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How to Prevent Black Hat SEO Techniques Against Your Vulnerable Website

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This is a guest contribution from Dennis Rundle.

Black Hat SEO practices have been going on for years without any signs of slowing down.

Regardless of the efforts Google makes with the purpose to stop black hatters from attacking vulnerable websites, these tactics haven’t become obsolete. Black Hat SEO practices are usually performed with the purpose to trick search engines. Some of these strategies include doorway pages, keyword stuffing, and invisible text.

Doorway Pages as a Threat to Your Website

Doorway, also known as a bridge page, entry page or jump page, is a page that black hatters design for the purpose of gaining top positions in Google’s search results. This page seems relevant to the search engine because it contains the right keywords. It usually includes hidden text, which is stuffed with keywords and phrases that would rank it in the search results.

Who would be interested to attack your website with a doorway strategy? That would only rank you higher, right?

Wrong!

First of all, let’s clarify one thing: doorway pages are a black hat SEO strategy that won’t help your site on the long run.

When a hacker compromises your website, he will incorporate hidden spammy links that will redirect visitors from the search engine (which is listing this page) to illegal or malicious sites that steal credit card numbers, sell pirated software, offer fake luxury goods, prescription drugs, beauty products and slimming pills, or promote adult/gambling content. As an example, here is the comparison of the regular website of Hope is Life against the page that appears when you follow the link from Google search results:

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 12.08.13 pm

The techniques that hackers usually use for such purpose include creation of rogue files and directories, modification of existing files, or adding URL rewrite rules to server configuration files. If the webmaster isn’t diligent enough, these changes may remain active for a very long time. Since the hacker can place the rogue content outside of the host site’s file system, you won’t notice anything suspicious when checking the integrity of your website’s files.

Here is an example of a Google search that contains a link to a redirecting doorway page:

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As you can see, some of these results are hosted illegally on servers that have nothing to do with the keyword in question. The most common keywords that hackers include in such cases include target words such as price, buy, discount, prescription drugs, porn, casino, payday loan, bargain, cheap, free, review, cheap luxury, along with a branded keyword, such as zanax, cialis, viagra, Chanel, etc.

If you conduct a Google search for buy cialis or buy viagra, for example, you will see many doorways on hacked sites that won’t lead to their actual pages.

How to Check if Your Website Has Been Hacked

Cyber criminals have compromised a huge number of websites with the purpose to put their doorways to top search results on Google. In most cases, the hacked websites link to several doorway pages, so the black hatters increase the chances that the search engine will choose at least one of them to display on the first page of the results. This strategy is also useful if Google or the webmaster removes some of these doorways.

This situation puts your website under risk, since it can be a subject to a Google penalty, leading to loss of traffic and a lot of work to fix the damage. Since it can be tricky to determine whether or not your site has been a hacker’s target, you have to be more diligent than usual.

Here are few of the things you can do in order to detect a black hatter’s attack:

  1. You can find useful information on the Webmaster Central Help Forum. You will probably find the answers before even asking the question, but you can also ask for help from other webmasters if you don’t find a solution.
  2. Rely on Google Webmaster Tools, which enable you to set email alerts in case Google suspects that your website has been compromised. Keep in mind that the search engine may take a while before detecting suspicious actions against your site, so rely on this option only as a backup strategy. The Fetch as Google tool is very useful, since it enables you to find out what the search engine sees when indexing your site.
  3. You can (and should) set up a Google alert for the words site:domain.com. With this strategy, you can reveal suspicious titles and page descriptions of your web pages. Google will instantly notify you about any new content the search engine indexes. If something seems shady, you can take action without delays. You can set up such alerts on the Google Alerts.
  4. Try to locate new pages with unusual content or 404-error; they indicate that the search results probably direct to suspicious websites.
  5. Pay close attention to GWT alarms. Check the malware status of your website.
  6. Check the search results your website is listed in. Compare the pages you enter through Google with those you get with direct entrance in the browser.

How to Prevent Black Hatters’ Attacks

Prevention is always better than treatment. The best way to avoid unpleasant scenarios caused by a hacker is to make your website really difficult to compromise. These are the things you can do for such purpose:

  1. Use strong usernames and passwords

You simply cannot be negligent when it comes to your website’s security. Only your system administrator should have the permission to maintain the site. Never use default names for application administrators, since they make your website an easy target.

  1. Secure all administrative files

You need to use a website firewall in order to provide strong protection for your website. Firewall technology has come a long way since its beginnings, so you can finally find effective, but affordable options that will protect your website.

You can also use an integrity tool that will notify you about changes in the file system. If you are aware of all changes that are being made, you will immediately spot an attack. Also you could also ask for an advice from our professionals http://webmastersafeguards.blogspot.co.uk/

Remember: You need an efficient remedy

No matter how hard you try to protect your website against hackers, it may still become a target at any moment. If a hacker managed to achieve sneaky redirection, you are in danger of greater damage. This means that you need to have a backup plan just in case. If you perform daily backups of your website, you will avoid losing valuable files in case of attack.

Dennis Rundle is CEO of “Webmastersafeguards”, an internet geek, and security enthusiast. His goal is to promote fair and square rules for all websites and to eradicate malware.

3 Steps to Saving Time by Writing Social Media Updates in Batches

fashion-man-person-handThis is a guest contribution from Tom Van Buren.

Scheduling updates in advance solves a number of social media’s most frustrating problems. It gives your routine newfound flexibility, and it can even make you a better blogger. But there’s one hurdle that scheduling alone doesn’t take care of for you: those updates still have to come from somewhere, and that means you have to write them.

