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Facebook: The Lowdown on Advertising, and What We’ve Found Works Really Well

Often when I float the idea of advertising amongst my blogging colleagues (including Darren) I get looks of skepticism, dismissal, and that blank empty stare of disinterest.

You might have that look on your face already.

In some ways I can understand that sentiment. As bloggers, for more than a decade we have leveraged our content as the main drawcard for attracting visitors to our blog through free means such as organic search (SEO), social media, and incoming links and referrals.

I say free a little loosely here, as yes you’re not paying money directly out of your pocket for these activities, but the time you spend on managing social and search for example stops you from doing other things. Things like crafting better content, creating a product, talking with an advertiser, etc, so it does come at some cost.

That said, this approach is a bloggers true competitive advantage, and we essentially earn money by selling ads or access to our audience to those who can’t figure out their own content strategy — we certainly don’t buy them! Right?

Well today I’m hoping to challenge that today.

You’ll never ever hear from me that advertising is a replacement for your content. Your content is the pillar and driving force behind everything you do. But what makes a blog truly valuable is the audience and community you build around it. This community is what and who you create your products and services for, it’s what appeals so much to advertisers.

Advertising when done right is a way to help you expand the community you have today. To accelerate your growth. To find new readers in different markets and to sell more of your stuff. Advertising has been around for a lot longer than blogging. And there’s a good reason for that — when done right, it works.

There are so many options when it comes to advertising your blog. You can spend (and burn) tens of thousands of dollars very quickly if you are not careful. Unless you’re in the top 5% of bloggers already, it’s just too risky to put that sort of coin on the table. That doesn’t exclude you from advertising altogether though, as there are platforms that enable you to take very small steps and grow. You can spend as little as $5 to see some value. You can then step that up to $6 when the return on investment is there and you are ready. You’re in total control and can extend you investment and your reach at your own pace.

Google Adwords and Twitter are good options for this, but the one that excites me the most at the moment is a platform you’re probably already using for ‘free’ right now, and that’s Facebook.

We’ve been using Facebook advertising for around 18 months on Digital Photography School. It started fairly haphazardly, and I felt we were more donating money to Facebook’s shareholders than delivering any real value. It was when I decided to spend the time to really understand how Facebook advertising is actually done did the penny drop and our Facebook advertising strategy was transformed. I’m hoping by sharing what we’ve learned it makes life easier for you so you’ll have the confidence you need to run successful Facebook ads yourself.

How we approach advertising on FaceBook for dPS

Now I don’t consider myself a Facebook marketing expert, and I know I have a lot to learn. I often say to Darren that I could spend an entire year tweaking and adjusting our ads and still not be done. But as I like to play with new toys, I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me, and thus our story begins …

Prepare

You’re about to spend some of your own money on advertising, even if it’s a small amount. Unless you’re cashed up, careful preparation is important to make every dollar count. When we starting looking ad advertising options, we broke down our own preparation into three groups: learn, plan, and get your house in order.

Learn

Darren and I were the first to admit to each other that Facebook advertising was a mystery to us both, but in the same breath we both knew it was an opportunity we were missing. We could either just accept that as fact or take the time to learn what it was all about. Darren had been following Jon Loomer for a while and shared with me some links. I subsequently absorbed a lot of extra content from Jon and was lucky enough to interview him in a Problogger Community Webinar recently.

My second port of call was with a person I’d know for some time, Jen Sheahan. I met her first during my time at SitePoint but she’s since gone on to create a Facebook advertising company of her own. With pretty big-name clients, she sure knows what she’s talking about.

Both Jen and Jon shared similar insight to me about how to approach my campaigns which I’ll cover more later, but one thing they both said to me clearly was to spend the time getting to know the power editor, as that’s where the gold lives. Since then the general Facebook ads manager has got a lot better, but I still tend to spend most of my time managing our campaigns in the power editor.

Some notes about the Power Editor:

Before we continue on into some real examples, there are some concepts around the power editor that I need you need to understand (or my examples won’t make any sense at all). They are:

Custom Audiences: These are collections / groups of people that you define inside the power editor. They can be saved as groups of Facebook target segments, e.g. people in the USA, female, with a house value above $500,000 who are not a fan of yours (and about a million other variations). They can also be groups that you upload yourself such as your email subscriber list, or customer list. Facebook will match the email address you provide with a Facebook user and contain them all in a group. Or it could be a user who visits your blog, or even a specific page in your blog.

Power_Editor

Campaigns: Campaigns are the starting point of your advertisement. Not only do they given them a name, they also contain your objectives eg Like, click, sale.

Ad Sets: These are the second level of your advertisements and contain all the money information. How much you want to spend (per day or single amount) and when you want to start and finish your ad.

Ads: Ads is the ‘thing’ that facebook users will see. They hold the creative, and the targeting information, and how you will pay for the ads. eg. Cost per click, cost per 1,000 impressions. These ads can be both side column ads and in newsfeed ads.

Power_Editor

Custom Audience Pixel: This is a little snippet of code you put on your site to start creating custom audiences on Facebook to people who visit. When someone visits a page you send a little message to Facebook saying add this user to a customer audience under the settings you define. You can for example create a custom audience of all visitors to your blog (that are also on facebook) or all visitors to a specific or collection of pages. Or a combination of all. You can also specify how long to keep that visitor in your list (up to 180 days). If that’s confusing, don’t stress, I’m going to share what we use as a case study for you to start with.

Power_Editor

Conversion Pixel: This is a little bit of code that tells Facebook that a visitor has successfully completed the action you wanted. It might be to buy something, or it might be to sign up to a newsletter. You put this code on the ‘success’ page in your checkout / sign up process. For example the landing page someone sees after clicking the verification link in your email confirmation.

_1__Conversion_Tracking

Lookalike Audiences: This is an audience that Facebook creates for you based off an existing custom audience. So for example if I’ve created a newsletter subscriber custom audience, Facebook can create for you a audience that is similar to that group. I can specificy how accurtate I want to that be. The less accruate the bigger the target group will be.

Power_Editor

Okay so that’s the power editor. We can move on now.

Plan

You hopefully have an idea of the different types of ways you can target users and you have an idea of what you want them to do. It’s time to start planning all the different types of campaigns you are going to run.

Think along the lines of:

  • Customer and segments (who)
  • Actions (what)
  • Budget (how much)

With dPS we are currently running 9 main campaigns:

  1. Visited any dPS page in the last 48 hours that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  2. Verified newsletter subscriber last 7 days that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  3. dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To like | $100 total
  4. Lookalike Visited any dPS page in the last 48 hours that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  5. Lookalike Verified newsletter subscriber last 7 days that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  6. Lookalike dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To like | $100 total
  7. dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To buy | $100 total
  8. Lookalike dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To buy | $100 total
  9. dPS fan | To buy | $100 total

Some other types of campaigns we have run

  • Promoted posts: We have experimented with seeing if we could get some viral momentum with updates on our feed. To day we haven’t had great success with that, but we will re-visit.
  • Promoted product announcement post: We have promoted posts that announced a new product to our fans and had amazing success. The campaign we ran for our posing guide was the most successful campaign we’ve run to date.
  • Target interest groups: We have done some target interest campaigns where we focus on people who, for example, like photography in the US. But we’ve not had a heap of success with this type of campaign.
  • Unverified newsletter subscribers: We ran campaigns to people before they confirmed their newsletter subscription but it was a lot more costly than tarting post verification so we’ve stuck with that.
  • Different combos of the 48 hours / 7 days delays: We have experimented with 1 day, 2 day, 7 days, 30 day and 90 day times on our campaigns which we then narrow that down to a couple of options.

Setting budgets

When we set budgets we tend to first run a set figure, so $10,$20,$50 after that we review and decide if we’ll run it ongoing. Only three of our 9 campaigns are set to ongoing at this stage. I also like to set budgets before I’m in the power editor as I like to see the total spend. $5 doesn’t seem like a lot when you are looking at the one campaign, but 5 X 100 campaigns you want to see up can add up pretty quickly.

