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Google Hangouts: Turning Bloggers into Broadcasters

This is a guest contribution by Sarah Hill, the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network.

Blogging no longer has to be a text based conversation. Google+ has allowed bloggers to become broadcasters, adding a visual component to each blog post, and all you need to become a “Blogcaster” is a webcam, an internet connection, and Google+.

Understanding the Basics of Google+

Narrow-minded individuals have been quick to dismiss Google+, seeing another Facebook; however, the true functionality of Google+ goes beyond keeping up with friends. This platform offers a unique feature that allows you to live-stream face-to-face video chats to the masses through a feature known as Hangouts.

Google’s Hangout feature is unfolding into a product that is changing how people collaborate and learn, providing real users with the tools and information to accomplish real-world tasks, and the ability to display it for all to see via YouTube.

This free broadcast tower is deepening relationships between bloggers, businesses and personal users through face-to-face interaction, setting the social network apart from all others and creating a fresh way to experience the web.

Hangout Preparation

Starting a Hangout can be done in a few seconds, just by clicking the “Start a Hangout” button; however, before diving in head first, it is best to prepare.

When you start a Hangout for the first time, you will be prompted to install a quick plugin. All you need to do is download Google’s voice and video chat plugin, ensure you have a webcam with a microphone and a decent internet connection. Ethernet is preferred but I’ve done lots of Hangouts over Wifi and even 4G as well.

In addition, it is best to check your lighting and background beforehand to make sure people can clearly see your face.

Once you’re confident in the set up and have ran some practice Hangouts, it’s time to promote a live event.

Announce the hangout

First, create a Google+ public event announcement a few days to a couple weeks before your Hangout. You want to give users time and create awareness of the Hangout.

Set to stream the hangout

Also, when creating the Google+ Hangout, be sure to open a “Hangout on Air” as those Hangouts stream live on YouTube and are then automatically recorded to your YouTube channel after you hit “end broadcast”.

Promote your hangout

Next, build awareness by posting in related Google+ communities, as well as other social channels. Don’t stay only on Google+, but cross-pollinate your live event to all your social platforms. Also, consider using a specific hashtag for your event.

Over Memorial Day, Veterans United partnered with Google+, the 9/11 Memorial and Virtual Photo Walks for a live Hangout. We used #honortheheroes to promote it to the public. Search that hashtag for examples of how we promoted that event.

Becoming a Blogcaster

Hangouts fuel the possibility of bloggers to become blogcasters, allowing up to ten users to video chat at a time, with the ability to broadcast to the entire world through “Hangouts on Air.”

So what would you talk about when you host a Hangout?

What are you passionate about? Original ideas, quality content and social sharing are the goal, and if you are posting interesting, thought provoking content on a frequent basis, you have the ability to gain followers and grow your authority – and this is no different through Hangouts.

Common Hangout topics include education, interviews, product demonstration and, more recently, customer service. However, when blogging, consider taking your hottest blog post and invite other authorities in the space to join in on the Hangout panel, providing multiple angles on the topic.  This lengthens the life of your blog beyond just the initial post.

Preparation is a must. Put together a list of questions that you can ask members in the Hangout, know who is speaking, on what topic and how long. Also, be sure to keep the conversation flowing by having transition topics so that you don’t permit awkward downtime.

And, no matter what method is used when producing a Hangout, remember to monitor social channels, blog comments from people who couldn’t attend the Hangout. You should also point users toward a social feed that they can post questions, essentially making them a part of the Hangout as well.

As with blogging, when you engage with your users on a frequent basis, user interaction and discussion becomes much easier. With Hangouts, that interaction is deeper as it’s now face to face via webcam.

Claim Your Work

The larger your presence is on Google+, the more likely it is that Google will see you as an expert or authority in your personal niche. And, to ensure that you’re capturing all the authority given from your Hangouts – especially when you post the URL to another site – be sure to claim the content through Google+.

“Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman at Google, recently said that future rankings will be determined by verified author profiles,” said Matt Polsky, an organic search strategist. “If you haven’t realized it yet, authors are already verifying their content on Google+, which is more than enough of a reason to get started.”

As Matt said above, bloggers are already verifying their broadcasts and content, providing users with not only a picture snippet in search results, but with additional authority for your specialized niche – especially when you branch out and write for other authority publications.

To verify your content, you can add the rel=author tag to your Google+ link in your byline when you create and post content.

With some forethought, time, and effort, you can grow your online presence and authority so people can discover your content. Broadcasting isn’t just for TV stations anymore. If you have a blog, you too can become a Google+ blogcaster.

Have you already used a Hangout? What was your experience?

About the Author: Sarah Hill is the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network – a leading hub of news and advice on veteran and military issues. Connect with Sarah on Google+ to start a Hangout, or chat with her on Twitter.

How I Turned a Guest Post into 3 Million Visitors and Over 150,000 Social Media Shares

Yesterday, I shared a practical exercise for diving deeper into your blog’s analytics to discover how you can use the last month of blog action to plan for the future.

Today, I’d like to show you an example of just how powerful this discipline can be when it comes to building traffic to your site. In fact, this simple exercise led to a series of events that generated:

  • 3 million unique visitors
  • 131,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest
  • 25,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook
  • 19,000 RT’s on Twitter

It all started with a Guest Post Submission

This story all began in March of 2012 when I received an email through the contact form on dPS, outlining an idea for a guest post. The author wanted to write a post with some examples pictures of how to pose women for portraits.

I liked the idea and agreed that the author could write the post. He submitted it a couple of weeks later and I scheduled it to go live late on the 28th.

The post was titled Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You started with Photographing Women (note: on the blog it says ‘Part 1′ but at the time of publishing it was a stand alone post).

Screen Shot 2013 06 04 at 1 20 59 PM

Initial Results

I thought the post would do well as it was on a topic we’ve had good responses to in the past i.e. posing techniques. It was also an image based post, which we’ve had quite a bit of success with.

Four days later (on the first of April), when I was doing my ‘deep dive’ into Google Analytics, I was excited to see that the post had done very well indeed.

The day it was published the post had over 17,000 visitors, which was higher than an average post on its first day. Around 30% of that traffic was coming in from Facebook, which was surprising as I didn’t promote it on our own Facebook page until the day after.

The second day after publishing, the post saw around 8,000 visitors but day 3 saw it reach over 42,000 visitors.

This spike was partly due to the post being featured in our newsletter, which normally spikes traffic to the site, but that day also saw some great traffic from social media including StumbleUpon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the following few days it continued to do really well so by the time I did my analyse it had already received around 150,000 visitors – considerably higher than other posts on the site in their first week.

Other than the raw traffic numbers I was interested to see that:

  1. The number of sharing events the post was getting on Facebook, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. The post had some great visuals that seemed to stimulate this.
  2. The number of comments and emails we were getting from readers asking how to pose men and kids.

Building Momentum

I saw an opportunity and immediately emailed the author to see if he’d be interested in similar followup posts on posing men and children.

He had also noticed a spike in traffic to his own site as a result of the post, was keen to do more and immediately began work.

Within a week we published Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men.

This second post did about 75% of the traffic of the first post but the patterns were very similar. The difference was that we didn’t see traffic from StumbleUpon but instead saw it from Reddit.com

10 days later we published a Posing Guide for Photographing Children with very similar results.

While traffic wasn’t quite as spectacular on posts #2 and #3 they were still well and truly out performing most other posts on the site. Naturally, I commissioned the author to write more!

Post #4 was a Posing Guide for Photographing Couples is an interesting case study in and of itself because while it spiked in traffic over the first week it didn’t drive as much initial traffic. However, since publishing it last May it has gone on to become our most popular post ever on Pinterest and continues to drive great traffic to the site ever since.

Screen Shot 2013 05 27 at 2 47 16 PM

To this day, that post has over 83,000 ‘pins’ and has been visited just under half a million times in the last 12 months!