Part of the appeal of scheduling is that it stops social media from interrupting your life every time you want to post an update, but without a sound strategy for actually writing those updates, you might just be trading one type of frustration for another. This post will show you how to write social media updates by the batch, so you can more easily grow your fanbase and drive more reliable traffic to your blog.

Think about more than just your own traffic

Social media is an invaluable resource for driving traffic to your own website, but getting carried away can do more harm than good. Forty-five percent of users cite excessive self-promotion as a reason why they would unfollow a brand on social, which means your strategy has to be a lot more refined than just sharing your own links.

Break down your typical updates into categories by type, so there’s variety to the content you share. In addition to posting links to your own blog posts, for example, you might also use social media for posting tips, linking to useful content on other websites, sharing inspirational or funny quotes, and so on. (Quotes and tips in particular are useful for getting shares, which can help you grow your audience.) These categories will guide you through the next step of the batching process: actually writing your updates.

Save time by writing in blocks

If you regularly schedule your social media updates, you might already be writing them in batches – just very small ones. For example, you might set aside time every morning to write and schedule your updates for that day. While this works in theory, it prevents you from developing a big-picture strategy, and it isn’t saving you as much time as it could.

Use the categories you defined to write as many updates you can within a certain time frame (much like the longstanding Pomodoro Technique suggests). Take 20 minutes to write as many updates as you can promoting your various blog posts, then another 20 for tips, and so on. Writing as much as you can within a certain time period gives you the ammunition with which to load your schedule, and it helps you build and maintain creative momentum as you go.

Writing bigger batches like this may seem like a major time commitment, but think of it like making a weekly trip to the grocery store instead of going every day. It may feel like you’re spending more time at the store, but for as long as the groceries last, you’re not wasting time on things like planning meals, making your list, driving back and forth, unloading the car, and so on. Once the work is done, it’s done.

The amount of time these updates last will vary depending on how often you post, but there’s one final step you should take to make sure that you get as much out of them as possible.

Save your work and re-use your updates

Without the right plan, social media marketing can feel like a neverending zero-sum game – you work hard writing updates, but once you post them, they’re gone, and you start again from square one every time you run out.

This cycle of always starting over from nothing is a major waste of time and your work. If you’re posting to Facebook and Twitter five times a day each, you might be writing as many as 310 brand new updates every single month – more than 75 per week. That’s a lot of effort to put into a task that doesn’t add up to anything.

Instead, maintain a document that saves your status updates. (Spreadsheets are particularly useful, because they allow you to organize your updates by category.) Every time you write a new batch of updates, add it to your document, so that over time, you build up a library of updates from which you can choose ones to schedule. Eventually, you’ll be able to write batches less and less frequently, because you can choose from the updates you’ve already written.

Why post the same update more than once? In addition to saving time, there are two big reasons:

Most of your followers don’t see any given update

Every time you post an update to social media, you’re trying to hit a moving target – and no matter what network you’re posting on, that target is pretty small. Consider these statistics:

  • Most Twitter users don’t log on even once a day (and 40% log on less than once a week)
  • The average organic reach for a Facebook page is about 7%
  • 87% of LinkedIn users log on once a week or less

Only a very small segment of your audience is likely to see any given update you post on social media, so if you share the same thing more than once over time, it’s unlikely anyone will notice – and you never have to feel like you wasted time writing and scheduling a post that didn’t get any traction.

Evergreen blog content drives more traffic

New social media followers always have something in common: they’ve probably seen very few of your updates from before they started following you (if they’ve seen any at all). If they’re new to your blog audience, then they’ve probably been exposed to very little of your blog’s older content, too.

Your evergreen blog posts are literally as good as new to anyone who hasn’t seen them before. If you’re not continually promoting those posts on social media, they’re gathering dust in your archives and going to waste.

This is why it helps to categorize your updates and save them over time. Maintaining a growing stockpile means you never have to go back and write new updates promoting old posts – you can simply keep your existing updates that promote evergreen posts in rotation, so they’ll continue to drive new traffic. Neither your social updates nor your blog posts go to waste, and the work you put into writing both generates cumulative results over time.
If you schedule your social updates in advance, how often do you set aside time to write them? And if you haven’t tried scheduling before, what’s stopping you?

Tom VanBuren is the content and social media manager for MeetEdgar.com, where he writes about social media and online marketing.

How to Make 2x More Money as a Writer

boss-fight-stock-images-photos-free-old-typewriterThis is a guest contribution from Puranjay Singh.

Around six months ago, I quit my job to make a living as a writer. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my work; it was just that I wanted to travel and needed the freedom of freelancing. I didn’t know a lot about writing, but I knew I could turn a phrase or two.

Besides, how hard could it be?

The answer: very hard. Freelance writing is a hyper-competitive industry where you are fighting against thousands of writers for the same jobs. Sheer writing skills count for nothing, degrees for even less. Add writers willing to underbid you, and you have a recipe for total disaster.

To succeed, I had to go against a lot of conventional advice. I had to change the way I approached my writing. I also had to bring in all my years of marketing knowledge to get the jobs I wanted.

In the process, I ended up making 2x more money as a writer.

Here’s how you can do the same.

Think Like a Business Owner

I started my freelance writing career like most others – I found gigs online, wrote long cover letters highlighting my education, then waited patiently for a response.

I won a grand total of two jobs this way. My proposal to job conversion rate was an abysmal 4%. Clearly, this was no way to replace a full-time income.

It took weeks of despair and error before I realized my approach was completely wrong. I was thinking like a writer, not like a business owner.

I took a couple of days off and thought hard about why businesses wanted to hire me in the first place. Obviously, it wasn’t because I had read all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets or knew five different synonyms for ‘tempest’. No, they wanted to hire me because they had a business problem and needed a solution.