Get your house in order

Once you have a plan for the types of campaigns you want to run initially it’s time to get everything set up.

Get your advertising account set up

You’ll of course need some way for Facebook to take your money so you’ll need to set up an ads account. Chances are if you’ve used the ‘donate to Facebook’, sorry, ‘boost post’ button in the past, you’ve already done this. As you create more ads over time, Facebook will allow you to spend more but you still remain in control.

Get your tracking in place

If you want to use custom audiences that include visitors from your site you’ll need to set up the tracking pixel. This was actually a little harder for me that I expected so I decided to commission a plugin to make that easier for wordpress users to install the Facebook tracking pixel. Best of all it’s free and you can download it here. Watch the video for details on how to use it.

Get your segments and custom audiences ready

Once you have your tracking pixel set up, you can start creating custom audiences. With dPS we have a lot. Audiences for all visits to the site across different time delays. Separate audiences for visits to our sale pages the list goes on. Initially keep things simple and create audiences for the campaigns you planned above. Then let your imagination run wild. Your custom audiences should include any lists you can upload as well such as your newsletter and customer list.

Once you’ve set up your audience it’s time to setup your lookalike audiences. When creating a lookalike audience you’ll be able to select your custom audience to base it off.

You would finally then create general target segments that you might use to target specific interests and types of Facebook users. Remebering that this type of segment is the one I’ve struggled most with trying to deliver value for spend. If you’ve made this work I’d love to hear more.

We now have to people to advertise to. The final preparation step is to…

Get your Facebook page in good standing

Now I’m kinda lucky here as I have a pretty savvy guy named Darren ensuring that the Digital Photography School Facebook page was in good standing. Great engagement, good visuals, and a constant stream of new content makes anything I wanted to do with advertising so much easier. Not everyone has that luxury, so you’ll need to make sure your organic activity and the setup of your Facebook page is in tip-top shape.

Create

Okay so we’re staring to round the final turn here and we’re close to setting live your first ads. Everything is set up, we have our audiences, we have our campaign plan, now it’s time to put them all into the the power editor…

Creating your first campaign

You start by giving it a name, then picking your objective and setting any custom fields you might need (dependant on the objective). You should already have most of that that in your planning. Once you have set up your campaign you then create an ad set that you link to a campaign, give that a name then set your start / finish times and your budget.

Setting up the ads

I’m sure by now you feel like you’ve come a long way, and you have. Now it’s ad setup time. You’ll need to enter:

Creative: There’s a whole different post on what creative to use on your ads and everyone has an opinion. But regardless of what others experience, experimentation is the key to finding what works for you.

Copy: There will be areas to enter limited text. Titles descriptions and buttons to your add. Again, just like copy, testing and practice makes perfect.

Placements: You’ll have to decide if you want the ads to show in the sidebar, the newsfeed, and on mobile. For a while I focused mainly on the newsfeed and mobile, but my recent webinar with Jon questioned the legitimacy of that, so I’m currently testing all options

Targeting: This is where you tell Facebook who to show the ad to. You’ve set up your target audiences already, so you don’t need to worry about all the profile stuff. Simply add your audience at the top, exclude any audiences you don’t want see the ads (and the same for fans at the bottom), and you’re good.

Charging model: The final step with your ad is to select CPC (cost per click) and big on that or CMP (cost per thousand impressions). I tend to stick with optimized CPM, but only because that’s what I was advised to, I do want to play around with that a little more.

You can run multiple ads under the one ad set, and I do that I a lot. But what I also find is that Facebook tends to decide which ad they are going to run out of the group very quickly. I think too quickly and that will result in one add showing 99.9% of the time and the rest only 0.01%. Not sure why that’s the case and the only way around that is to create multiple ad sets with single ads.

If your ad is about a click, think about your landing pages

You’re getting a very targeted click from Facebook when someone follow your link to your page. Spend time getting that landing page right for the user. We don’t send people directly to our sales pages for ‘buy’ related campaigns. We send them to a page we set up just for Facebook traffic. You can see an example of a current bundle we’re running right now.

Note about the conversion pixel: If you campaign success is conversions, Facebook will give you a tracking pixel for the campaign. As I mentioned earlier this needs to be put in your ‘success’ page for the action to be sent back to Facebook. The good news is that the Facebook plugin for wordpress you might have used for the tracking pixel also allows you to put the success pixel on any page or post of your blog. This will work only if your success page is on your own site. For example we currently use e-junkie on dPS and we can’t edit the ‘success’ page so we can’t track sales in this way.

We do however track success through analytics using the optional URL tags field in our ad setup.

By entering:

utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=promo&utm_content=us&utm_campaign=landscapebundle

It will attach campaign data (you’ll need to change landscape bundle to something else) to any sale Google Analytics records in it’s commerce area and thus we can report on a campaign level how many sales and how much revenue we make.

Power_Editor

We’re now all set up and ready to set our ads live. If your using the power editor you need to upload your changes (top of your screen). Once you do that you’ll send all the campaign data to Facebook. Facebook will review your ad and approve. I think there are two stages to this as I’ve had a few ads unapproved after being approved. Which is kinda weird.

Review your results

If you’ve set your campaigns to start straight away, you’ll actually start to see results pretty fast. You’ll want to leap to conclusions pretty quickly, but my suggestion is wait a least 24 to 48 hours for a more detailed story to be told. When you have a little more insight, that’s when you can take some action.

Reports are found in your ad manager where you’ll see what you’ve spent, your reach and depending on your campaign type, likes, clicks, reach clicks or conversions.

_1__All_Campaigns

You’ll be able to compare all your campaigns side by side to pause poor performances, increase budgets on your strong performers, edit ad creative and copy, change landing pages. These real time changes help you improve the performance of your current campaigns, but also inform you about the next campaigns you might want to run.

Darren and I will talk through campaign performance as often as we can. Trying to understand what’s working, making decisions on what to continue with and stop, and brainstorming on new ideas.

Our results:

From a ‘boost post’ perspective: The only real value we’ve seen from a boost post perspective is when we boosted a product promotion update. We had a result that was nearly a 500% return on investment in first purchase which is a phenomenal result in any anyone’s advertising book. Boosting content posts to help build a viral effect just hasn’t worked for us the handful of times we’ve attempted it. But we’re not done yet!

From a ‘like standpoint’: We’ve seen costs per likes range from 1 cent to over $1 (we stopped that one pretty quickly). On average it’s around the 7 cent mark. The impact of this is hard to gauge as the reach and traffic we get has just as much to do with the content and timing of the post as it does the volume of likes we have. So it’s difficult to know 100%. What we also notice is that when we are advertising for likes, our organic likes seem to jump as well. So in real terms that 7 cent per like might be a little understated.

From a sales standpoint: I haven’t actually run a campaign on Facebook targeting sales that hasn’t been profitable. The returns have been from $5 in sales for every $1 we spent to $1.20 in sales for every $1 we spent. We haven’t spend piles of money on the ads just yet but it’s very promising. I suspect that the more we spend the less return on investment we get, as we have to chase a wider audience but time will tell.

Expand

Once you’ve done the hard work to set everything up and your first couple of campaigns behind you, I’m sure your mind will be buzzing with ideas. Just like we were. Our approach as we look to expand our Facebook activity to fall into these principles.

Test and add budget to what’s working

Darren and I am both open to testing things in moderation. We’ll use small budgets on ideas and then add once we’re convinced it will work. We’ll keep doing that with who we target and what we ask of them.

Look for new segments and narrow the ones we have

We’ll continue to both expand into new segments, as well as be smarter in the ones we have. For example knowing what type of post you visited on dPS could inform me what type of advertisement image you’ll be receptive to, or what sort of product you might like.