Over the coming months we published more followups in this series:

Each post has not only gone on to drive its own traffic but every time we post another addition to the series we see a surge of traffic to previous posts (as we interlink them all). So now, because we’ve published six followup posts in the series, our original post has received around 850,000 visitors and they’ve had over 2.5 million visits between them all.

Take Home Lessons

The take home lesson for me is it’s not only important to create useful content, you need to take note of what works. You also need to attempt to find ways to build momentum on your site and followup with more of the same!

While the traffic levels may not be the same as what we do on dPS (we have the benefit of having build decent traffic to the site since 2006) the same principles can apply for a blog at any level.

The success of this series of posts has generated a lot of future ideas for dPS. We’ve commissioned the author to create another series of posts (the first of which went live on the blog in the last hour) which will also include ‘real photos’ based upon the poses previously covered. This was something we had requests for in the previous series of posts so I’m hoping it goes well.

EXERCISE: Deep Dive into Your Content Analytics

Today I spent a couple of hours doing my monthly deep dive into Google Analytics.

While hardly a day goes by that I don’t check my blogs stats (usually just to see traffic levels and sources of traffic etc) I try to set aside a longer period of time, at the start of each month, to do a little more in depth analysis.

I find these deep dives are always insightful, and they often shape the coming month’s blogging.

So here’s a little exercise for you to do today.

It will require you to have an analytics program. If you don’t yet have one, installing one is your first exercise for the day. I recommend Google Analytics.

If you already have some analytics installed, look at your stats for the last month. Looks at which blog posts were the most popular, with the objective of learning something to inform your next month’s publishing.

There’s any number of things you can do this analysis including looking at:

  • What was the post about – can you do a followup post?
  • Was there something about the content that made it attractive to readers? A provocative title,  a great image, the voice/style of the post?
  • Where did the traffic come from? Is there an opportunity to build relationships with other sites to see this happen again?
  • Did traffic come from a social media site? What made the post shareable? Can you replicate this in future posts?
  • What kind of comments were left on the post? Were their questions you could follow up on in a new post?

 

I did this same exercise earlier today with content on Digital Photography School. Here’s just a taste of some of the observations I made on my top 5 most visited posts on the site last month:

1. 3 Stupidly Simple Reasons Why Most People’s Photography Does Not Improve

This was an older post I updated and reposted on the site.

  • The lesson: sometimes posts from years ago can be given a new lease of life.
  • I suspect the title on this post had a ‘curiosity factor’ that intrigued people into clicking to see if they made the mistakes being talked about in the post.
  • The post had a strong call to comment with directions on the type of comments I was looking for. The result – loads of comments.
  • The post was not advanced reading – it was 3 simple ideas/tips that many people could relate to. Sometimes simple posts perform the best.
  • Traffic came from a spread of sources but it did particularly well on Facebook with little more than a link on our Facebook page. We also saw 2000 visits from a photography forum that I’d not heard of before that I’ll go exploring in.
  • There were 30+ comments with questions asked – I’ve made a list of these to consider for future articles.

 

2. Getting Landscapes Sharp: Focus Stacking

This one was a bit of a surprise for me when I saw it ranking as the #2 most visited post in the last month because ‘Focus Stacking’ is a topic that is a little more nichey/specialised than many of the posts we cover.

  • My suspicion is that the title probably saved the day on this one as it states a clear benefit of reading the post in ‘getting landscapes sharp’. Benefits in titles often work well!
  • When I looked at the stats, I noticed it had two quite distinct spikes in traffic coming into it. This is unusual. Digging deeper it seems that the first spike was due to our newsletter being sent and the second spike, almost a week later, was when it saw a rush of traffic from StumbleUpon.
  • A few of the comments on the post ask for tips on the same technique in other types of post production software – these could make good followup posts.
  • People reading this post stayed on the site about 40% longer than the average visitor to the site – it seemed to get people reading through the post at a deeper level.

3. My Most Common Portrait Mistake

I had a feeling when we published this post that it would do well.