Ultimately, this problem boils down to two things:

  • Businesses need high quality marketing content to sell their products and services.
  • Businesses don’t have the time or expertise to create this content on their own.

When you sell yourself as a writer, you are only solving half of the problem (creating quality content). A business will still have to invest time and effort into training and monitoring your writing in order to meet its business goals.

To the business owner, thus, a writer is a cost center, not a revenue center.

Top marketers and consultants know this. This is why they always sell themselves as solutions, not as mere skills. Instead of talking about their education or their experience, they talk about how they can help a business make more money and have more free time.

In other words, you must be more than a writer. You must provide solutions.

This is the bedrock of a successful freelance career. Once you adopt this thinking, you will see opportunities where none existed before. You will become an asset to every business you work with, not just a replaceable writer.

Once you’ve adopted this strategy, you can work on some tactics to get better paying clients.

5 Ways to Get Better Writing Jobs

These are my top five tactics to increase freelance writing income:

1. Position yourself as a premium provider

When I started my freelancing career, I was convinced no one would ever pay me over $10/article. It wasn’t that I was bad writer; it was just that I hung out on internet marketing forums where this was the going market rate.

I then learned about top content marketers charging big brands $150+/hour to create content. You couldn’t tell my $10/hour article from the $150/hour blog post. The only difference was in the way we had positioned ourselves.

“Positioning” is marketing speak for how a brand projects its solutions with respect to competitors. This is why Rolexes start at $20,000 and why Apple can charge twice the going price for a laptop.

Positioning is also crucial for freelancers. When you sell your services for cheap, you attract cheap clients. By marketing yourself as a premium service provider, you can often charge 2-5x more for the same work.

A few of my favorite positioning tactics are:

  • Increase rates. Just as people naturally assume more expensive items on a menu are better, they also assume more expensive freelancers know more.
  • A carefully crafted, well-designed brand presence can give your service a ‘premium’ perception.
  • Selective clients. Showcase your best clients on your website/portfolio. This can also be websites you’ve been featured/mentioned in. Recognizable brand names have a multiplying effect on your own brand.
  • Function like a business. Register as a LLC, use professional billing tools, have a standardized onboarding process (more on this below).
  • Professional imagery. Use professionally portrait shots on all your social media profiles. It just makes you come across as more savvy and serious about your work.

2. Don’t market yourself as a writer

Writers occupy the bottommost rung in the content marketing ladder. Sure, they are important, but unless they work themselves into an editorial/managerial role, their responsibilities are as limited as their earnings.

This is why I market myself as a content marketer, not a writer.

As a content marketer, I have a lot more responsibilities – I have to come up with a content plan, create content, then help marketing distribute it. But because it requires more skills and knowledge, it also pays way more.

You don’t have to sell yourself as a content marketer, of course. You can be a blogger who runs a startup’s entire blog independently. You can also be a copywriter who helps businesses sell more with conversion-oriented copywriting.

Your main objective is to get off the bottommost content marketing rung. Once you do that, your income will go up automatically.

3. Operate as a business, not as an individual

I understand this is something many of you will be uncomfortable with, but branding yourself as a business, not just an individual, is the true secret to unlocked 2x higher rates.

Why?

Because businesses hire individuals, but work with other businesses.

I’m not saying that you should get an office and hire employees. I’m saying that you should operate with the rigor and professionalism of a business.

For example, every time I get a new client, I invite them to Basecamp. This serves as our project management tool throughout the duration of the engagement. Besides streamlining our communication, it also tells them that I am serious about the success of their project.

There are a lot of ways you can show off your professionalism, such as:

  • Registering as a business. LLC registrations cost as little as $149.
  • Using branded templates for content plans.
  • Onboarding new clients with a branded ‘welcome’ guide.
  • White labeling software, such as WordPress theme backend.
  • Sending professional invoices through tools like FreshDesk.

When you do all this, you tell the customer that you are a professional, experienced veteran, not just a dabbler who started a few months ago.

4. Be a specialist, not a generalist

There is a simple rule in business: you get paid more for knowing a lot about one topic, than knowing a little about a lot of topics.

Readers of ProBlogger should understand this better than anyone else. Darren has made a habit of talking about the importance of niche selection. If all things are equal, a niche blog will become far more successful than one targeting a broad topic.

You must approach writing the same way. Don’t pitch your ability to write about “any topic under the sun”. Instead, pitch your expertise in writing about “marketing, SEO and social media” or “DIY and home décor”.

You can also target specific clients, such as small businesses only or startups (like I do).

Sure, this constricts your market, but you also get access to far better paying gigs.

5. Choose higher paying writing work

Author James Patterson made $94M through book sales in 2014.

Screenwriter Shane Black netted $4M for writing the script for The Long Kiss Goodnight.

David Ogilvy wrote copy for much of his life. The company he founded today does billions of dollars in annual revenue.

The point is: writing is a vast industry. It includes everyone from the $2 article rewriter, to the author earning a $1M advance.

The key to unlocking higher earnings is to target higher value work.

For example, few businesses will pay over $100 for a blog post. However, the going rate for a whitepaper is easily over $1,000, for the same number of words.

In business, the perceived value of any content is directly proportional to its impact on customer acquisition. While blog posts are good for traffic, they seldom directly lead to sale. Whitepapers, on the other hand, are typically offered only to a handful of qualified leads

Thus, there is a higher chance of converting a prospect into a customer after she reads a whitepaper. This is why whitepaper creators tend to get paid more than blog writers.

It’s the same with website copy. Good copy has a direct and immediate impact on conversion rates. Copywriters, hence, can often get away with charging businesses upwards of $200/hour.