Be careful on how many times you show your add

We’re also very cautious not to over-advertise to our audience. Facebook will continue to show your ads to people as long as you’re prepared to keep paying. There’s a figure in your campaign reporting you need to be looking at – ‘frequency’. That tells you the number of times an ad was shown to a user. We want to keep that to no more than five in a campaign.

_1__Campaign_Summary

You don’t have to advertise all the time

We also want to ensure we pause our ads from time to time. This not only give us a little break, we’ve found that short bursts net a better result than one steady steam of ads.

So that’s how we approach advertising on Facebook with dPS.

We feel we’re just getting started with our story here and I’m sure there will be much more to share over time. I’m sure there are a stack of personal experiences that others have had, I’d love hear. I’m learning something new every day too!

With advertising – before you give me that blank stare again, just remember, as a blogger growing your audience is important. It’s a big part of the value your blog holds. Advertising is a great way to support and help accelerate that.

There’s a reason business and people pay to reach your audience.

Shayne Tilley is the marketing guy for ProBlogger.net and Digital Photography School.  The author of the PB Guide to Online Marketing and a long time contributor to the blog.  When he’s not thinking of new and interesting ways to grow the ProBlogger sites, he’s either bashing up developers or hanging out with the swiftly.com team.

Theme Week: Tips and Tricks to Nail Facebook Advertising, a Webinar with Jon Loomer

Sam Surname

Jon Loomer, the King of advanced Facebook marketing, recently stopped by ProBlogger.com to share his insight and specialist tips on all things Facebook advertising. Not just for business with big budgets, targeted Facebook ads and a little forethought can be useful for any kind of blogger wanting to reach out to readers. The full webinar is available for ProBlogger.com members (you can sign up here).

So what are the benefits of Facebook advertising for bloggers?

Jon says it’s really for anyone looking to drive traffic to a website. When you build an audience on Facebook, you’re sharing that website with people who have shown an interest in wanting to read it. As a bonus, many people who pay for advertising on Facebook also report an increase in organic reach.

Why should you pay for advertising when you can use Facebook for free?

  • It breaks through traffic plateau – go beyond the reach you’re getting now
  • If you have been working hard and not getting far, then it might be worth a try to see if you can catch a break
  • With regular sharing, you’re limited with the amount of people who will engage with your post – paying will reach people who still want to read your work – people who have been to your blog but don’t currently like your Facebook page, perhaps. It also assists in finding people with similar interests who might like your blog, but just haven’t heard of you yet
  • Helps to speed up the growth of your page
  • You’re being proactive rather than crossing your fingers and hoping to go viral

Boost Post versus Power Editor – Is one really more useful than the other?

  • The nuggets of gold in Facebook advertising and targeting are mainly found within Power Editor. but it doesn’t guarantee you success. You could still be targeting badly
  • The issue with Boost Post it is an easy button, often for real success you need to think a bit beyond doing that
  • At the end of the day, you want sales and subscribers, not just be seen in the newsfeed, so you need to use Boost Post a little bit more strategically. This is where you can use Power Editor to select a pre-chosen group to boost your post to
  • You can create and save target group lookalikes and custom audiences in Power Editor, which can then be used across Facebook advertising in all its guises
  • Learn Power Editor first, and it makes everything else easier

What about more sophisticated campaigns?

Website custom audiences are Jon’s favourite feature – it’s not just a matter of targeting anyone who visits your website, but also narrowing it down to specific pages they’ve seen, or articles they’ve read on your site.

So how does Facebook know what your readers are looking at?

Facebook provides conversion pixels, which uses cookie information from your blog. When they return to Facebook after your site, they will then see a targeted ad. Only one code is needed, but you can create many different rules that depend on visitor information. Even better, when you promote your new blog post, you can tell Facebook to exclude the readers who have already read it – effectively saving you money.

To take advantage of this, create a Website Custom Audience for every sales line you have, every landing page, every success page, every important blog post. Think about the categories of content you have that would appeal to different people, and tailor your ads to suit.

What makes a good ad?

  • Imagery, things that stand out, or that people can relate to. Faces, people their own age, professional images, proper image dimensions
  • Copy – what do you want from your ad? If you’re not selling, then you’re still being casual, useful, and wanting to get people to click on your link. Think of providing a call to action
  • Keep it short. You want to keep under character limits so Facebook doesn’t truncate your post, forcing users to click over to read the whole thing.
  • Ensuring the targeting is as relevant as possible

What else is on the webinar?

  • Jon goes into how to create a great Facebook advertising campaign and gives you steps to narrow down your needs so you can better strategise and target your audience.
  • Building a highly-relevant audience, and gaining their trust so you can market your products or services to them successfully
  • Targeting people depending on what page they’ve landed on your blog
  • Specific tips for Power Editor: how to create custom audiences, using tracking pixels
  • Links to articles that explain the complexities of Power Editor and how to harness it for your particular needs
  • How much to budget for Facebook campaigns
  • The difference between an ad set and a campaign
  • The lowdown on ad reports and how to track efficacy
  • Understanding lookalike audiences and how to target them effectively
  • Targeting fans, email lists, and anybody who has visited your website – highly-relevant people who already know who you are, but might not be following you on Facebook.
  • A discussion about the appearance of ads on Facebook in the first place. If they’re not going to go away, how best to work with them so you’re delivering useful advertising to its users, rather than irrelevant information
  • More detail on what makes a great ad.

Tune in tomorrow for our marketing ninja Shayne Tilley, who will take you through a list of Digital Photography School Facebook advertising that has seen real returns – and also the ones that didn’t do so well.

Have you tried Facebook marketing? Has it been useful for you?

Facebook Theme Week: Boost Your Organic Reach with These Tips

Sam SurnameIt’s a war most of us as bloggers find ourselves in with Facebook fairly often: our desire to have our posts seen by our likers, versus Facebook’s desire to not overwhelm its users with thousands of updates every single time they log on.

With so many users on the world’s biggest social media site (Darren said this week it’s been logged as 1.317 billion monthly active users in the second quarter of this year), the potential for reader overload is astronomical. Facebook advertising executive Brian Boland explained a few months ago that Facebook now handles more pieces of information than ever before, mostly due to how easy smartphones make it for people to share. He says that there is “far more content being made than there is time to absorb it”, and for people with lots of friends and page likes, there is potential for up to 15,000 stories to be available every time they visit the site.

So what does that mean for Page owners? Well, it means that the Facebook News Feed Algorithm is designed to show your readers what is most relevant to them, not every single thing uploaded. What you need to do now is be relevant. And how do you know what is most relevant to your audience? You get familiar with your Insights.

What does your audience want?

For all the general advice we can give, it doesn’t beat your own personal experience, and the needs of your readers.

In your Insights tab, you can click on “Posts” and then “When Your Fans are Online”.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 3.10.05 pm

As you can see, the Likers of my Veggie Mama Facebook page are online pretty much all day – but 8pm sees the biggest spike. If I want to catch the most of my readers, that would be the time to do it.

So now you know when your readers are online – the next step is to see what types of posts on your page they interact with the most. Click “Post Types” and get an overview of successful post types (including their typical reach and typical engagement rate). For me it’s video, followed by status, link, and then photo last.

Where to from there?

Make a plan to increase the types of posts your readers like, while still trying to stay useful, interesting, and entertaining. Facebook themselves say the most engaging posts you can create on Facebook are “short, original, benefit the person viewing the content, and connect to your objectives and identity”. But at the end of the day, you want real interactions with your readers, so being authentic regardless of post type should be your main aim.

Facebook also recommends video and images for the best interaction, especially those that depict humans and their relationships with others.

Video

Facebook’s recommendation to use video, and my insights listing video as the most popular post type, is consistent with the conclusions we came to yesterday about what worked on popular pages. For four out of the five pages we studied, video was their first or second most successful post type.

You can see here that a recent video shared on singer Beyoncé’s page has had incredible success. 222,000 shares (almost double the highest share rate from yesterday’s posts), 42,000 comments, and almost half a million likes.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 12.27.25 pm

So what makes it work?

