Close
Close

Blog Tips from ProBlogger Guest Contributors

The Language of Selling – Are You Using It?

BEAUTY

 

This is a guest contribution from Richard Akhmerov.

Benefits, benefits, benefits. We’ve all heard that benefits sell, not features. Create needs, not wants. But this is all rehashed information. And no amount of reading will make you better at the following if you don’t practice it by trying.

But there is one thing missing from all of this marketing talk. And it has to do with the epicenter of marketing and copywriting. What creates the language of selling, and how does it work?

The language of selling is not a single language. In fact, every product, idea or service has a different language for selling. In order to find out the language your product is using, you need to live the product. But there are a few ways to make this easier to understand…

You can activate the language of selling by finding out the core buying emotions used with prospects of the product or service.

This can be accomplished in multiple ways. The most important thing to do is listen. Any category most likely has a forum associated with it. Whether it’s car parts, video games, weight loss, relationships, etc…

To find out the core buying emotions, you need to learn the language of these prospects. By surrounding yourself with prospects, you have the ability to listen to the way they talk, the way they discuss their problems, and the way they feel about certain subjects.

This is gold.

Few marketers go to these steps to find out what their prospects ACTUALLY want. Most marketers will sit there and guess as to how their prospects will react. This isn’t a powerful tactic, and will not generate huge results for your marketing efforts.

Remember, forums aren’t the only place to find networks. You can join Facebook groups, watch Youtube videos and read the comments, or go to established sites with a following.

Your prospects are located in the comments. And by reading them, you will quickly gain an understanding of what they’re looking for.

If you go on a tech site like Engadget or Gizmodo, you can quickly discover what is lacking from a certain product. These customers know what they want and what they’re looking for, unfortunately, few big companies spend the extra time to hear out their customer’s needs.

But it is all right there in front of our eyes. And this applies to any subject and any product.

For example, let’s say that you have a product in the weight loss category. You can visit more established websites and go through the articles. Most articles will have a comment section below…

Read the comments, and see how the customers react. You WILL find problems that are addressed but never solved. Here is your chance to change that by incorporating it into your product.

Find out the needs of your customers and solve them. Use their language to connect with them. Now you have a winner.

Richard Akhmerov is from Devore Agency, you can learn more great information by visiting the website.

Your Blog as Part of an Overarching Business Strategy

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu.

So you have a business blog (you DO have a blog for your business, yes?). Well it’s a great decision, and a decision that is growing in popularity. In a 2012 HubSpot study, 62% of respondents claimed to run a company blog. A number which has consistently grown from 52% back in 2009.

Business blogging stat

Today is also not the first time somebody tells you a blog will bring several advantages to your business. You’ve heard professionals tell you that writing blog posts gives you the opportunity to leverage the human side of your business. Or to showcase your products a little bit more, all while still offering value to your readers and not just babbling advertising copy.

What I’m telling you now is that your company blog should be a piece in your overall business puzzle, that perfectly fits among the other pieces. Your blog is not just the place where you write something for someone. It’s a place where you engage with your audience. On the other hand, your blog is also the place where you can run a marketing action, like a contest for your customers and potential clients. And the functions of your blog as part of your overall strategy don’t stop here – bear with me, the full list is coming.

So, your blog fulfills the role of…

1. Branding

As stated above, your company blog is the place where you write about yourself. About who you are, what you do and why you do it. And perhaps even why you do it better than others. But beware: the catch here is that you have to tell a story, not to repeat the corporatist, stiff copy you traditionally display about your company. Get emotional, be honest and be relevant – that’s what your readers are looking to see. Give your business that human touch we are all attracted to. And most important, try to put yourself in the shoes of your audience: what would you like to read about on a company blog? I’ll bet my lunch that it’s not an advertising catalog or a constant “look how awesome we are”.

If you want to be relevant for your readers, and even become an industry resource, always offer more than expected. Add that plus of value people will come back for over and over. That means that besides posts talking about you (in a moderated way, of course), you should strive to extend your content towards covering more general, yet still related industry topics. Have a look at the Hootsuite blog for example. In case you didn’t know, Hootsuite is a social media management service you can use to easily handle your social networks. On their blog, they not only speak about Hootsuite features or company updates, but also about more general topics, such as how to publish articles on LinkedIn or what a social media manager should check off their daily to do list. You see, while the posts are somewhat related to Hootsuite (it’s their blog, after all), the content exceeds their own functionality and becomes more useful to readers.