This is the easiest way to increase your earnings as a writer: write more whitepapers, eBooks and website copy, fewer blog posts and articles.

Your Turn

Building a freelance career doesn’t have to be hard, nor does it have to be underpaying. It takes a few shifts in thinking and approach to get the kind of jobs you truly deserve.

It’s now your turn to adopt these strategies to get the results you want. Start by thinking like a business owner, targeting the right kind of jobs and branding yourself as a premium service provider.

Then share your results and queries in the comments below. I’ll be happy to help as much as I can.

Puranjay Singh is a writer and content marketing consultant. He is passionate about helping small businesses run result-oriented content marketing campaigns. Drop him an email at [email protected].

Follow These Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)

Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)  problogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Ali Luke.

Here’s a safe bet:

You’re struggling to find enough time to write.

Virtually every blogger and entrepreneur has the same problem.

Maybe you want to write great content to build your business – but there are so many other things you have to do too.

I know first-hand how much of a challenge this can be. I started out writing around a full-time day job; today, I juggle work around my two year old daughter and baby son.

I don’t know your personal situation. But I can take some guesses:

  • You have a lot on your plate – sometimes you feel overwhelmed.
  • Big writing projects get shunted to the end of your to-do list.
  • When you do have some time to write, you never seem to get far.

Sound familiar?

Here’s how to turn things around, in six straightforward steps:

Step #1: Come Up With a Bunch of Ideas for Your Blog

Since you’re reading ProBlogger, it’s a pretty safe bet that you have a blog (or you’re about to start one). Do you ever find it hard to come up with enough ideas for it? Maybe you’re managing to keep up a regularly posting schedule – but you know you should be doing some guest posting, and you never seem to get round to it.

The easiest way to make faster progress on any writing project is to set aside dedicated brainstorming (or, if you like, daydreaming) time.

Grab a notebook or a bit of scrap paper, and jot down as many ideas as you can in fifteen minutes. Don’t judge your ideas, just write everything down.

Try This:

Schedule 15 minutes, once per week, for brainstorming. You’ll soon have a stockpile of ideas that you can turn to whenever you need one.

Further Reading:

How to Consistently Come Up With Great Post Ideas for Your Blog, Stacey Roberts, ProBlogger

Step #2: Create a Clear Plan Before You Start Writing

When you don’t have much time to write, you don’t want to waste a single minute.

If you find yourself getting stuck and giving up part-way, or if you often have to scrap huge chunks of your blog posts because you went off on a long tangent, then you need to get to grips with planning.

Your plan doesn’t need to be complicated. A few bullet points jotted on the back of an envelope is fine. For maximum effect, though, set aside dedicated time to plan out several posts at once.

Your plan helps you spot any problems before you spend hours writing, and it helps you shape your material into a logical structure: easier for you to write, and easier for your audience to read.

It’s also a great way to blast through any blank page wobbles at the start of a writing session. If you’ve got a plan, you can just copy or type it into your document … and you’re already part-way there.

Try This:

Give different planning methods a go – you don’t have to stick with a linear outline each time. Maybe a mindmap, a set of ideas on index cards, or even a spreadsheet would suit your project better.

Further Reading:

A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write, Ali Luke, Copyblogger

Step #3: Use the First Hour of Your Day for Your Main Writing Project

Sometimes, the real problem with finding time to write isn’t that there’s no time at all – it’s that our writing time is scheduled for the wrong part of the day.

If your aim is to “finish the ten things on this list then work on the ebook” … it’s all too easy to let those ten things fill your day. Even if you have a little time left at the end of the day, you’ll probably be creatively frazzled.

The best solution I’ve found is to put writing first. Ideally, set aside an hour – but if that’s just not practical, 15 minutes is fine.

Putting writing first could mean:

  • You use the first hour of your work day for your project … trust me, Twitter and Facebook can wait for an hour.
  • You get up an hour earlier (not my favorite solution – but I did it for eight months when I had a day job, and it let me build my career to the point where I could quit and write full time).
  • You shuffle around some other activities: if you currently head to the gym at 6am, could you go at lunchtime or in the evening instead?

Try This:

For this week only, commit to spending the first 15 minutes of your day (either when you get up or when you start work) on your current writing project. Put a check on the calendar each day you manage it. Next week, aim for 20 minutes per day, and/or more checks.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Get Serious About Your Writing Schedule, Kari, Men with Pens

Step #4: Cut Out or Cut Back

Your time is full already, but at least some of your activities could go in a pinch. This is always going to be a personal decision – something that I might consider essential could be on your list for ditching when life gets hectic, and vice versa.

Here are just a few ideas you might want to consider.

Cut out…

  • Voluntary commitments you don’t enjoy and wish you’d never signed up for. Resign in writing, and don’t leave any room for ambiguity or argument.
  • Time-wasting activities that don’t add much to your life – do you really need to take another Buzzfeed quiz? Try RescueTime to track your computer activity.

Cut down…

  • TV watching. Of course, keep up any must-sees (mine are Game of Thrones and Doctor Who) … but if you’re binging on whole seasons of shows on Netflix, cut back to an hour every evening.
  • Even if money’s tight, can you get a maid service once or twice a month? If that’s not an option, can you delegate to your spouse or kids?

Try This:

Look at your non-writing activities and save some time there too:

  • 10 minutes per day on Twitter and Facebook, instead of 30, could well get you the same results.
  • Template emails will save you time answering common questions, dealing with routine enquiries, and so on.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Flush 90% of Your To-Do List Down the Toilet, Michael Hyatt, MichaelHyatt.com

Step #5: Keep a Time Log

If you’re still struggling, keep a time diary for a week to find out exactly where your time goes.

(If you’ve ever kept a food diary while on a diet, or a spending diary while getting out of debt, you’ll have some idea of how powerful this can be.)

