changed apart from some minor algorithm updates and the emergence of a few videos. Blog owners, take heart: not everyone is just after an easy link. Link building didn’t instantly become some cursed mummy, forever doomed to wander a forgotten tomb. Instead, young professionals renamed their jobs and moved forward.

The thing is, though, the name change wasn’t even necessary. This is a perfect example of a reactionary, irrational response on both sides of the aisle.

About “link building”

In order to appease bloggers, panic-stricken lemmings of the SEO world have recently been purporting the value of “link earning” rather than link building. This stems from a comment by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz (video included below), whose argument is that if you’re doing things to “get” links then you’re doing it wrong.

Fishkin’s main point is that you need to build great content—then, the links will come to you. While this is true, it can be misleading to people who are unfamiliar with SEO and link building in general.  

The danger is that it makes it seem like anything that’s done with the intention of obtaining a link falls into black-hat territory. The truth of the matter is that great content is not enough if no one reads it; hence, reaching out to other sources to expose your writing to a larger audience is not a bad thing.

Some people are actively trying to change the name of link building. Here’s why that’s a bad idea:

A new buzzword

The truth is, a rose by any other name is still a rose. Fishkin isn’t recommending any revolutionary changes in SEO practice, he is coining a new buzz-phrase. Just because link building doesn’t have a great reputation right now doesn’t mean that we change the name.

People who claim to be “link earning” are probably using the same methods they were last month before the term existed. No matter what it’s called, the intention is still to get links, which doesn’t have to be bad.  It’s not the name that brings the spammy methods, it’s the spammers taking short cuts and using faulty methods. Changing the name of what you do just to appeal to what is trendy seems pretty dishonest, doesn’t it?

Rather than trying to set bloggers’ minds at ease by changing the name of an industry, SEO professionals should be concerned with generating quality content that bloggers actually want. If we work to build the credibility of our industry, and our own reputations, we’ll eliminate this reactionary cycle.

Shortcuts

The reason link building is under fire is because certain methods (black blog networks, comment spamming, keyword stuffing) try to “game the system” and outsmart search engines. People try to get links without going to the work of providing quality content. Unfortunately, that is the way of the world. If there is a short-cut, it will be found and exploited, especially online, where so many short cuts are available.

The key is to find the practices that promote efficiency without sacrificing quality. Guest posting is one link building strategy that does have the potential to add quality in terms of new, unique content for your blog from someone else’s point of view.

Value

Link building functions on a case-by-case basis. The reason links are an asset is because they show that site owners appreciate and find value in the content they are linking to.

This means that if you want links you should create content that people will find valuable. Putting this content on someone else’s site with the intent of getting a backlink does not change the value.

Good writing is good writing. Google knows this; bloggers should know this as well.

Not everyone is a spammer

Like a witch hunt, the fear of spam—and the penalties that follow—has led to wide-spread panic, making bloggers all but ready to burn link builders and guest posters at the stake.

But much like many accused witches were just medicine women, there are benefits of guest posting as well.

  • Networking: Not everyone is a spammer. Guest posts can be written by people who really know what they are talking about. After all, isn’t networking marketing basics? Guest posting is a very effective networking tool, and good writers should be able to utilize it. In fact, it should be encouraged.
  • Credibility: In a recent webmaster video, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, said that high quality guest posts still have value. He then cited some examples of well-known bloggers and industry experts who would be excellent choices to host on your site.  While this is a great statement to alleviate some of the fears of accepting guest posts, it would be a mistake for blog owners to accept posts from only well-known industry experts. After all, credibility has to start being built somewhere.

The strength of blogging lies in giving people a chance to get their voice out to as many people as possible. This can and should include companies. Though we as a society are inundated with advertisements and may hate to admit it, even advertisements can add quality. After all, marketers are people too, and they like to make things that people won’t hate (hence all the remakes of Top 100 songs in commercials).  

Even if it is for link building purposes, a lot of quality content can be generated by people who haven’t yet made a name for themselves in the blogosphere.

Usefulness, sustainability, separation, and usefulness

There’s a separation between link building and spam. I can’t stress this enough to blog owners—there are spammers who build diseased links, but link building is not an inherently evil practice.