  • it’s original – only Beyoncè has this particular video
  • it’s current – The 50 Shades of Grey book was a phenomenal success, and excitement for the new movie is ramping up
  • it features a never-before-heard Beyoncé track that fans would be interested to hear
  • both Beyoncé and 50 Shades of Grey are highly popular among their target audience
  • It also doesn’t hurt that mobile Facebook video autoplay would make this run automatically in people’s feeds, making it look like they’re interested in it (regardless of whether they actually want to watch it or not)

Images

It has long been said that images were consistently achieving the best results for people looking to increase their reach. Beautiful images, relatable images, funny images – as visual creatures, it appears that appealing to that sense is usually a winner.

There is little doubt that Humans of New York has nailed the use of images on Facebook. Primarily to showcase his photography work, Brandon’s Facebook page has become a legend. Every day, millions of people see and interact with the images and small snippets of conversations he provides.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.30.53 am

So what makes it work?

  • It’s heartwarming
  • It’s relatable – whether you are someone like that, or know someone like that. It might make you think of your parents or grandparents
  • Love is a language that transcends all barriers
  • It’s a beautiful picture in a beautiful park
  • The people are smiling – they’re obviously happy, and that can be contagious
  • Readers might think this will brighten others’ days as it has theirs, so they share
  • It’s also a bit cheeky and people love a bit of a joke.
  • It’s a little bit unexpected – often the elderly have assumptions made about them and their usefulness due to their age. To see them cheeky and joking around is pleasantly surprising.

While usually focused on people (hence the “Humans”), sometimes the unexpected on the HONY page works even better.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.09.36 pm

Text Status

For a while there, it was popular to try and provide useful or engaging text statuses, as they seemed to be the least penalised by Facebook (at least, less penalised than links, which could be seen as too promotional or salesy, and less penalised than overtly meme-y or spammy images). It gave rise to the question, or the fill-in-the-blanks. For some, it works really well. For others, it really can be seen as a blatant engagement grab, and quite off-putting.

So what makes a great text status?

Let’s look at Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. With more than two million fans, and a regularly-updated Facebook page, Ree connects with her readers in a variety of ways (mostly with images of her delicious cooking). But Ree has a quirky sense of humour her readers love, and often gets the text status exactly right.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.27.06 pm

Always self-deprecating, Ree likes to poke fun at herself and how she looks on her Food Network cooking show. Her penchant for overexaggerating also usually sparks a giggle.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.43.29 pm

Ree has a brother with special needs, and he is quite the character on her blog. Many of her readers can relate, and think he’s sweet.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.45.51 pm

Again, her quirky humour and casual, friendly demeanor really makes an impact. Thanking your readers for something is usually something they appreciate.

Consistency

People want to know there’s a human person behind the Facebook page, and that the person is interested in them. If the reader comments or otherwise engages with the content on the page, they want that engagement to be a two-way street. If you are a blogger, then make an effort to be around. Don’t just post and run – post and chat. Post regularly (but not so much that your posts get hidden as people get sick to death of seeing you) and be approachable. Facebook keeps track of the pages that each person interacts with, and boosts the visibility of the last 50 pages in the newsfeed. It’s ideal to be one of those last 50 interactions (which include engagement and profile/image views).

Authenticity

Not only will Facebook limit the reach of meme content in favour of more relevant (i.e. current news or shared interests) pieces of content, but fans will see through desperate grabs for likes or comments. It also pays to be thoughtful and aware of giving your readers what they want without appearing overly strategic. At the end of the day, you still can’t beat being useful, inspiring, visual, and interactive. And nobody will tell you what works on your Facebook better than your readers will, so get to know your Insights.

As Jon Loomer says:

Meh. Just share interesting content. Monitor your results to figure out what works.

(Jon will be back tomorrow with some super-useful tips from the other side of the coin – advertising and marketing on Facebook – it’s not to be missed!)

Do you think as a whole, bloggers are over-thinking Facebook organic reach strategy? Have you found reaching your fans frustrating? Or have you hit a stride that works?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Facebook Theme Week: Case Studies of Popular Pages (and What They’re Doing to Get Great Engagement)

There has been much discussion in blogging circles of late about Facebook and the effects their algorithms have on reaching all your “likers” with each of your posts. While Darren mentioned yesterday in his brief overview of organic vs paid reach that both have positives and negatives, the fact remains that many bloggers are still doing their best to increase their engagement organically. Today we are going to look at five popular Facebook pages and see what has been most successful for them when interacting with their audience.

Facebook

The most popular page on Facebook is actually the “Facebook for Every Phone” App, with more than 480 million fans. They haven’t updated their page since December 2013, but still rank the most overall. The second most popular page is Facebook itself (which defaults to whichever country you are in unless you opt to see a different one), but their engagement differs wildly with each post.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 3.33.11 pm What works for Facebook

Posts per day: One (but not every day).

What types of posts do they do? Videos, images, and links with images. They share motivational images and Facebook user information.

Most popular recent post: A motivational quote image. It garnered almost 140,000 shares, which was way over and above anything else on the page. It had just over two million likes, and more than 22,000 comments. This type of engagement doesn’t appear to be common, with the next-highest sharing rate being 64,000.

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Least popular post: A shared link from the American Cancer Society, asking people for donations. It had 13,000 likes, and less than 1000 shares.

What gets the most engagement overall? Videos, by far.

Most popular topics: Motivational stories, Facebook user information.

Shakira

Shakira is a musician from Colombia, and is the most-liked person on Facebook. She was the first person to reach over 100 million likes, and ranks third in the most popular Facebook pages (just under an App for Facebook, and Facebook themselves). She has a super-engaged page, with fans interacting constantly.Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.38.57 pm

Posts per day: One (but not every day).

What kind of posts do they do? Images, video, images with links.

Most popular recent post: A grid of images of Shakira performing at the World Cup Closing Ceremony, and a message from Shakira herself. 2.5 million people liked the image, almost 85,000 shared it, and it was commented on more than 42,000 times.Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.38.47 pm

10556436_10152673650169560_2488786109078107775_nLeast popular post: A shared link from the World Food Programme asking people to donate to the Mwamba Primary School in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It received 75,000 likes and only 87 shares.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Videos of Shakira performing, or addressing her fans.

Most popular topics: Behind-the-scenes peeks into Shakira’s life.

Real Madrid CF

With almost 70 million likes, Real Madrid CF is one of the biggest pages of Facebook.

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Posts per day: Between 3 and 9 posts a day

 

What kind of posts do they do? Mostly images and video.

 

Most popular recent post: A photo album of their star player Cristiano Ronaldo practising for an upcoming match. It had more than 300,000 likes, 5000 shares, and 3000 comments.

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Least popular post: A link (with image) to their online store. It had 37,000 likes, 764 comments, and 169 shares.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Photo albums of their players training.

Most popular topics: Players training.

I F*cking Love Science

IFLS is a site bringing science to the masses. Elise Andrew shares images, cartoons, science news and interesting tidbits that are designed to be accessible by everyone, not just scientists. IFLS might be trailing these pages in likes (although 17.5 million on a page updated by only one person is quite the achievement), but they are knocking them out of the park with engagement. Just about every single post has high engagement, and each type of post seems to do well.

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Posts per day: Between 8 and 19, at a rate of about one update an hour.

What kind of posts do they do? Mostly images, followed by images with links.

Most popular recent post: An image quote about the use of the planet’s resources. More than 96,000 shares, 350,000 likes, and 3708 comments were generated. With the exception of the unusually high Facebook post share above, it is a higher share rate than any of the other pages mentioned.

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It appears that unusual or interesting images work really well for them – this post about fluorite got 22,000 shares, 240,000 likes, and almost 6000 comments in 16 hours.