 

2. Presenting your products

Yes, I did say that your company blog shouldn’t be an advertising catalog. And I stick to that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your product or service. The tweak lies in doing this from a more objective point of view. Don’t be all braggy about how great your product is. Instead, think of advanced ways of using it to maximize the user’s experience with it. For example, if you sell ice cream machines, spare your readers from hundreds of words from the technical jargon. Delight them with ice cream recipes they can try while using your ice cream machines, and you will give them a reason to keep reading your content.

Furthermore, you can help customers and potential clients get a deeper understanding of your product by surrounding it with scenarios or real use cases of it. For example, at 123ContactForm (the company I work for – an online form and survey builder), we do run a blog  where we try to imagine all kinds of use cases for various form types, so that our customers can see the full potential of a form they’d like to use. Along with this, we aim at shedding light upon other apps and tools that are around, which people may see fit for their own business use.

Print

3. Showcasing your activity, accomplishments and campaigns

A blog tells a story. Like a fairy tale, where the main character is born in a far away kingdom, raised by fairies, exposed to magic challenges, and eventually defeats the evil, your company also goes to different life stages and experiences. Along the road, it might meet a new partner, open a new business unit, change its appearance, gain special prizes or run awesome CSR campaigns. All these tiny parts of what represents your company’s identity and existence are great blog material, as they put together an unique story: the one of your company.

Don’t forget to add characters to your story. What’s a fairy tale without Prince Charming? Or without the enchanting princess? Your company’s staff is definitely part of the company’s story. Whether their individual personality comes to life in collective posts about your team, in writers’ bio boxes or in single presentation posts about a team member, this kind of content helps you show the human face of your company.

4. liaison

4. Liaison between your business’ website, social media channels and other communication channels

A blog is a valuable asset for a business, since it is part of your overall strategy. Picture it as a link within a chain, where each link is strongly tied to its neighbours, and where you can’t take one link out, unless you destroy the chain.

The company blog has the power to establish a connection and link other communication channels you use within your business. How come? Well, think of how your social media icons are displayed on your blog, letting readers get to your company’s social accounts or share your blog content via social media. In a similar way, remember you can (or quite should) share your posts across your social media channels. Further on, your blog and company website are also linked, as each one of them refers to the other. This way, visitors can bounce from your official presentation site to your story telling corner and back.

In terms of content and its connection to your blog and other channels, remember that you should keep the content coherent. Each piece of it should form a part of the whole ensemble, and you should not ignore the proper tone for each channel. For example, your website presents a product in a more promotional, professional way. The blog adds a story to it. Social media then completes it with rich media and short, but strong messages.

5. Interaction with your audience

Just like other channels, your company blog is a communication tool. Customers and prospects can use it to get in touch with your company, whether they ask you about a product or feature, they engage on a topic you talk about, or solicit you some general advice you could help them with.

Don’t hesitate to engage back with them, answer them, challenge them to talk to you, so that you can strengthen your relationship to them. This can happen through your blog post content, your post comments, as well as through a contact form you may be using.

6. Feedback gathering

Don’t underestimate the power of your blog as a feedback tool, unless you want valuable data to get passed by you.

You have three options to harvest feedback on your blog:

  • specifically ask for it using a dedicated tool, such as a feedback form you share within a blog post (see a feedback form template here)
  • look at direct reactions of your readers in the post comments or messages coming through the contact form or social media comments
  • read between the lines, meaning you can look at Analytics, social media shares, likes and comments count, in order to observe your audience’s behavior and get an idea about their attitude towards you.

After you’ve received your feedback, it’s time to draw the conclusions and, based on them, take the necessary actions. There have been cases where people or companies were asking their audience for feedback, the latter offered it, and the ones asking failed at doing something with that feedback. So basically their effort was in vain. Don’t forget to implement your feedback as much as possible, whether it’s aimed at your blog content, product suggestions or ideas for your company.

7. customer care

7. Customer care aid

We’ve cleared this one off the myth list: your company blog is not just about you, but about your customers and prospects too. That means there will be times when your blog might turn into a customer service aid. Clients might stop by to read your content and then suddenly remember they needed assistance with something related to what they’ve read. And if they are already there, they will probably drop a comment that is directed towards your customer care team. Thus, this is how the blog can help readers solve their problems.