“Link earning” is the term used now instead of the currently pejorative “link building,” but when they’re done right they are the exact same thing. A good SEO wants to work with blog owners and webmasters because their goals are the same.

Links are the fuel that powers the internet, and valuable links don’t come without time and effort. They’re cultivated and carefully placed with the content, the website, the link’s destination and the site owner all in mind.

  • Link building: Link building takes work. When it’s done right, it is the practice of trading something worth value (content of some sort) for a link. It’s a little hyperlink in a sea of other text and code, but it makes a difference to an SEO professional. Writing something interesting and finding a good home for it (or doing it the other way around) is not easy. A good link builder values and supports the blog s/he’s posting on and wants to see it succeed. That link builder wants a link too, of course, but it’s not a case of expecting something for nothing. Those links are built and earned. The link and the content strengthen the foundation of every website they touch.
  • Sustainability: There are spammers who play at building links, but there are bad apples in every industry. Just because there are some shady characters among us does not mean we’re all crooks. There will always be spammers, but their practices will never be sustainable. Building links and producing content in any meaningful way is never going to be easy. We can’t let spammers corrupt an entire system that brings people together and supports a happy internet. The only thing less sustainable than spammers would be an internet so afraid of that spam that it shuts itself down for an eternity of stagnation.
  • Separation: Almost anyone with good working knowledge of the internet can tell a quality site from a spammy one. Likewise, it’s easy to sniff out a totally irrelevant link. Bizarre robot-driven links and the spam sites they love will always exist, but they’re pretty easy to avoid. A blog owner’s initial scan of the writer’s content (and email) should reveal a spammer. 500 words in broken English with impossible keyword density is much different than the work of a legitimate professional. The spammer and the professional both exist, but they’re at odds with each other. Just as there are web directories with endless pages robot-driven gibberish, there are writers sweating and bleeding over their craft to deliver good content to quality websites.
  • Usefulness: The danger lies in not trying to separate the two—if webmasters and blog owners just freeze up and stop responding to emails, those spam sites are going to be the only places on the web showing any real growth. Guest posts and other link building tools must be judged individually, not by some all-encompassing magic formula. This can be summarized in one question: will this content be useful for or interesting to your readers? If the answer is yes, then don’t you owe it to them to post it?

More than links

Having smart, creative people creating amazing content and reaching out to other smart, creative people makes the internet a better place. Building links, in the purest sense, is so much more than code, text and pixels. Content provides:

  • Diversity: There are different kinds of content. Good content always makes an impact—whether it makes someone want to reexamine their Google Analytics data, want to ride their bike, want to leave a heartfelt comment, or just makes someone laugh. But there’s no exact formula for good content. Some search marketers might love an in-depth analysis of a ballpoint pen manufacturer’s backlink profile, complete with charts and cold, hard numbers.  On the other hand, that sounds terribly boring to me. We all want different things. Content comes in many amazing forms, and it’s engaging on many distinctive levels.
  • Community: Comments and social media build communities from content. It goes deeper than that, though. These emerging communities share the same values, but they challenge each other with new ideas and concepts. Site owners, bloggers, and readers engage one another and keep each other honest as these communities form. This is how innovation happens in any niche—and it all starts with content.
  • Infrastructure: As we build links, we’re building a trustworthy infrastructure that interacts with and independently of the major search engines. A link between two sites is a vote of confidence. A good link means never having to be afraid of what lies beyond that bit of text and code. A good link is relevant, helpful, and thoughtfully placed—it’s never superfluous or dangerous.

Link building is a complicated field, and that is where the value lies. As with all industries, there will be people who offer services and products of less quality. You are probably careful about where you order sushi; practice the same caution when accepting links for your site.

The danger does not come from the name, but from the practice, and not all who practice link building are spammers. Otherwise, links would not even be a factor in search engine algorithms.

Dustin Verburg is a writer and musician based in Boise, ID who enjoys frowning at Matt Cutts’ YouTube videos. Jeriann Watkins is a writer interested in music, technology, and all sorts of random topics. They both work at Page One Power, a relevancy first link building firmin Boise, Idaho and write for their SEO blog.

Can’t Find Your Voice? Find and Share Hidden Treasures Instead

This guest post is by Traci Dillard of allstayathome.com.