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Another thing IFLS fans seem to enjoy are geeky science puns. As you can see, this link to purchase a shirt got 37,000 shares in just 7 hours. With shares being the highest-ranked Facebook engagement (they appear to be more beneficial to your chances of higher organic reach than likes or comments), it’s clear that IFLS has a knack for creating viral content. It also goes to show content doesn’t need to be viral in a global sense, just viral to your readership.Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.27.14 pm

Least popular post: A straight link to an article about planets with companions having a better chance of harbouring life. Compared to the IFLS average, 8000 likes, 673 shares and 163 comments is ultra-low.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Images, by far. Especially if they’re punny.

Most popular topics: Health stories, animal information, and religion seems to get the readers fired up.

 

Humans of New York

Ask anyone what their favourite Facebook page is, and plenty of them will say Humans of New York. A page by photographer Brandon Stanton, it showcases the everyday person on the street, usually with a quote from the conversation Brandon has with them. It has quite the cult following, with 8.5 million likers and plenty of interaction.
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Posts per day: 5

What kind of posts do they do? Images.

Most popular recent post: An image and snippet of an interview with an older lady reminding people to keep in touch with distant friends and relatives. It sparked 37,000 shares, almost 350,000 likes, and 6000 comments.

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Least popular post: A link to buy Brandon’s latest book. 1000 shares and comments, and 73,000 likes.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Images with emotive or inspirational quotes from the people themselves. Half a million likes for this guy’s story.

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Most popular topics: People doing and saying things you don’t expect just by looking at them.

What does this mean for you?

Ultimately, it depends on your readership. But the common thread between all of these pages’ successful posts is the human element. What are people doing behind the scenes? Who are they when they are relaxed? What’s going on in their real life? It appears that people like that glimpse into humanity, and they also enjoy a good joke.

Most of these pages saw real success with images on their own, without links. Links appeared to be less useful, especially if they were selling something, or asking for people’s money. The IFLS page still saw success when they posted image credit links in the statuses, but that might be because they’d been enjoying such high sharing interaction, driving up their organic reach in general.

I think it pays to look at your recent Insights to see what kinds of posts are resonating with your readers. Are you showing them enough of the human you? Are you being just that little bit different? Can they relate to your content? Are you being useful?

What kind of posts have you seen success with? Tomorrow we’ll be doing a case study on the types of things you can do for better organic reach. See you then!

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Facebook Theme Week: Organic or Paid?

At a recent team meeting at ProBlogger HQ to plan the theme for our next ‘theme week’ here on the ProBlogger blog I nervously suggested that we should create a week long series of posts on the topic of Facebook.

As the word came out of my mouth I found myself almost involuntarily shuddering because I know that there’s a lot of mixed feelings among bloggers about the network right now and I half expect that we’ll get our fair share of ‘I’ve given up on Facebook’ comments on these posts.

However… while I know many bloggers and businesses owners are feeling the pain of changes of Facebook over the last six months I still think it’s a topic we could do well to explore in more depth.

Facebook remains the biggest social media network on the planet and continues to grow its active user numbers at a steady rate. According to Statista it had 1.317 billion monthly active users in the second quarter of this year and it’s still adding tens of millions more every quarter.

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While I would never argue that every blogger must be actively engaging on Facebook (each to their own) to ignore it as a source of traffic, brand building and community engagement would be almost as risky as to ignore Google (Alexa ranks Facebook as the #2 ranked site on the web behind Google).

So – as Stacey mentioned yesterday – this week we’re looking at Facebook here on ProBlogger.

Much of what we’ll be doing is ‘case study’ based by looking at the organic and paid approach of bloggers on their Facebook pages but before we do I thought I’d write a few thoughts to keep in mind as we tackle this polarising topic.

Organic, Paid or Both

Facebook have certainly been making changes of late to push page owners towards paying for reach and results on their pages.

This change in approach has caused many of us pain and left many bloggers disillusioned.

Interestingly I’ve seen bloggers respond to this challenge in a variety of ways.

  1. For some it has meant an abandonment of Facebook
  2. Others have persisted with their previous strategies to get organic reach but have adjusted (downwards) their expectations for what can be achieved
  3. Others still have taken Facebook’s changes almost as a challenge to work harder than ever on their organic strategies
  4. And lastly some bloggers have decided to not fight Facebook and begin to pay for reach

I totally understand each of the responses and over the last 12 or so months have at least considered each option.

As longer term ProBlogger readers would know the decision I made was to go with option #3 – to work even harder on growing our organic reach on Facebook.

Our Approach to Organic Reach on Facebook

Just under a year ago here on ProBlogger I shared some of the strategies I was using to increase the Digital Photography School Facebook Page reach and engagement organically.

While things have changed a little since then I’ve continued to experiment prolifically with that Facebook page and continue to see decent organic results.

If I had to summarise my approach on the dPS Facebook page 11 months later it would be:

1. Be useful – provide those who follow your page with content that is going to enhance their lives in some way. For us this is about providing helpful ‘how to’ content as 90% of what we do.

2. Be visual – I spend a lot of time thinking about the images that we use in our status updates. This is partly because we’re a photography site but mainly because Facebook is a very visual place. A great image will lift any status update a lot!

3. Be interactive – We recently had a week long period on our page where our page slumped both in terms of how much traffic it was sending to our site, how much reach we were getting and how much engagement there were in posts. I realised that I’d not been focusing as much on ‘interaction’ and follower engagement and resolved to add a few more ‘discussion’ oriented posts into our schedule. This definitely saw us lift but up our of our slump – to some extent.

4. Be Inspirational – While the majority of our updates are ‘how to’ or ‘informational’ in nature I find that throwing in the occasional purely ‘inspirational’ or ‘aspirational’ posts works. This might be adding in a quote that is meaningful, sharing a great photo, telling a great story. These posts may drive no traffic at all to your site – but they get people engaging – which has flow on effects.

5. Experiment – I treat each status update that I do as an opportunity to learn something about what works and doesn’t work with our readership. Try different types of updates (images, text based, link posts etc). Watch what happens when you do.

Overall the organic reach of the dPS page is decent, although I’ve definitely noticed the last month has been less consistent.

We Now ‘Pay to Play’: To Some Extent

The change to our Facebook strategy that we’ve not talked much about here on ProBlogger yet is that alongside our organic strategy, we’ve begun to experiment
with small paid campaigns.

Shayne will be sharing with you some specifics of the type of campaigns that we’ve been running on our page later this week but I will say now that we’ve had some success with the paid campaigns that we’ve run.

I know not every blogger will be in a position to pay much (if anything) for a Facebook ad campaign but if it is any encouragement to you the amount of money we’ve put into Facebook advertising to this point is not exorbitant (it has been in the $200 to $500 per month range).

Our campaigns have ranged from promoting our eBooks, to campaigns to grow our ‘likes’. Some of our campaigns have worked brilliantly – others have not – but the beauty of Facebook advertising is that you can set up limits on how much you spend on each campaign and can start small and then ramp up what is working and kill of what isn’t.

The ‘return’ on our investment has well exceeded what we’ve spent. The 2-3 experiments with selling our eBooks with ads have generated over five times what we’ve spent and we’ve also benefited in other ways (more traffic to our site, more ‘likes’ on our page and a flow on improvement in our organic reach and engagement).

I’m still cautious about investing too much into advertising but it is certainly showing some great results for us so far – more on this topic later in the week.

Never Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

Before we get into some case studies for the rest of the week let me finish with a simple reminder to not put all your eggs in the one basket when it comes with driving traffic to your blog.

I fell into this mistake in the early days of my own blogging by relying too much upon SEO to drive traffic from Google and have seen many instances where bloggers have obsessed about a single source of traffic (either from search, social or referral) only to find that source of traffic dried up and left them with nothing.

Facebook could well be an amazing opportunity for your blogging but the opportunity is unlikely to be an indefinite one.

Experiment, leverage what you can, ride the wave as long as it’ll last but keep your options open and always use it to build the things you have ultimate control over.