You could use a spreadsheet, a physical notebook, or an app like Toggl. While entering data manually can be a pain, it does make you very aware of how you’re using your time.

Try This:

Be prepared for your time log to throw up some negative emotions – maybe you’re not working as efficiently as you thought. Go easy on yourself, and look for ways to win back just 5 or 10 minutes of productive time each day.

Further Reading:

Why You Really Don’t Have a Time Management Problem, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

Step #6: When You’re Writing, Write!

If you’ve set aside 30 minutes to work on a post for your blog, you need to actually write.

That means not stopping after five minutes to check if anything new’s happening on Facebook. It means jotting down any distracting thoughts like “Email John” rather than stopping writing to do them straight away.

When you’re writing (or engaged in any creative activity), you can get into a state of “flow” – you might describe it as “being on a roll” or even “losing track of time”. This is what you’re aiming for, and constantly interrupting yourself will stop you getting there.

Try This:

Work in short bursts. I find that 20 – 45 minutes is about right. If you know you only have to write for another 15 minutes, not for another hour, it’s easier to push yourself to keep going.

Further Reading:

How to Maintain Focus when Writing, Mary Jaksch, Write to Done

You won’t miraculously “find” a few spare hours to write.

You need to make that time – by finding more efficient ways to work and by restructuring other elements of your life to allow your writing to be a priority.

So here’s your first step again: find fifteen minutes, either today or tomorrow, to brainstorm some ideas for one of your current projects.

Get up early, use the ad breaks on TV, write in your notebook on the bus, or whatever it takes. Drop a comment below to tell us what you’ll be doing, and when.

Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for all bloggers and writers, with monthly seminars, in-depth ecourses, supportive forums, and more. It’s only open for new members until Friday June 12th, and we’re about to start a new Summer Challenge for accountability (and prizes)! If you think you might be interested, check it out now.

 

8 Ways to Stop Your Blog Crashing as Soon as it Gets Popular

person-apple-laptop-notebookIn this guest post, Andrew Maybin, managing director of web hosting and digital infrastructure company Tibus, gives tips on how to avoid the hosting pitfalls associated with high-traffic blogs.

It’s the nightmare scenario for any blogger. All the hours and effort you’ve invested in writing, promoting and developing your site, only for it to go down as soon as you hit the jackpot.

An article that goes viral, a retweet from a high-profile influencer or a link from a top-tier website: it’s what you’ve been working towards, but is your blog ready to cope with the resulting traffic?

If you’re yet to find out the hard way, your web hosting and server setup can play a hugely important role in making your blog a success.

Pieces of content – in the form of blog posts and social media output – are often described in terms of being building blocks. Your hosting is the foundations on which your content is built. Get that wrong and it all comes tumbling down pretty quickly.

How important is it that your blog is available?

That is the first – and perhaps the most important – question to ask yourself. It is something you need to repeatedly come back to when making decisions about your hosting arrangements.

National broadcasters, popular tech websites and high-traffic niche blogs are make up a huge portion of web hosting clients. Even within that relatively close demographic, people have different budgets, hosting requirements and answers to that all-important question.

In the ‘jackpot’ examples we mentioned, how much would it cost you – or maybe pain you – for your website to crash? Act according to your answer when weighing up which of these hosting tips for high-traffic blogs is right for your website.

1. Choose the right hosting package

The most fundamental aspect of website hosting is getting the right sort of package to begin with. As with anything in life, you tend to get what you pay for so don’t expect an entry level package to serve enterprise ambition. Be realistic and choose a package with enough CPU and RAM to give the raw power your website needs.

As a rule of thumb, websites that attract flashes of traffic, like blogs, are well-suited to private cloud hosting supported by a content delivery network (CDN). This option gives the efficiency and scalability of the cloud, but with extra control and security. The CDN takes the strain off the main server by hosting photos and other static assets that might otherwise drain your resources.

2. Pick something scalable

As alluded to in the previous point, the way to deal with surges of traffic without breaking the bank is to opt for a hosting package that’s flexible enough to scale-up when the crowds arrive and scale back down to something that’s a bit more affordable when they’ve gone.

3. Use web server caching

A cache takes pages or assets within your blog and creates static versions of them which load much more quickly. This can result in 20x better performance from exactly the same server.

The impact on user experience is limited and the improvement in site speed dramatic. We tend to use caching tools such as NGINX and Varnish. Any blog that uses WordPress will benefit hugely from caching. In fact it’s a must for maintaining decent performance levels.

4. Use servers close to your readers

Where is your traffic coming from? It is a good idea to have versions of your website hosted in data centres close to your main geographic hot-spots.So, if you’re big in Brazil, hot in Hungary or in-demand in India, move your content closer to the audience. The result will be a better user experience and a more efficient use of your resources.

5. Tune your database

A tidy database can go a long way towards stopping your website crashing during busy periods. Slow queries, inefficient calls and multiple table joins – all of which can occur naturally as your website evolves over time – can cause slow performance on high-traffic websites

6. Use a database cache

Database queries are very often the cause of performance problems for high traffic websites, even if you’ve tuned your database as outlined above. Using a tool like Memcache or Redis will improve performance when large numbers of visitors are concurrently dipping in and out of articles, photos and other pieces of content.

7. Use lateral scaling and load balancing

Even the most powerful servers and their software have a ‘hard limit’ at which point their resources hit a wall. You can circumvent this by using more than one server and balancing the load across them.

This is the web hosting embodiment of the old adage, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. It can achieve greater capacity and better performance while retaining cost-effectiveness.

8. Pay attention to your network

This starts at home by making sure you’ve got the basics right. In the past we’ve seen people tick the wrong box with usage limits or firewall settings and inadvertently limit their server resources.