As it’s best practice to let customers and prospects speak to you through whatever channel they prefer, handling customer care matters on your blog will eventually add to your to do list. But wait: you can turn this into an advantage. Namely, other readers will see the responses too if you offer them in the comments section. Hence, if they have the same problem, they will find a ready made answer. Moreover, you can select common customer inquiries and turn them into detailed blog posts.

8. Running marketing actions – (contests, giveaways, announce special offers, etc)

As a place where you have the opportunity to present more in-depth content, your blog is a proper medium for hosting an online contest, a giveaway, or for announcing special campaigns. Since you won’t probably update your website as often as you do your blog, the latter is a good destination for hosting some of your marketing actions, also allowing a more interactive approach from users. Readers can engage through comments, see what others posted, and even reply.

Contests and giveaways can represent effective ways to entice your audience, so you should definitely give them a try if you haven’t up to now. Just think about a topic for your contest, or something to offer for free in your giveaway. Establish participation guidelines and think of the submission mechanics. Something like a contest entry form can help you in registering all people willing to take part in your marketing action, also offering an overview on all submissions. Or you can ask people to participate through blog comments or through engaging on another communication channel, such as social media.

9. Running marketing research

Besides marketing actions, you can use your blog for the purpose of administering a marketing research form at some point. Along with the research that concludes from what your readers tell you through comments, you can specifically ask them certain questions useful to you within a market research action.

Keep it short, though. Unless incentivized (as offered to enter the chance to win something by filling out your research form), and perhaps even then, people dislike never-ending surveys. A tool that might help you conduct a structured market research on a topic or some key point you’re after is a market research survey. You can find a template here if you would like to adapt and use it. Like with the feedback you are asking for, be careful to effectively make use of the data the research provides you with.

10. Lead gathering

We’ve reached the final point in our list: your blog can help you with getting new leads for your business. While this alone shouldn’t be your goal when running a blog, you may take it into consideration along with offering great content to your readers.

All the points I mentioned above can conduct to gaining new leads. People that leave a comment, prospects who fill out your contact form, readers who take part in your contest or your giveaway, or who subscribe to the blog newsletter to get fresh content from you – they can all represent leads for your company. If you take good care of them, they might even convert to paying customers. So don’t neglect this role of your blog, but focus more on the value you deliver to your audience.

What about you? Can you relate to any of these roles above, supposing you run a company blog? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

Sabina Stoiciu enjoys blogging, photography, traveling and finding ways of gathering and sharing relevant business knowledge. You can follow her on Twitter. She also writes for 123ContactForm, the online form and survey builder – try it for free.

How to Write Successful Emails (and Improve Open Rates)

SUCCESSFUL EMAILS

This is a guest contribution from Luke Guy.

Email is the key to a strong online presence. Like a binder to a book, so is the email list to blog/website. If used incorrectly, email marketing can destroy your business or it can build it into an empire. Strategy combined with creativity creates amazing profits and engagement.

What’s the best way to write successful emails? You must think as if you’re the receiving email user. What would you hope to see?

As an email user I look for emails that do one of the three if not all three:

 

  • Connect with me
  • Add value to my life
  • Helps me reach my goals

 

People think because of poor content, and scams, that email marketing will die. I have received my share of spam and marketing emails, but you know what? I’m still coming back. Why?  I’m waiting on the emails that change my life. Value and connection has never came any purer than through a simple email.

I’m willing to be spammed, get boring emails, and go through tons of junk just to get that one email from a friend or blog that will connect and enhance me with information that I need.

Think about it. The same thing happens to you, but you keep coming back. It’s like eating watermelon: it’s all good when you learn how to spit out the seeds.

So what’s the major reason why people have email?

 

  • Talk to a friend, or a business connection
  • Stay updated with the favorite blog
  • Get notified when you receive money
  • Know when a deal is being released. “A survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that people actually like emails based on previous shopping behaviors and preferences. In fact, 81% of US digital shoppers surveyed said they were at least somewhat likely to make additional purchases, either online or in a store, as a result of targeted emails” -Business2Community

All of this revolves around staying in the loop of some kind. People want to stay connected and updated on their interest. They want to keep a hot connection with the things they love. It’s the purpose of email. It’s more personalized and private compared to Facebook.