Keep in mind the ‘home base’ and ‘outpost’ model that I’ve been writing about here on ProBlogger since 2008. Don’t abandon your blog for Facebook – rather use Facebook to help you to build your blog (and email list).

Ultimately Facebook will do what is in their best interests and will change the rules of engagement there to suit them. This will at times present you with opportunity but at other times will mean you need to adapt your approach.

So this week as we talk about Facebook I encourage you to read along with an open mind – but also resisting the temptation to obsess. Doing so in this balanced fashion will hopefully lead to some great opportunities!

Theme Week: Your Guide to All Things Facebook

Sam Surname

Facebook – whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that huge numbers of your readers are on it. And although it can be confusing, frustrating, and increasingly a “pay for results” platform; with a bit of knowledge up your sleeve, you can really make it work for you and your blog.

This week we are delving into all things Facebook – from organic to paid reach, we will cover what you need to know to get the edge and be successful on the world’s biggest social media hub. We will be looking at case studies of successful Pages, breakdowns of what kinds of interaction garners the most engagement, the lowdown on Facebook advertising (Advanced Facebook Marketing guru Jon Loomer stops by with a packed-to-the-brim webinar), and what Darren and the team have been doing over on the Digital Photography School Facebook page that have seen real results in ad campaigns.

It promises to be a doozy, and you will leave with plenty of advice to make the most of Facebook. Check back each day for the next installment. We will add them here as they go live.

Your Guide to Facebook

Organic Vs Paid
Case Studies of Popular Pages and What They’re Doing to Get Great Engagement
Boost Your Organic Reach with These Tips

See other theme weeks here

Content Week: How to Consistently Come Up with Great Post Ideas for Your Blog
Beginner Blogger Week: Everything You Need to Know When You’re a Newbie
Finding Readers, Building Community, Creating Engagement
Creating Products: How To Create and Sell Products on Your Blog
Five Things to do with Your Blog Posts After You’ve Hit “Publish”
Make Money on Your Blog by Partnering With Brands

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

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Image via Flickr user triedandtruetutoring

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur and author Niall Harbison.

Although not everybody wants to make money from their blog, it is undoubtedly the goal for many. To make a living from writing at home often features high on the list of dream jobs! I’m lucky enough to have just published a book which got to number one in the charts, sold a business, as well as running a couple of businesses today, and most of the success can be put down to blogging. I wanted to share some of the tips that helped me first of all get the book published, and secondly, how blogging helped it to the top of the book charts. The book is called Get Shit Done and if you start using these tips that is exactly what you will be able to do. Hopefully you too can turn your blog into a bestselling book…

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

Find your niche

The really good blogs focus on one thing and they do it well. It doesn’t matter if you are a pig farmer in Russia, or a fashion student in New York, because whatever you do you will have an audience. The biggest mistake that most people make is they try and be to generalist and start straying away from their topics in order to get more traffic. Even though things won’t explode in terms of visitors at the very start, if you keep on doing what you are doing and writing in your niche with authority, you will eventually see the results and the audience grow.

Let Your Personality Shine Through

Think about all the big blogs that you read and the chances are there will be a strong personality or character shining through in the writing or through the content. Readers have millions of pages online to choose from so in order to keep them coming back and engaging with what you do there needs to be a part of you that stands out. It doesn’t mean you need to share your deepest darkest secrets like I did, but do try and be personable in your writing and give your readers something to latch onto.

Invest In Professional Design

The one thing that I think sets the truly great blogs and the average ones apart is great design. In my own early days of blogging I made the mistake many make trying to design the blog myself and using templates. If you are to be taken seriously and to get a book deal or start driving some serious revenue then invest $500-1000 on getting somebody to design your blog professionally. A badly designed messy blog will put people off straight away and make people think you are small-time.

Connect With Other Bloggers

This was the best advice I got in the early days and it has paid off over and over again. Some of you might think that people within your own niche should be seen as competition but the reality is that there is room for everybody. Like-minded bloggers within your niche will help you grow your audience, refer business to you, add value to your content, and share what is working for them. Most people ignore this tip but the community of bloggers is so strong and you’ll be surprised at just how welcoming most are.

Help People

There is no more effective tool in the world than helping other people. It could be advice. An Intro. A Retweet. A link in a post. For the first five years that I was blogging and on social media, all I did was help other people and give out favours to others. What that does is create a huge base of people who are willing to help you in return when you need it. As soon as I launched my book, I was able to nicely ask all the people I’ve been helping over the years to share my link, review the book, or even just buy it. Helping others is the best way to help yourself in the long run.

Network At Offline Events

You probably think that because you have a blog you can do all your networking online and that you never have to shake another hand in your life. The reality is very different. Some of the best connections and your biggest fans will come from the real world. I got a publishing deal by meeting people in the flesh. I met commercial partners in real life. You have to get out from behind the laptop sometimes and put yourself out there and meet people who are going to help you achieve your dreams.

Use Traditional Media And PR

Although the likes of print media are certainly dying, there is still huge leverage to be had by appearing in traditional media. I often write newspaper columns for free (newspapers love filling space for cheap these days) and I’ve found PR to be one of the most effective tools in terms of building brand. Your blog might be the best thing since sliced bread but people still put a lot of weight on seeing a photo or a name in a byline in a newspaper. Use traditional media to take your own brand to the next level.

Think International

Another big problem that most bloggers have is that from day one they pigeonhole themselves within a certain country. We live in a connected world where the internet knows no boundaries, so don’t limit the size of your potential audience by nailing your colours to the mast in your own country. Think big and talk in an international tones and you’ll be surprised at just how big your blog can get all over the world.

Speak At Conferences

I’ve found nothing more powerful in all my years of blogging than speaking at conferences on the subject that you are blogging about. If anybody is willing to give you a microphone stand up in a room even if there are only 10 people there. If you’ve never done it before you will be nervous the first time but get over that because speaking at public events is the quickest way to build your own credibility and take you to the next level. If you don’t have any conferences to speak at simply ask organisers. They are always stuck for speakers and you’ll be surprised just how many people say yes!

The 70/30 Social Rule

It used to be seriously hard to grow an audience for a blog. Now we have social media. The quickest way to grow an audience is not by constantly pushing out links to your own content but instead by interacting with people on social. Answering their questions. Sharing links. Showing your expertise. The way I think about it if you want to build a really big audience you should be spending 70% of your time creating content and interacting on social media compared to 30% creating content on the blog. It really is that important. Do that and people will slowly start coming back to your longer pieces over time and your audience will be huge after a while.

These are some of the tips that I used for the last 6 years and repeated over and over again. The end result was selling a business for a couple of million and publishing this book which has all the tips and which just got to number one. Enjoy.

Niall is an entrepreneur who has sold a business for millions and author of Get Sh*t Done published by Penguin. 

Increase Your SEO By Appearing on Google News

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This is a guest contribution from business/tech writer Nick Chowdrey.

Getting on Google News

Everybody knows that the world of SEO is changing. As Google’s algorithms get ever more efficient at filtering out good content from bad, more and more companies are turning to content marketing and guest posting to increase their Google page rank and appear higher up searches.

In the world of content marketing, creating high quality posts is just part of the story. You could write the most fascinating and informative article, but with so many other companies now employing writers to do the same, it’s still hard to to get the attention you need.

The goal is to become a trusted and respected commentator in your niche, but this can often take a huge investment in both time and resources. As such, one content marketing strategy that has surfaced recently is to try and get ones site featured on Google News.

What is Google News and why is it important?

Google launched its full news service, Google News, in January 2006. Aggregating content from over 25,000 publishers worldwide, the service uses Google’s algorithms to search for and promote the top news stories of the moment. Users can customise what topics and publications they’d prefer to see and can order stories using various filters.

Getting listed on Google News is not easy. They have extremely strict standards and a publication can only register for consideration once every six weeks. Google then uses its web crawlers to scan your site and determine the journalistic integrity, authority, accountability and readability of your content.