It’s important to have a strong and likeable voice as a blogger. If your followers don’t like your voice and article flow, they probably won’t return to your blog.

Equally important is what valuable information or “hidden treasure” you have to offer to your readers. This can also be a driving force to ensure repeat traffic.

Depending on your niche, it is important that you keep your information current and share helpful resources with your readers. Not only will you find that readers will return to your blog to catch the latest information, but you will begin to see your list of followers grow as well.

Resources can compensate for voice

If you are having trouble finding your “voice,” having a blog full of powerful resources and lists can help to compensate for this.

Your blog must be useful to those seeking the information you’re sharing in order to attract and keep visitors. If your blog is a reliable source of information in a specific area, this alone can work wonders.

Set your goal to become the best in your niche

The key to success with a blog is to strive to provide the best information in your niche. If you aren’t already an expert on the topics you write about, you need to become one. This means you need to study your competition.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are they doing to gain and keep followers?
  • What secrets do they share?

While you don’t necessarily want to share the same information they share, you should gather better information to stay a step ahead of your competition. Do as much research as you can, dig around, and learn as much as possible about the subject of your blog.

You cannot maintain a successful blog if you offer insufficient or incomplete information on a subject. You must master the niche and this requires thorough, ongoing research.

Organize your information

Once you gather information, keep it updated and organize it on your pages so that it is understandable to the reader.

You will see the most traffic from posts that contain organized lists as well as helpful “how-to” information that is up-to-date.

Keep posts original and unique

Sure, you will have to gather resources from around the web and other places, but the trick is to gather a wealth of information from many different sources and give your audience the best of the best! You want to wow your readers.

When a reader finds the information you offer to be powerful and interesting, they will most likely want more of what you have to offer and will therefore be more likely to subscribe, follow, and comment on what they’ve read.

The feedback from readers is a valuable tool in making your blog even better.

How and where should you gather resources?

In order to gather the best resources for your readers, you are going to have to invest some quality time. You will need to devote a time specifically for research on the topic you are blogging about. Think about the list(s) or specific information you want to provide and take advantage of the web. Use the following types of sites to find the information:

  • Forums: Forums are a treasure trove of hidden secrets. Find some forums specific to your niche and do some digging. You are likely to find some gold!
  • Discussion boards: Other discussion boards, like Q&A boards are also a valuable tool for finding the information you seek.  While doing a search on Google or other search engines, specify your topic and also enter a discussion board or choose from the options in the search engine.
  • Blogs: Search specifically for blogs that have information about your topic. Blogs are another hidden source of great information.
  • Wikis: Wikis and online encyclopedias offer valuable information usually written by experts in their fields. They are great for finding information on specific topics. In addition, Wikis usually contain lists of other reliable resources.
  • Social sites: There has been an explosion of social sites in recent years, so listing them all would require a completely separate post, but sites like Stumble Upon, Digg, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are of course among some of the better sites where you will find information you may not otherwise find from a basic search.

Use more than one search engine

If you are a loyal Google searcher, break out of your comfort zone and give some other search engines a shot when looking for the information you need.

Search engines do not display the exact same results in the same order. This is beneficial when looking for specific information. Try Bing and Yahoo as alternative search engines.

The keys to success

Before posting, check and re-check your spelling and grammar. Nothing turns a reader off more than an article that is rife with spelling and grammar mistakes. Use the spell check first, then proofread your work yourself or have a friend proofread it. Spell check is good, but it doesn”t find all the errors, so take extra time to make sure your work is flawless.

Hard work, dedication and consistency will pay off, but patience and belief in the posts you create are the keys to success. It is important to post regularly, but a good rule to live by is quality over quantity. This will lead to better search engine ranking and an overall better following in the long run.

Become the voice for your resources

After gathering your resources, think of yourself as the voice for the power of these resources.

Carefully analyze and share how the information, piece by piece, can help your viewers. This is where some creativity and thinking outside of the box can play a part. Give your readers ideas that will work and ideas that nobody else is sharing.

Anyone can just create lists, but you can turn these lists into gold!

Traci Dillard is the founder/owner of allstayathome.com, a trusted source for freelancers and home workers. By day, she is also a content and SEO specialist for Your Web Pro, LLC. In West Texas.