Further afield, your hosting company will be using internet exchanges as part of their network. Check that there are no bottlenecks with their infrastructure and that sufficient bandwidth is being made available to your website.

The tips in this guest post have been kept as simple as possible. You can find a bit more technical detail at tibus.com.

How to Use Quizzes and Facebook to Build Your List… Fast

This is a guest contribution from Luke Moulton.

If you’ve spent even a small about of time in the blogging world, you’ll be aware of the power of building an email list. Email is still one of the cheapest and effective forms of online marketing so as a blogger it should be high on your priority list.

But how do we build a list quickly if we aren’t getting a whole lot of traffic to our blog? How do we incentivise people to hand over their email address once they get there?

Sure, we can use the good old “Sign up to our Newsletter” or give something of value away for free. But these don’t always work for fresh visitors who haven’t seen your content before.

I’d like to introduce you to another list building option: quizzes.

You’ve probably seen them in your social media feed, you may have even taken a “Which Sex and the City Character Are You?” style personality test. They’ve been made popular by the likes of Buzzfeed and Mashable, but that’s not to say humble bloggers like you and I can’t use them to build a list.

The Technique: Facebook Ads + Quiz

The case study I’m about to show you combines traffic from Facebook Ads with a quiz. Yes folks, we’re actually going to be spending some money, hope I haven’t lost you yet… stay with me.

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The results above are from a Facebook Ads campaign I used to drive traffic to a quiz. The campaign lasted 13 days on a budget of $30 per day and from this I was able to build a list of 571 people. Yes, I know, it says 560 in the screenshot above but I also had some viral traffic, so ended up with more leads. This means my cost per conversion, or the cost to acquire an email address, equaled $0.66.

To some, this cost per conversion will seem expensive, to others it’s cheap; all depends what niche you’re operating in. If you know you can generate $1 from every email address you collect, then you’ll be making 50% on your investment… better than any investment I’ve come across recently.

Let’s dive in and build the campaign.

Building the Quiz

Choosing the topic for your quiz is the most important step; obviously it needs to relate to the overall content on your blog, and it also need to appeal to a specific social media audience.

For this particular example, I’m going to pretend I have a fashion/beauty/cosmetics blog. The topic for my quiz: “Would You Qualify to be a Makeup Artist?”.

I used Sit the Test Builder to build a 10 question, multiple choice test. Sit the Test requires people to enter their email address before taking a test (or quiz). As the test creator I can then export these email addresses to my favourite email marketing platform.

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While I know nothing about being a makeup artist, Google does, so make sure you research your topic thoroughly and build a quiz with legitimate questions. You see the example of my quiz here.

With my test written and published, it’s time to build the Facebook campaign.

Creating the Facebook Campaign

To begin, I created three ads to “split test”. I say split test in quotation marks because Facebook automatically favors the better-performing ad after a period and I’m not convinced they wait for statistical significance, but I digress.

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The only difference between the three ads above is the image used. It’s important to only test one aspect of your ad at a time.

Ads created, it’s time for the build the audience that I’m going to target.

For this particular campaign I targeted women between the ages of 18 and 24, interest in cosmetics and living with 25 miles of Australia’s two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney.

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I did experiment with a couple of other Ad Sets, but the Sydney and Melbourne campaigns were the best performing. I also made sure I had Facebook conversion tracking setup so I could closely track the performance of my campaign without having to continuously check to see how many people had taken my quiz.

Launching the campaign, after a day or two you will usually start to see one Ad performing better than the others.

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If you’ve chosen your topic and target audience well, you should be rewarded with a healthy click through rate. In this case the best performing ad generated a click through rate of 2.29%.

After a day or two I usually pause the two poorer performing ads. If none are performing well, try changing the messaging and the image.

The Quiz Results

So how did our participants fare? For this particular test, I set a pass rate of 70%. On average, participants scored 64%. 571 people started taking the quiz, and 521 people completed it. Because we collect the email address at the start, it doesn’t matter if people don’t complete the quiz – although we hope they do!

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What’s Next

So I’ve built my list of 570 odd – what do I do with it now? That’s really up to you and what you have to offer your audience. But here are some suggestions:
Segment out the people who failed and offer them some cosmetics training
Segment out the people who passed and offer offer them accredited training courses
Send them regular email updates from your blog

If you don’t have your own products, there are plenty of beauty, fashion and cosmetics affiliate offers you can present to your audience, just make sure you’re adding when you email the list you’ve build… use it for good not evil and you’ll be rewarded.

Luke Moulton is a digital marketer based in Melbourne Australia, working with Sit the Test, a startup helping people create multiple choice tests and quizzes.

Anchorman-Inspired Tips to Help you Blog Your Way to the Top

anchorman

This is a guest contribution from Kirsty Sharman.

There are a million and one articles online that talk about how to earn money blogging. They all have the same tips, talk about the same things and usually just teach us things we already know.

The truth is: people like you and me (I’m assuming you’re a blogger if you’re reading this) didn’t start blogging because we wanted to be bac link experts, banner ad salesmen or tech gurus. We had a passion for a topic, and we wanted to talk about it. A lot.

All the articles online educate us to become masters of everything in order to succeed as a blogger, and successfully monetize our audience. I don’t really agree with that thinking. My thinking aligns more with being the best you can be within your niche – and partnering with others to help you monetize your audience.

If you want to be the best, and in turn earn an income from your passion, you need to be the guy that everyone wants to be friends with.

You need to be kind of a big deal.

As ridiculous as Ron Burgundy is, he mimics many traits of an internet celebrity. As influential bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers and Instagrammers, we need to stand out from the digital crowd. We need to be to the internet what Ron Burgundy is to the News Network of America.