The rewards for getting listed, though, are substantial. Not only will a listed site benefit from the huge amount of traffic that goes through Google News, the added authority that a site gets from being listed means that more sites will start linking to your articles, which bumps you up the Google search rankings.

Being featured on Google News will not only boost the domain authority of your page but, as other businesses and professionals begin to rely on your site for news that’s relevant to them, your actual authority as a commentator in your niche will also increase. This should increase the amount of shares and trackbacks to your articles and, ultimately, your visibility on Google.

So, how can you get featured on Google News?

Quality of content

Google states in its Google News guidelines that its main aim for the project is “to organise all the world’s news and make it accessible to its users, while providing the best possible experience for those seeking useful and timely news information.” In order to achieve this, they maintain strict quality controls, which were briefly mentioned above.

Google are very strict on what constitutes news and what doesn’t. Google state that they don’t include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data.

They also only accept genuine, original news stories with high journalistic values. The best way to make sure that you fulfil these criteria is to write about what you know. Find stories that are relevant to your industry and, specifically, your niche in that industry. Not only will this improve the originality of your content, it will also mean your news stories are more relevant to your target audience.

Accountability is also a must. Google wants to know that you’re a reputable site, so they require a degree of transparency on your part. Your office address should be easily viewable and all of your editorial team should have profile pages with images and email addresses included.

Finally, the quality of the writing itself matters greatly. Here are some tips on how to write news content to an excellent standard.

Quality of writing

You’ll need to make sure that you and your team, if you have one, have excellent news writing skills. News writing may seem straightforward – especially if you’re already writing a blog – but it’s actually hard to do it right. the quality of your news writing is one aspect that Google will assess when considering you for Google News, so it’s important to learn to do it properly. Just republishing press releases isn’t going to get you anywhere.

A few quick tips on how to write a decent news piece: First, in terms of structure, you should always write your news with the most important facts at the top and the least important at the bottom. This is called the “inverted pyramid of news” and is designed for the way news is read, making it easy to skim lots of pieces and get a general jist of a story as efficiently as possible.

Deciding on what’s important is very much a judgement call on your part, but you should choose the content that’s most likely to get readers interested in the rest of the piece at the top. This will usually be some kind of statistic or statement, such as “X% of young people suffer from headaches, according to X professional body.”

Headlines are very important because they not only influence the searchability of your articles, but also the readership. The BBC are strongly credited with writing the most searchable headlines in the business. Here are some tips from their SEO guru, Martin Asser:

  • Use words that people would use in search in order to find the information being provided
  • Avoid words that people would never use in search to find that content
  • Put the most searchable elements at the front
  • Proper names are often used in search, so – following rules 1 and 3 – names should be included in the headline and if appropriate at the front

Finally, it’s also important to include first-hand information, correctly sourced and referenced, in the form of quotations. One of the best places to obtain these is from press releases, which you can find in the press sections of most big organisations. If you lift a quote from another news site, be sure to reference them, otherwise you’re just stealing other people’s work, which Google definitely won’t like.

Technical requirements

Your articles will need to meet certain technical requirements in order for Google’s web crawlers to be able to tell which of your site’s pages are news articles. If these requirements aren’t met, Google will not be able to automatically aggregate your stories, which is a requirement of being accepted onto the News site.

Technical requirements are as follows: Article URLs must be unique, permanent and contain at least three digits. This is so that Google can tell when an article is new. Links to the articles on your site must be in HTML with anchor texts that include at least a few words. Google is unable to crawl JavaScript, graphic links or links found in frames.Articles themselves must also be formatted in HTML, because Google is unable to crawl articles in other formats, such as PDF.

It’s generally accepted that articles made using popular content management systems like WordPress will be crawlable by Google without you having to make any manual changes.

A full list of technical requirements can be found in Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Other considerations

You then need to make sure that you’re covering as many news pieces from your niche a day as possible. Perhaps dedicate the first hour of every day to source, write and publish relevant news pieces that you think your audience would be interested in. Google don’t only assess quality of news, but quantity also.

You need to start building your position as a news provider. Make sure you diligently share all your news stories across all social media platforms. The amount of views your news site is getting will also influence Google in their decision on whether or not you’ll be featured.

Once you think you’re ready, go ahead and apply! But make sure you really have done as much as you can, otherwise there’s a six week wait to apply again.

Improving your rankings

Although the mere fact that you’ve been accepted onto Google News will most likely do wonders for your organic traffic, you can still take positive steps to climb up the rankings.

Firstly, it stands to reason that the more stories you write, the better chance you’ll have to get them read. At least three articles a day is recommended. Google also look to filter out duplicate content, so making the titles of your news articles unique will help to get it ranked. A unique title is also more likely to be clicked on by readers.

Finally, be diligent and get your news published quickly. As was mentioned above, if you make a routine of writing news pieces in the mornings, this will improve your chances of being the first. Start making a habit of keeping up with all relevant current affairs in your niche. Keep checking influential commentators and trade bodies regularly for press releases. You might also want to watch live broadcasts of political debates, such as Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK.

Nick Chowdrey is a staff and freelance writer specialising in business and technology. He is currently Technical Writer at Crunch Accounting. Follow Nick on Twitter @nickchef88.

ProBlogger in Perth: 10 Things Darren Wishes He Knew About Blogging

Jenish Pandya and Darren Rowse ProBloggerThis is a guest contribution from blogger Jenish Pandya.

What happens when ProBlogger legend Darren Rowse comes to your city for the first time ever?

You and everyone around you go crazy and act like teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert and start taking heaps of photos every time he makes a move.

Then what do you do with all the photos you have taken? Well, you write a blog post.

Darren came down to Perth for the first ever mini PBevent and in his presentation gave us a taste of what happens at the main event happening this year on Gold Coast from 29-30 August.

Darren Rowse’s 10 Blogging Lessons

Darren’s presentation was titled “10 things I wish I’d know about Blogging (+7 Quick tips)” in which he shared about the blogging lessons he would have wanted to know when he started out 12 years ago.

The lessons he shared were really simple and easy to implement, they were meant to take your blogging to the next level.

Darren Rowse's 10 Blogging Lessons

Darren The ProBlogger

Overnight Success only happens after years and years of work, it couldn’t be much right than in Darren’s case.

Darren started of the presentation with his introduction (as if he needed one :) ) and followed on with his story about how ProBlogger (PB) and Digital Photography School (DPS) started out. If it hadn’t been for his wife Vanessa, all this would probably not have happened as it did.

Darren’s journey started out with four simple words “Check out this blog” and without much credentials behind him he started out blogging and after 12 years of hard/smart work, ProBlogger and Digital School Photography have become what they are now. If you want to know about Darren’s awesome story check out the About ProBlogger page.

My Takeaway:

You have to be dedicated to your blog and business. There is nothing such as overnight or quick and easy Success. You have to work hard and smart to achieve your goals and sometimes you will achieve something more greater than what you ever imagined.

Darren's Credentials

Blogging Lesson #1: If you want your Blog to be a Business, Treat it as one

Glass half full, or glass half empty, the way we perceive and look at things changes how they appear to us.

The first lesson that Darren shared was something he had seen a number of bloggers go wrong with, including himself. Most of the bloggers started blogging as a creative outlet to share about their passion or as a hobby and monetizing the blog came as an afterthought.

The way you act when you think of your blog as a hobby will be completely different to when you think of it as a real business. When it becomes a business, you will pay more attention to it, be more professional about it and also dedicate as much time as possible.

So if you are really serious about monetizing your blog and trying to generate income from it, then your first step is to treat it like a business.

My Takeaway:

I started a couple of blogs before my current one and was treating them as hobbies and I can totally see the difference in how I go about treating my current blog by me being consistent, showing respect and putting time and effort in providing value.

Blogging Lesson #2: Identify WHO you want to read your blog

You need to know your audience before you start doing anything.