Facebook is great, but would you want Paypal to send public updates to you, letting you know how much money you received this month? No, that wouldn’t make sense at all. Is Facebook capable of sending personalized messages with your name in it from a Fanpage of 100,000? Nope.

So by using email to connect with your readers you could turn that list into your fanbase who’s dying to get your next email. And yes it can happen just like that.

Email is still the best when it comes to delivering private and personal information. Therefore email is the way in keeping the connection constant, private, and strong. Email can either make this happen, or make you look spammy.

So what’s something you shouldn’t do in an email?

One thing, never be general. Quit talking about the ways of nature and the purpose of life when people joined the list to learn about SEO. It’s okay to slip personal things within your email, that’s great! But make sure the point is still SEO-related in every email.

Second, once you’ve made your point, end the email. Never gab just to gab. Connect with your reader, and deliver the goods.

Third, if your email address says [email protected], it’s giving off bad signal. You’re emailing them, but they can’t email you back? You’re not about connecting when you do this and I believe these addresses shouldn’t exist for any blog unless it’s a notifier of some sort.

I’ve heard Gmail has a new filter system, could it hurt my open rates?

Just in case you’re not aware, Gmail now filters all emails based on key factors. So if you don’t make the cut, your open rates could sink if you don’t land into the Primary Tab. I talk more about this here.

No matter how sincere you are with the reader, if Gmail doesn’t like your email, your open rates are going down. Some feel like this filtering system will not affect their open rates because Gmail isn’t the largest email provider.

That was true a few years, but not anymore.

According to Gigaom, Gmail dominated the world market of email and broke the tie with Hotmail back in 2012. Gmail has over 425 million monthly users as of 2012 (last update by Google). So if you’re seeing low open rates, the Gmail filters could be why.

What are things you can do to improve open rates with Gmail?

By adhering to the Gmail’s filter system, it could raise your open rates. By making simple tweaks, it could increase open rates by leaps and bounds.

For Example:

I once performed a case study of my own  in my article The #1 Reason Why Your Email Open Rates Are Diving. And within that article I discovered one little thing that was hurting most businesses who used email. I examined over 640 emails, in my case study, and found something quite interesting.

FACT: 98% of emails that were sent to the Promotional Tab had a header.

FACT: 95% of my Primary Emails had no header. (Excluding sites like Paypal and Disqus)

So by simply removing the header it could help increase open rates. The reason being is because most headers have companies brand within them. Which means that the message most likely will have a marketing agenda. Thus, Gmail sends you to the Promotional Tab.

Go figure.

So let’s say the header is removed but the email is full of marketing gimmicks. Does it still land in the primary tab of Gmail? Sometimes it does. But soon Gmail will find you and send you into other tabs. There are other things you must do to maintain a high open rate.

To increase your chances try the below:

  1. Create A Great Subject Line (64% of people say they open an email because of the subject line.) – Chadwick Martin Bailey
  2. Amazing Content With Call-To-Action
  3. Email Frequently (1-4 times a month)
  4. Personalize emails with name and relevant information This report by Experian Marketing Services shows that including personalized product recommendations into emails can generate a 20% increase in revenues.
  5. Hold the images and links I’d suggest no images and 2-3 links at the max.

By doing the technical aspects along with creative writing, your readers would become raving fans. Which is what you want.

So what does this look like? I once received an email from someone and it really impressed me. Look at it here:

Subject: How to Write Blog Posts That Generate Leads

Hey, I just wanted to share with you the latest Quick Sprout blog post. Let me know what you think.

How to Write Blog Posts That Generate Leads

Do you know why I started blogging back in 2006? It was to generate leads for my consulting company. And boy, did it work well.

It worked so well that for every three blog posts I wrote, I generated one new customer that paid $5,000 a month for one year. In essence, I was generating $20,000 for every blog post I wrote. [click to continue]

Thanks

Neil

To me this does the job. I may would try to connect more with the reader, but besides that this was straight to the point. He gave call-to-action, and he delivered content that blew me away. That article was amazing and I look forward to Neil’s email.

So there ya go! Implement this and see if you’re open rates, profits, and engagements aren’t soaring!

Luke Guy blogs at Lukeguy.com. He researches email marketing and how to grow businesses doing it. He talks about other things but usually it involves emailing. If you need further help with your email challenges, you can join him here!