  • The reason being… the posts about the mistakes I make seem to draw readers into the blog.
  • This post did pretty well on Facebook. I’m not exactly sure why but I suspect it was shared by someone with a good following as Facebook sent quite a bit higher numbers of traffic than a typical post.
  • The idea of ‘mistakes’ posts has given me ideas for a series like this but with some of our other regular writers.

4. 20 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know

This post succeeded for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly – Travel photography is a hot topic for us on the site. We try to slip in a travel related post every couple of weeks.
  • The title was another reason this post did so well. It signals a ’20 tips’ post, which sounds comprehensive and it makes a claim of everyone needing to know what it contains. These kind of claims always makes people come to see if they know all 20 (you need to be able to back up the claim though with solid content).
  • This post also had some strong imagery, which always enhances the post and helps make it more shareable.
  • Traffic sources were pretty typical on this one (Newsletter and Facebook were most) although it also did quite well with Google+. I managed to track down who shared it and have followed up with that person to thank them.
  • Traffic was also strong because another travel related blog linked to it. I contacted that blogger to see if they might be interested in us writing a guest post for them – it could be a good relationship to have for both sites.

5. 15 Fantastic Freckle Photos

  • These ‘image collections’ always do quite well on dPS so I’m not surprised to see it in the top 5. Our readers love inspirational photos.
  • Having said that, I am a little surprised it didn’t do even better. We often see quite good traffic on these types of posts from Pinterest and traffic from that site was next to nothing. I guess freckles don’t hit the spot over there!
  • Again, this post saw some nice traffic from another blog that I’ve not heard of before which gives me a great opportunity to get to know that blogger and explore how we can work together in the future.
  • Interestingly the ‘time on site’ for those viewing this post was about half an average viewer. Obviously people just scan the post and then move on so while they can be good for traffic they don’t stick around as long as a text heavy post.

That’s just one of the areas that I dig into when I deep dive into Google Analytics. I’d love to hear what you do when you look at your stats and to hear what you’ve found today by doing a similar content related deep dive.

8 Steps to Building Your Blog Into a Community

This is a guest contribution from Jonathan Goodman.

There are other people blogging about the same subject as you, maybe better or maybe worse—but, as you probably have figured out by now, content is no longer king; context is.

Getting repeat readers who become brand ambassadors for you is pertinent to the success of your blog. So is getting repeat customers. It allows you to focus on what you do best: make great art—writing material that people enjoy reading and writing material that will help thousands of people around the world.

All successful blogs are communities and if you want to turn your blog into something special, something that will grant you financial freedom, and something that will help countless people then you must create a community out of your blog.

A community around your blog

There are a lot of great blog posts about creating communities, but this one is different. The 8 steps I describe below is the exact process I used to build the world’s biggest collaborative blog for personal trainers, in less than 2 years, with no connections and no technological acumen.

Whether you’re starting anew or you already have a blog you can apply these steps, in any order, to build your audience, network, and repeat readership.

Step 1 – The Idea

Photo credit: María Magnética from Flickr

All good blogs are based on a powerful idea that fulfils or hits on a need. Perhaps there’s a knowledge gap in your industry or, in the case of the personal training industry, there was a lot of information but it was all boring text-book material.

The gap I filled was teaching personal trainers the soft side of training but adding in jokes, usually about how much I hate that stupid useless green bird in Angry Birds. Seriously, let’s talk about that bird for a minute. Anybody else hate that thing? He adds an element of difficulty into the game that I don’t appreciate. I just want to smash pigs and move onto the next level.

But I digress.

Build your community on a single powerful idea. Understanding the blogging medium requires a lighter and more approachable tone — don’t be afraid to approach your topic with humor and wit.

Most of all don’t ever hide your personality. People buy into what you do because of the 1% that makes you different, not the 99% that makes you the same.

I should also note that once your blog grows, it might grow out of your initial idea so you need to flexible about its evolution. An experts power doesn’t come from knowing, it comes from knowing where to find and that’s why step 2 is so important.