Below are five Anchorman inspired tips to help you blog your way to the top:

Start to think of yourself as an influencer

Brands want to work with people who can influence consumers within their target market. In order to be an influencer you need to work towards being an authority in your chosen blog category (or niche).

Partner with the right people

The same way that Ron Burgundy relies on Brick Tamland to deliver the weather, and Champ Kind to announce the sports results – is the same way you need to think of your blogging network. Partner with people to do the things you don’t specialize in – like monetizing your audience for example. Or managing your video editing. Trade exchanges are a good idea if possible.

Say what’s on your mind – even if it creates a stir

If you’re going to be a thought leader in your niche, it’s important that you speak up. If you’re a tech blogger and you think a new phone is terrible, say so. In the long run, being authentic is more important than pleasing the brands around you. Creating a stir has Ron Burgundy written all over it!

PR yourself

If you work hard, write great content and consider yourself a credible source within your niche – then it’s ok to let others know that you’re kind of a big deal.

Stay in shape

Ron Burgundy takes his personal fitness extremely seriously, you should take your online fitness just as seriously. Know who the other bloggers are, know where the best information comes from, research and write weekly. Stay in shape, on the internet!

Kirsty Sharman is • Crazy about all things digital • Bulldog owner • Toy collector • Runs @Webfluenti_al by day and @GeeksDoingStuff by night • One of the girls behind Girl Geek Dinners Johannesburg •

 

Google’s Mobilegeddon: The Best Excuse to Repurpose Old Content

Google’s Mobilegeddon: The Best Excuse to Repurpose Old ContentThis is a guest contribution from Mike Canarelli.

For bloggers looking to refresh or repurpose old content, after the April 21 release of Google’s “mobile-friendly” update comes at the perfect time and offers tremendous benefits.

Gloomier prognosticators have nicknamed the update “MOBILEGEDDON” (yes, typically in all caps) because of its potential to disrupt 40% of all online searches—specifically those queried from mobile devices.

What these doom-and-gloomers have forgotten to consider, however, is that because the update applies to individual web pages, as opposed to entire websites, bloggers with mobile sites now have the chance to showcase stale or outdated content by refreshing their posts with new or updated tweaks. For bloggers still working on becoming mobile compliant, the update will allow them the opportunity to build a content refresh right into their website redesign plans.

Let’s face it: not only is high quality content time-consuming and costly to produce, none of it remains relevant forever. When Google says it’s going to highlight some of the best content you’ve produced by re-indexing it for mobile, it would be foolish to waste the opportunity and not update it.

Breathe New Life into Old Content

Above all, when creating content the first time around, try to image how you might repurpose it at a later date. With that in mind, here are some important things to consider when refreshing and repurposing existing content:

Updates

Simply providing new insights on original posts can allow you to reuse blog content and articles. For example, if you wrote an article on the five most important weapons to have during the zombie apocalypse, you could just break each of those five weapons down into five different in-depth writes-ups on each item. This is an easy way to score big points with the Googlebot, which is constantly looking for new, properly formatted pages that are relevant to your site’s general theme.

Presentations

Take information from a post, turn it into a presentation and post your slides to social sites like SlideShare, Issuu, and Docstoc for additional amplification. Google loves presentations, and if you include links to your mobile site in these repurposed slides, you’ll benefit from additional optimization. One word of caution, though: Google does not index presentations stored in its own Google Docs platform, so even if your presentation is stored there and marked “public,” the search giant won’t include it in search results. No biggie: just be sure to publish your presentations to a third party site (like those referenced above), and you’ll be good to go.

Repost

If your content is timeless and consequently doesn’t need much tweaking or refreshing, you might want to consider sharing it across your social media channels a second time. Surprisingly, research suggests that reposting a piece of content can earn up to 75% of the engagement of the original post. Be careful, though: only repost LINKS to your content. Reposting an entire blog to a social media site like LinkedIn and/or a social journalism site like Medium can actually earn you a duplication penalty from Google, which will kill your traffic.

eBooks

Create one ore more eBooks out of a series of blog posts. eBooks can be sold, given away, or gated behind forms to capture visitor contact info. Google actually has a partner program called Google Books that will index your eBook and make it searchable. Best of all, you can control how much of your eBook people can browse, so you’re not giving the whole thing away without some return benefits.

Multimedia

Freshen it up and create a podcast or video series. Webinars are also becoming increasingly popular, so check out your old content to see if there is anything you can use as a webinar. You can also create a podcast and video from the same piece of content, thus earning the indexing benefit of all three (audio, video and your original post). Don’t be overzealous, though: The Googlebot creates a written transcript of the video for its search index, so if you have one, too, it could get you penalized for duplicate content. 

Know When to Let Go

Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to hold on to content. If it’s no longer timely, or new information has made it incorrect or no longer applicable, it might be time to say goodbye. If you can incorporate into other content you’ll have the benefit of removing dated work from your site while also updating and refreshing content with staying power.

Whatever method you choose to repurpose or refresh your content, the Mobilegeddon update should be top of mind. People on the go are the ones who are consuming the most content, and they’re consuming it on their mobile devices. Imagine your readers, viewers or listeners where they actually are—at airports, waiting in line, or scrolling around at their leisure. If you do this, taking advantage of Google’s new update will go hand in hand with refreshing your content.

Mike Canarelli is the CEO and Co-Founder of Web Talent Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that delivers exceptional results to clients. 

Four Blogging Tools to Make your Content Go Further

This is a guest contribution from Chris Crawfurd of sovrn.