Darren shared four key reasons on how knowing WHO you want to read your blogs informs you the blogger on;

  • Content Strategy
  • Promotional Strategy
  • Community Strategy
  • Monetization Strategy

The first step in identifying your reader is to create two-three reader profiles or avatars which describes the reader’s;

  • Demographics
  • Need/Challenges
  • How they Use the Web
  • Motivations for Reading
  • Experience Level
  • Dreams
  • Financial Situation

Darren introduced Grace, who describes herself as a Mom-a-raz-zo photographer because 90% of her photos are of her young children. Grace is one of the few fictitious reader of Digital Photography School that Darren invented. Here are the other reader profiles.

The second step to getting to know WHO your readers are is asking your current readers to fill out surveys and polls, so you get hard facts and numbers about them.

My Takeaway:

This was something I knew I had to do but never got around doing it. It is something I have struggled with as I have always tried to write for everyone and never picked out specifically my exact niche. After hearing Darren I have started working on it and I am close to writing up a couple of reader profiles for my blog.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #3: Email is Powerful!

With all the hype around the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other cool social media sites, sometimes the good old email doesn’t get paid the attention it really deserves.

Darren emphasized on the use of email as a powerful blog marketing tool as;

  • It Drives Traffic
  • It Drives Profit
  • It Builds Community
  • It Builds the Brand

He told us about how it was his father who got him started on to setting up email subscriptions because his father wasn’t sure of how to set up in reading an RSS feed and still wanted to read Darren’s blog.

My Takeaway:

I love email marketing especially because it is personal and gives you that feeling of one 2 one communication with your reader and the coolest thing is that it can be automated.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #3A: Don’t Write Off PopUps

PopUps are still a bit controversial, some people hate it and some don’t mind it.

Darren used to hate popups and he never used them till he got challenged to try it out for one day and see what happened to his optin rates on DPS. So being adventurous, he gave it a shot.

The result of that one day was quite the opposite of what he had expected, his subscriber rates increased by almost five times than normal. The crazy thing was that there was little to no impact in traffic, meaning that people didn’t mind the pop-up.

He also mentioned that the readers on DPS didn’t mind the popup whereas those on PB did. This was due to the fact that they were both complete different types of readers. So Darren runs popups on DPS which only appear once for a visitor to the site and he doesn’t run any on PB. Read the full story how he drastically increased his subscribers.

My Takeaway:

I am still on the fence about whether to use popups or not but I guess the best way is to actually test it and let the results speak for themselves.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #4: There are MANY ways to Make Money Blogging

But it’s not quick or easy

There is always more than one way to skin a cat.

The one thing to learn from this is to diversify your income sources and not be dependent on any single one of them as Darren once was. He primarily used to make money from Google Adsense and one day when the search engine algorithms got changed, his income stopped for a while and then it lead him to diversify PB’s income sources.

Some of the ways to make money blogging are;

  • Services
  • Advertising
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Selling/Flipping Blogs
  • Continuity Programs
  • Products

Have a read of the 12 Blogging Income Streams and Darren’s 10 year overnight success to get a further insight into monetizing your blog.

My Takeaway:

This hit me home, I am a big fan of diversification and building different funnels to grow your income so that you are never dependent on any one particular source.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #5: Create something to SELL

People love to buy but they hate to be sold.

Following on from diversifying your blogging income source Darren moved to talking about creating something of your own to sell as it will keep your readers on your website and also increase your authority amongst the readers. Not forgetting the obvious reason, it increases your income.

Darren showed some stats of how almost 40% of his current earnings were from ebook sales. The wonderful thing was that he could sell the ebooks as singles or by bundles in different categories, topics, authors. He could also add other ebooks as bonuses to provide more value to the buyer.

So one of the biggest focus in creating an income from your blog should actually be creating something to sell.

My Takeaway:

I love Information products and how they can be easily leveraged to not only create an income but also to provide massive value. I have been putting off writing one for a while now but after hearing Darren’s advice, that project is about to take a new life.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #6: Successful Blogs – Inform, Inspire, Interact

If you were looking for the silver bullet for successful blogs, this is it!

This is the formula that Darren has used over and over again to make PB and DPS as successful as they are at this moment.

The first part of the formula is to create blog posts that Inform your readers. For example the how to posts, the review posts, the new thing and more in the similar criteria.

The second one is to Inspire with posts of different examples or case studies

The third being blog post that help you Interact with your readers, some of them could be challenge posts.

My Takeaway:

I never thought successful blogging could ever be put in such a simple formula. I have normally focused on the information posts but little on the inspirational and interaction creating, looks like they will be added to my blogging arsenal.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #7: Look for SPARKS

This is the reason that explains how Darren does all the things in his business and life.

“You should be doing what gives you Energy” – Darren Rowse. He mentioned about how the 31 days to a build a better blog came about. There was an idea he had in his mind and was keeping him awake at night so he decided to ask the readers whether they would like him to post a 31 day blog post series and it was the post that had got the most comments and people were giving him back the energy and asking him what was the first day.

So whatever you are doing, either be blogging or other activities you should identify what gives you energy (sparks) and follow that spark to accomplish it to the best of your abilities. Also try to figure out what gives your readers’ energy and what creates sparks for them, as that is where you should be focusing on.

Become a prolific problem solver by becoming hyper aware of problems around you, as it will not only give you heaps and heaps of ideas on what to blog about but also will give you different ideas on creating products as well.

My Takeaway:

I always used to wonder how do all the awesome people like Darren manage to achieve all that they have and still have time and energy left to do more, I thought they were following their passion but there was still some doubt left till I heard Darren.

Sometimes you don’t know what your passion is but if you follow the sparks then you are sure to find what gives you energy and leading to a better blog.

 

Blogging Lesson #8: Be ACTIVE

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there” – Will Rogers

Darren told us about one question that we should be asking ourselves everyday and that is “What Action Will I take Today that Will Grow My Blog?” It’s about lots and lots of small, consistent actions over a long time that have the Big Impact. When trying to answer the question you could be thinking about

  • Content Creation
  • Community Management
  • Promotional Activities

And to monetize your blog take the 15 Minutes a Day Challenge – Spend 15 minutes per day doing something to take you a step towards your blogging goals. This is how Darren was able to create the first ever ebook for DPS, he spent 15 minutes everyday for three months.

My Takeaway:

I loved the tip of the 15 minute a day challenge and have started working on a project that I long avoided and that is of creating a membership site. I invite you to take the 15 Minutes a Day Challenge and see what difference it makes.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #9: Do Good

At the end of the day it is about helping out others and doing Good.

Darren went to Tanzania in 2011 part of a Blog Project for a non for profit CBM Australia – part of the world’s largest organisation working with people with disabilities – with a particular focus upon the poor. He spent around a week in a disability hospital.

I hardly can put the stories he shared in words, so have a look at the video of Darren talking about his final reflections of the trip.

My Takeaway:

I believe that every single one of us was born to help each other out and Do Good. I was moved and inspired by Darren’s story about his Tanzania trip to do as much Good as I can.

Blogging Lesson

Blogging Lesson #10: Aim to have a BIG impact upon the readers you already have

It takes the same time and effort to think small when compared to Think BIG.

The last lesson Darren talked about was to provide more value and have a BIG impact upon your current readers as it is by doing such you will be able to grow and build you blog faster and create a healthy income. There is no point in chasing your future readers when your current ones are not even being taken care of.

Simply put, Love your current readers and you will able to achieve your blogging goals.

My Takeaway:

For me this was the magic silver bullet everyone keeps chasing, the more I take care and love my current readers the more my blog is going to grow.

Blogging Lesson

After going through the 10 Blogging Lessons, he quickly went about sharing 7 Quick Blogging Tips. After going through the tips you will realize that he doesn’t know how to count, hehe.

Jenish Pandya is a blogger who likes to help people earn a recurring income online, with business strategies and techniques.