Step 2 – The Sea Lion System to Build Your Network

I’m reminded of a family trip I took to Alaska. We found ourselves watching a group of whales bubble feed — it was spectacular — but something grabbed my attention and it wasn’t the whales; it was the Sea Lions.

You see, Sea Lions wait patiently on the outside of the vicious bubble feed and catch the fish that the whales fling out. Sea Lions are opportunistic.Sea Lion

You must be the Sea Lion

In any industry there are existing influencers who I’m sure you can name off of the top of your head right now. These people have social media pages and blogs. Existing on those pages are what I call connectors.

When an industry influencer posts a status update or a new blog, there’s a flurry of activity. Instead of trying to get the influencers attention, be the Sea Lion and find the people who are avidly liking, commenting, and sharing the influencer’s material — there are your connectors.

Over a short period of time, you’ll notice the same names keep appearing. Likely they have blogs and even if they don’t they will probably be open to network. Read and comment on a blog post or two of theirs and send them an email saying hi. Or, if they don’t have a blog, send them a message saying that you would like to connect.

Step 3 – Implicit Understanding, Explicit Meaning

Choosing a name for your blog or community is an important step. Even if you blog in your basement at night, the name should make it sound like it’s bigger than you. You’re building a community here that others will want to be a part of.

In addition, you want to have the option to sell the blog later on. A community blog is valuable and it’s a nice option to have. JonsAwesomePersonalTrainerBlog.com isn’t going to be easy to sell but the Personal Trainer Development Center is.

Lastly, your blog name should be something that is intuitively meaningful for your audience. It should also be something that will make them feel like they look good by passing it on to colleagues, friends, or family members.

Step 4 – Contact potential contributors

Now the fun part starts.

There are 3 different types of contributors that you want for your community blog.

1. Camp Busters

In every industry there are established camps that you should be able to identify. There’s probably an influencer at the top and varying levels of followers underneath him or her. Ideally, you want to break into every camp that serves your industry. To do so, try to find somebody that’s well connected in that camp and is currently lower down in the pecking order.

2. Up and comers

In step 2 you identified your connectors. Many of these people will be up and coming bloggers. Have a read through their material and note which ones are good. In addition, look to contact the ones who are hustling the hardest and get them on board with your community.

3. Established authorities

There’s a Catch-22 here. You need readers to attract established authorities to write for you, but you can’t get readers without established authorities right?

Here’s one approach: When you sign up for my free content course, you also get to download my free Diamond in the Rough System Ebook. This is how to use Twitter to get the attention of the people behind the people.

When contacting authorities you probably can’t pay them but you can offer them value. Usually these people have years of archived high-quality material on their blogs. Sell them on your powerful idea in step 1 and ask them to come on board as a “coach” or “advisor” for your community. Assure them it is 0 work on their part.

Tell them that you want to go through their entire archive and will send them a list of all the material that you would like the opportunity to use. You will re-edit and re-format the material so that it’s different enough that Google doesn’t view it as duplicate material and post it to your blog attributing it to them as the sole author with links back to their site.

Some people may say no, but many will agree.

Having established authorities on your site does two things: It establishes credibility for other contributors and you gain the audience of the authority.

Step 5 – Planes, trains, and automobiles

As personal as social networks are (sometimes too personal) nothing can ever replace meeting, shaking hands, and having a conversation with somebody in real life. Look for more intimate industry events that leave time for networking. I’ve even been known to skip entire afternoons of talks to sit down and network with one person at a conference I was looking forward to meeting.

Step 6– Develop a course

What’s the biggest issue or misconception facing your industry?

Identify it and write a course that you will integrate with an autoresponder sent over 10-20 days. Here’s a breakdown of how to plan out the course:

Example of a Mindmap

To start, I suggest some brain mapping software (I use the MindNode App) or grabbing a note pad and writing it down the old fashioned way.