The Power of “TK” in Content Writing (and How it Can Help You)

Sometimes blogging is just slooooww…

If you’ve ever been struggling (painfully) to write a couple of paragraphs that would make sense, only to find yourself with 400 words after two hours of effort then you know what I mean.

There can be many reasons why this is possibly your reality at the moment.

Maybe it’s just not your day.

d1

Maybe you have some kind of a
writer’s block.

d2

But maybe you’re just
slowing yourself down
by getting hung up
on a missing word
for minutes at a time.

Yep, maybe that’s the case …

But the problem here is that
it’s against human nature
to leave blank spaces
or to keep writing when there’s clearly a word or phrase missing.

We – humans – just don’t like such [_ gaps _]!

d3

This is where
the concept of “TK”
comes into play.

It’s the oldest trick in the book that all of our journalist friends have known for ages (shush!).

In short, TK stands for “to come.”

Here’s how to use it :

Whenever you have a word missing
(any word, verb, noun, specific name) …

… put “TK” in its place
and keep writing like nothing ever happened …

… With some practice, this will allow you
to continue going forward
without breaking your flow.

Some examples:
(1) “There are tons of people who TK at blogging because they took too much TK upon themselves.” (2) “You can get such functionality with a plugin like TK.” (3) “It performs a number of checks against things like TK, TK, and a lot of other stuff.”

d3

Then, once you’re done writing,
you can go back to every instance of TK
and replace it with the actual word or phrase.

“But wait a minute, ‘to come’ is TC!” You say.

Right, but the combination of
the letters “T” and “K”
is much more practical
as it almost doesn’t occur
in the English language
naturally.

Therefore, when you’re going through your piece
during the editing phase,
searching for every TK
won’t get you any false positives
.

d3

How about you? Do you TK much?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, published author, founder of NewInternetOrder.com and a blogger at Bidsketch.com (delivering some cool freelance blogging and writing tools, advice and resources just like what you’re reading now). Whenever he’s not working, Karol likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.

5 Crucial Link Building Strategies After Google Panda 4.1

This is a guest contribution from Rizvan Ullah.

Many people have been affected by the chain of Google Panda updates which began to roll out in February 2011. With an influx of information readily available, it’s become more important to provide only the best results for those using Google while skimming through search results. Google has said numerous times that their mission has always been to be the best search engine providing users with solutions to everyday problems, questions, references, etc. However, people are finding clever ways to manipulate the search results affecting the quality of information presented within the search results.

Since much of the manipulation occurs by using deceptive link-building techniques, Google Panda was engineered to find ways to detect these factors and eliminate the websites using them. Just to give you a better understanding of Google’s efforts, they have been focusing on eliminating black hat techniques from February 2011-to-now where they rolled out the latest update recently.

Going forward you can rest assure that Google will continue to tweak their search algorithm to perform better providing more “high” quality results. I’ve always been a strong believer that the success of your website and/or blog has to do with providing “high” quality resources to your readers and using authentic link building techniques.

From my experience, there have been five crucial link building techniques that have stood the test of time and continue to provide high quality traffic to my blog WITHOUT being penalized by Google algorithm updates.

Let’s get started…

1.  Google Ranking Criteria

I’m very surprised at the amount of people that don’t read through what’s changing within the search algorithm because you’ll learn a lot about what direction Google is heading in. If you understand Google’s changing “ranking” criteria, it’s very simple to stay on the clean side of things. First, each time there’s an update, you can find over 50 resources that will provide you with a breakdown of what’s changed. You’ll notice Google Panda 1.0 when it rolled had tweaked a few things which are still relevant today. For example:

  • Eliminating low quality content websites which provide little to NO value to the reader. They compare “value” by comparing the user engagement usually pulled out of Google Analytics.
  • Eliminating websites which contain “thin” content pages. Much of the problem seen was that people would often create one high quality content page hoping to use that as their ranking page. All other pages on the domain would be low, or poor quality content.
  • Eliminating aggregated content websites which distribute content published on other websites or duplicated content. If you are building links from within duplicated content that can impact your rankings within the SERPs.

Since Panda 1.0, this has been the focal point on which Google is trying to improve their search results. Anyway, once you understand the direction in which the search algorithm is heading, you can start to take a proactive roll to ensure that you stay away from specific things.

Read over the Google’s Panda Trends to get a better understanding of how things are changing and what criteria you should follow when incorporating a link building strategy of your own.