You put in countless hours to create the highest quality content possible week after week. Maybe you even spend money on hiring a graphic designer to make your work look even better. But what good is a solid piece of content if it’s not being put in front of the right audience?

These four blogger tools are must-haves for any publisher looking to increase the reach of their online content:

1. Use Visual.ly to increase your content distribution

Visual.ly is the world’s marketplace for visual content. Whether it’s an infographic, video, interactive, or presentation, their streamlined process makes it easy to distribute your content and get it in front of the right audience. Visual.ly is sort-of like a social network for infographic and visualization sharing (talk about niche markets). You can explore, share and, in the near future, even create your own. When you open up the home page, you are greeted by a continuous scrolling of some of the best infographics currently on the website, and signing up takes a minute via the link on the top-right of the page (sign-up is free).

Let’s say we are searching for a particular infographic about, say, Digital Advertising. All you have to do is type Digital Advertising into the search box, hit Enter, and Visual.ly will bring up a list of visualizations tagged with the keyword Digital Advertising. While searching for visualizations, you can organize your results in a number of different ways, for example, by visualizations that are currently trending or by most commented or most viewed visualizations. You can also change the layout of your search results – the most useful view shows a description of the graphic so you can find exactly what you are looking for.

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Next Steps:

  1. Register for a free account onVisual.ly
  2. Upload your content
  3. Enjoy the sudden flux of digital eyeballs and link love

2. Use BuzzSumo to gain insights into what your competition is blogging about

BuzzSumo provides insights into the most popular online content and the influencers behind it. The next time you’re brainstorming blog topics for your upcoming content cycle, try researching the topic you’re interested in via the BuzzSumo platform to see what other bloggers and content influencers have to say about it. It might help steer you in the right direction.

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Here’s a breakdown of what BuzzSumo actually does:

  • Allows you to search for content that has been widely shared within social media sites
  • Gather metrics around content and segment it by content format
  • Quickly find guest posts, contests, videos, interviews and infographics
  • Find out who the influential content curators/aggregators are within any niche
  • Gather statistics on industry influencers and their associated websites
  • Export all of the intelligence into Excel spreadsheets

The real meat of BuzzSumo is in its “Pro” version. Through BuzzSumo Pro you can access its Content Analysis Reports. Think of these as regular BuzzSumo reports on steroids.

For data nerds (and I know there’s a few of you out there), this level of reporting will keep you up at night.

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From this dashboard, you can see just about everything there is to know about a specific topic. In this example, “AdWords” is the content area of interest. In addition to tons of other cool graphs, you can also see, at a glance, which domains are just killing it in your industry. 

3. Use Hootsuite to manage and distribute your social media

Manage social networks, schedule messages, engage your audiences, and measure ROI right from the Hootsuite dashboard. Hootsuite is a third-party tool or application that is designed to collate all of your social media account streams into one handy dashboard. You can write, send, schedule and track posts from its simple interface across multiple networks and multiple accounts. It is therefore a good option for those people or businesses that have either multiple accounts on one social media network or accounts across multiple networks – for example Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Hootsuite is web-based and does not require any software download. You can also add team members (and implement work-flow) as well as monitor analytics and performance.

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The primary use of Hootsuite is a social media dashboard (or social media management system) that provides a view of all your social media activity across all your accounts and allows you to post to all of them from one place. It gives you access to up to five of your top social media streams for free – including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, WordPress, Mixi, Instagram, Google+ among others, which can be much easier than trying to manage all of these accounts directly from a browser. Not only can you track your posts, but you can also reply directly within Hootsuite as well as post updates on every network from the one place.

What do you get with Hootsuite?

  • Manage multiple Twitter, Facebook (profiles, events, groups and pages), LinkedIn (Profiles, Pages and Groups), WordPress, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace (does this even still exist?), Vimeo, Instagram, ping.fm and more accounts from one place
  • Schedule your social media updates
  • Collaborate as a team – including ability to assign replies, mark as done, track messages etc.
  • Manage it all through mobile applications
  • Customized analytics, included automated scheduled reports (though this can be costly)
  • RSS integration
  • Customer support

4. Use meridian to harness the value of your data and grow your influence 

meridian is a new publisher platform built and designed by sovrn Holdings. meridian acts as a conduit between publishers and advertisers by providing publishers with unique data insights that allow publishers to create better, more targeted and lucrative content. Through meridian, publishers can: manage their ad tags; view unique revenue metrics paired with targeted audience segments; see how their site compares to other sites within their vertical; gain access to an expanding library of publisher tools and third-party integrations.

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meridian features detailed, individual advertising performance metrics on a site-by-site, and zone-by-zone basis along with clear trending information. Inside the platform publishers will see detailed audience segmentation detailing the advertiser-driven values and characteristics of readers visiting their sites. In addition to advertising management and optimization, sovrn’s meridian boasts easy to understand reporting and user-friendly data visualization. Publishers see their earnings in real-time. Payments to publishers happen faster than any other system, in virtually every currency, and in every major payment mechanism.

Here are more specifics on what exactly you’ll see in meridian:

  • Fresh, user-friendly interface with real-time data visualizations
  • Improved ad management tools and performance metrics
  • Vertical comparisons for benchmarking performance
  • Audience demographics and reader insights
  • Integrated content from sovrn’s Publisher Resource Center
  • Personalized support from the sovrn Publisher Advocate Team

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Pretty cool, right? Here’s what you need to do to gain access to meridian:

  1. Sign up for a sovrn account on meridian
  2. Create ad tags, install the audience analytics beacon and search widget
  3. Sit back and reap the rewards of your hard-earned data.

Well, what did you think? Were these tools helpful? If you have any other tools you’ve found useful in your blogging/content creating endeavors, contact me a [email protected] or leave us a comment below!