  • Put your topic in the middle of page and write down everything you can think of surrounding the topic. Don’t consider whether or not you want to include it at this stage, just write it all down.
  • Upon finishing, come back the next day with another blank piece of paper and copy the exact same formula.
  • When you’ve finished this 2-4 times, take all of your brain maps and create a master map out of them eliminating all the obvious dumb stuff you wrote down and keeping the good stuff.
  • Then grab some cue cards and write out each sub-topic on a cue card or in Scrivener (an awesome word processor for organising large projects like this). After you’ve organized the course on cue cards or in Scrivener, it’s a matter of filling in the blanks.

When you’ve finished writing each section, tie them all together.

Start the course with an introduction email saying hello and telling the person what to expect. At the beginning of each email refer back to the previous lesson for a line or two. At the end of each email, let the person know what they can expect for the next email.

Go to fiverr.com and get a cover created for your course and integrate with your email marketing software. Create a simple squeeze page for your course — this will be important in the next step.

Step 7 – Build up a fanpage for social proof

You’ve probably already created a fan page on Facebook, but now it’s time to get it cranking and, to do so, you’re going to get a brief lesson in Facebook advertising.

Create a Facebook status update with a link to your squeeze page for the course. Keep it short and include the following 3 things:

1. Have a punchy headline that grabs attention.

2. Give 3 points that are secrets or that you “reveal” in your course.

3. Tell the reader to click the link to grab their course right away and provide the link.

Then you need to target your Facebook ad.

Step 1: Identify your audience. Is it 25-30 year old females who workout and are interested in holistic fitness? Be as specific as you can.

Step 2: Identify any other pages on Facebook that specifically serve your audience. Be as precise as possible.

Step 3: Think about parallel industries that your lead may be interested in. For example, somebody interested in holistic fitness is probably interested in Lululemon clothing and Yoga. Identify the main pages here.

Step 4: For $10-$25 you can run an ad promoting your post to each of these pages individually, for at least 3 days. After creating your first ad, you can copy the ad and simply change the targeting. You should see the option in your control panel.

Step 5: Take stock of which pages gave you the best response rate in terms of click-throughs . Write down all pages that had at least a 0.3% click through rate.

Step 6: Run an ad to all of the pages that had a good response together and run that ad continuously for more money.

Bidding for clicks is a bit of a science. The better you target your ad, the less you’ll have to pay. Reason being, if you have a high converting ad then Facebook will show it to more people for cheaper.

If your ad isn’t converting well, you’ll have to pay more per click to get Facebook to show it to people. If you’re targeting a big audience or a big page, clicks will cost more than an audience in countries outside of North America interested in oddball stuff. Ideally, you want to pay no more than 25 cents a click.

This ad will both get people to like your Facebook page and add a slew of new subscribers into your email list.

Step 8 – Viral!

This is where my real interest lies.

Now that your Facebook ads have gotten a following on your page, you have an avid audience to spread your materials — so make them viral.

The easiest way to get status updates to spread throughout a niche industry audience is by following these steps:

  1. Write down any issues or misconceptions that face your industry. For example, in the fitness industry the fact that too much of the public still thinks that women shouldn’t lift weights is a sore spot.
  2. Note beside your topic, which side of the debate the majority of your audience sits on.
  3. Write a status update or upload a picture 4-6 times a day (you can schedule them) that articulates the majority of your communities views on the issues you’ve identified. Don’t be afraid to be one-sided and somewhat brash. Emotion drives sharing. People will share if they love you or hate you.

Step 8 – Post 1-2 times per week

Post 1-2 top quality blog posts on your webpage per week (or even less). You can write them or have contributors write them. Continue to spend the majority of your time growing the community through your email list via the course and through Facebook through ads and viral material.

Take in guest contributions on your own blog so that you can spend your time writing awesome material for other blogs in your niche creating link juice and getting traffic back to your site.

Rinse and Repeat.

It won’t happen overnight but when you plan your strategy and dedicate the time, you can turn your blog into a community.

Jonathan Goodman likes Turtles… and Deadlifts. He’s a 2x author and explores the psychology of social media over at Viralnomics. Oh, and he’s on Twitter too.