How to Get Paid to Double Your Blog Traffic: a Technique 99% of Bloggers Won’t Dare Try

This post is by Shane MeLaugh of imimpact.com.

Imagine if this traffic screenshot was yours:

Analytics

Of course, your traffic levels might be more or less depending on the size of your blog and how long you’ve been blogging, but the purpose of this post is to show you how to double your blog traffic—while getting paid to do it.

The above screenshot reflects traffic to my previous blog two years ago, at its infancy. Then I made a simple change and something significant happened.

Here’s exactly what happened:

  • I doubled my blog traffic almost overnight and it kept growing every month.
  • I was able to build a sizeable mailing list.
  • I made a total of over $100,000 in a two-year period because of this simple change.

Watch this short video to see what the change was, that caused this increase in traffic:

Yes, that’s it. One product resulted in big increase in traffic and a very healthy income, all at the same time.

You’ve probably read several articles on increasing blog traffic, but you’ll rarely hear people tell you to create a product to increase your blog traffic.

Creating a product is often seen as something that’s difficult to do, so many bloggers shy away from even trying.

By creating a product however, you’ll be able to:

  • grow your blog traffic
  • build your expertise
  • build a strong email list
  • make a lot of money.

I’ll be explaining more about how to do this later in this post.

I’m Shane Melaugh from imimpact.com and the result I’m sharing above was from two years ago. Does that mean it doesn’t work anymore? Absolutely not. Product creation continues to be my main method for increasing traffic to my websites and it works better than ever. The reason I’m sharing a case study from two years ago is because:

  • this was my first attempt, with no experience or leverage, so anybody can do it
  • I had a relatively new blog with no email list, few connections and little traffic
  • it works wonders, but it seems no one ever talks about this method.

Why creating a product is the best way to increase your blog traffic

Quote 1If you take a look at the screenshot above you’ll notice that my blog was receiving well below 200 visitors a day before my first product release.

Your blog is never too small to create a product. In fact, if I were to start again from scratch I’d create a product, even with no existing traffic at all.

Here’s why.

1. You give people an incentive to market your business

The best way to grow your blog is by getting support from other bloggers and marketers in your field and the best way to get this support is by creating a product.

No blogger will send an email promoting that awesome blog post you wrote to a list of 10,000 subscribers no matter how great your blog post is. However, many bloggers will happily send one or several emails to their list promoting your product if it’s a good enough product and they know they’ll get affiliate commissions.

Instead of just linking to you out of goodwill, they can promote you, knowing that it helps their audience, it helps you and it also helps them earn some money.

2. You establish your blog with the right readers

What’s better to have: a blog with 1,000 monthly visitors or a blog with 10,000 monthly visitors?

You bet it’s the blog with 10,000 visitors, right?

Wrong (sometimes, at least).

It’s not just about traffic quantity, but also about traffic quality. You can have thousands of visitors who don’t engage with your content, don’t share your content, don’t leave comments—they just eat up your bandwidth. Or you can have a small group of highly engaged fans who give you feedback and spread your message through social media.

The great thing about selling a product and getting affiliate promotions is that it adds customers to your mailing list and to your blog readership. Happy customers are some of the most engaged and helpful readers you’ll ever have.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take 1,000 happy customers over 10,000 anonymous browsers any day of the week.

3. You build a business, not a blog

These are two very different things that are easily confused.

There’s a huge difference between building a blog of 10,000 monthly visitors in two years before creating a product and building a blog with the same 10,000 visitors in the same two years’ time while making $100,000. The difference is that the first one is a blog while the latter is a business.

4. Most bloggers won’t dare to do this

This approach is unlike guest blogging, article marketing, or SEO. It isn’t something you can easily do. To succeed, you have to commit yourself and think long term and this is why most bloggers won’t even dare to create their own products.

Releasing a product was an effective way to grow your blog two years ago, it’s effective today and it will be, for a long time to come. You’re doing something that’s “difficult” and so you have less competition.

As Tim Ferriss said in his book The 4-Hour Work-Week:

“The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits. There is just less competition for bigger goals.”

A 4-step plan to creating your own traffic-boosting product

I recently released a free comprehensive one-hour video and case study report that explains the process behind my six-figure launch, but here’s a summary of the steps I took to create my first product.

Step #1: Market and product research

Quote 2Research will make or break your product.

Creating a successful product isn’t about thinking and creating a product based on the first idea that pops into your head; you need to research who your audience is, what kind of product they want, where they hang out, the exact terms they use, and how much they’re willing to pay.

Creating a generic product in a popular niche won’t work. It’ll be more effective to create a solution to a very specific problem rather than trying to cater to all the problems your readers experience.

In my own case, I observed during my research that a major problem my audience face is getting traffic; after further research, I observed that most of them have problems with SEO and that the most challenging problem for them when it comes to SEO was building backlinks.

There was the idea for the product I needed to create!

How to research

Researching what your audience wants can be very complicated if you’re a newbie without a strong audience, but this doesn’t always have to be a problem. Here are a few ways you can research to find out what your audience want:

  1. Try gathering feedback on industry related forums where you’re already active.
  2. Conduct a survey with your existing audience, no matter how small, or get support from fellow bloggers to send the survey to their audience.
  3. Offer free products, in the form of an ebook or multimedia, to gauge response and feedback to see how people will respond to a similar paid offer.
  4. Help people one-on-one, via Skype or email, to find out what their major challenges are; this will also reveal exact terms and key words they use and this can be very powerful marketing material.

Step #2: Create your product

Your product doesn’t have to be high-end or massive for you to get results.

You can create a product in an afternoon, then sell it for a few bucks and grow your audience at the same time. A perfect example of this approach was implemented by Becker and documented in a recent guest post here. One example he cited was creating a $5 product and selling 6,000 copies, gaining 6,000 new subscribers as a result.

While that kind of thing can work, the approach I took was to create a high-end product.

This took me a few weeks of effort and research, but it was well worth it. I focused on making the product of very high quality, and constant updates were added in its lifetime. The focus with this product was to make it so valuable that buyers would become lifetime fans.

Step #3: Create an affiliate program

Getting affiliates to promote your product will be a huge part of making it successful.

Once your product is unique and of great quality, you’ll experience success by getting affiliates to help you sell it; you’ll be able to make money and grow your network at the same time.

Luckily, it’s very easy to set up an affiliate program for your product these days. You can simply list your product on an existing affiliate platform/marketplace and everything else is taken care of.

Step #4: Market your product

Quote 3I can’t emphasize enough that no matter how great your product is, it is bound to fail without marketing.

Creating a product is not a substitute for marketing.

There are various ways to go about marketing your product. Here are some ideas.

1. Viral marketing

The best kind of traffic you can get is viral traffic. In this context, I’m not talking about “going viral” in terms of getting a huge windfall of traffic, but the kind of traffic that self-perpetuates.

You can’t make something go viral, but you can create systems where traffic always leads to more traffic, even if it’s on a very small scale.

For example, I offered a discount on the price of my product. But customers could only access this discount by tweeting a link to my sales page or sharing it on Facebook. This didn’t lead to a massive flood of traffic, but it kept traffic coming in and it lead to extra sales and extra exposure. I explain more about this and another “mini-viral” traffic method in my case study report.

2. Solo ads

I purchased a few solo ads, which are just paid emails to other people’s mailing lists. This helped get some initial momentum for my product launch and contributed to the total sales made, as well.

3. Affiliate traffic

This will be the most powerful aspect of your marketing. The idea is to get other bloggers and marketers with a huge list and audience to promote your product. An affiliate doesn’t need to have a product to promote your product.

There are three very important steps to benefiting from affiliate traffic and they are:

  1. Sell a great product.
  2. Ensure your product is highly specific; very few people will promote generic products since these products are everywhere and they’ll have gotten a lot of offers to promote them but no one can resist promoting a specific, “new” kind of product.
  3. Try to get as many affiliates as possible on board; the more the merrier. You should expect a lot of affiliates not to take you up on your offer but the more people you contact the higher your chances of success. This isn’t about the numbers, though; make sure your affiliates don’t lack in quality and quantity.

Questions?

In almost 2,000 words, I believe this post contains all you need to know about getting paid to double your blog traffic. But if you still have questions, let me know in the comments.

Shane Melaugh is an Irish guy from Switzerland. He owns imimpact.com, a blog about increasing the bottom line for online business owners by creating unique and compelling offers, growing web site traffic and maximising conversions.