2. Diversity In “Everything” Is Good

Thinking that eating salads is the only way to lose weight is the same as thinking “article directories” provide the only real authentic link building juice. However, if you sniff around and do research, you’ll uncover 5-6 awesome techniques that are legit and will provide value to your SEO efforts. The problem is, if you stick to only one method, then Google might think you’re NOT important enough. However if you find the line in between, you’ll be surprised at the value added. It’s true what they say, it’s not always about quantity but quality, and this applies to link building as well.

Over time, I’ve narrowed it down to 3-4 methods which have proven to be very effective…

Guest Posting:

One of the best ways to generate targeted traffic to your blog involves utilizing the traffic of top bloggers within the industry. As experienced bloggers get busier and are unable to create content regularly, they often rely on others to produce content for them. Guest posting opportunities is a great way to get your experienced noticed and you’re rewarded with a link back to your personal blog.

Follow these quick guest posting guidelines…

  • Find “guest posting” opportunities on relevant blogs
  • Make sure the content is high quality since it can lead to more guest posting opportunities.
  • Link to your relevant content within the post and make sure that link is relevant to your guest post.
  • Contact other bloggers directly to build a personal relationship with them. This can lead to further guest posting opportunities increasing the chances of link backs, traffic and user engagement.

Article Directories:

After the recent Google update, people are beginning to question the power of article directories. However, for me, they are still a vital link building strategy if utilized correctly. Here’s an awesome strategy I use:

Only publish content on the best article directories. Look for high PR, DA and PA websites which ONLY publish high quality content. It’ll be a great idea to choose websites which are moderated closely and only publish you’re content once within each article directory. Google has said numerous times it’ll penalize websites which have external and/or internal links from duplicated and/or aggregated websites.

High Quality Content:

When I first starting writing content, I didn’t pay any attention to link building and instead wanted to publish the best pieces of content available on the web. I figured if I published the best content, Google will automatically rank my page higher because it was in-depth and provided the ultimate solution to my readers. You know what…I was right!

When I look through my report, I’ve noticed I’m ranking for keywords WITHOUT any link building efforts. It was amazing what happened and I contribute my rankings to two things…

First, high quality content creates user engagement because I had more social shares then any of my competitors which ranked my content higher than them. When people tend to share your content, it increases the chances that people who own blogs will link back to your content.

Next, Having written content which is 2000+ words provided more leverage allowing me to diversify my keyword portfolio. I was able to increase the keyword density and include LSI keywords (latent semantic keywords). Matt Cutts, head of Web Spam at Google has said having LSI keywords within your content will enhance the flow allowing you to add more related long tail keywords. At this point, when Google indexes my content, it picks up on keywords both “targeted” and “related” improving my chances of ranking for of them.

Forums:

People have been interacting on forums long before sophisticated search engines like Google were created. User forums were the first ever information hubs which provided a Q&A interface. They are still very effective in providing solutions and if you can create a solid profile for yourself, you can benefit from the traffic. Once you’ve gained credibility, you’re given the opportunity to set up a “signature” located below your forum posts. Many of these are “do-follow” counting as a link back and can generate enormous targeted traffic.

3. Relevance is Important

After Google Panda, relevance is beginning to play an even more important role in link building. Google understands the importance of providing information which is organized and relevant to its users. The challenge is to be able to do this effectively especially with so many people using manipulative strategies that have worked in the past. Previously, it was about getting high authoritative links from high quality websites. It’s recently changed to getting high authoritative links from “relevant” high quality websites.

In the future, when building links, it’s important to pay close attention to the content on their website. It’s even more important to pay attention to the sites linking into the site you plan on building a link from. Consider link building a chain effect, meaning, finding websites not only relevant to you but a group of websites relevant to each other.

4. Anchor & Related Keywords

There have been many questions regarding “anchor” text and the correct way to use it within your content. Google has adopted a new strategy where head and/or anchor text no longer holds as much value as before. Google uses latent semantic indexing to relate phrases together so phrases like “small business web hosting” are the same as “corporate web hosting plans”. How come Google made this change?

People have been changing the way they search for information. They use long tail keywords and are becoming more specific. Google being able to relate phrases together allow them to provide more specific search results from a variety of search phrases. It increases the natural flow of the content and provides a more specific user experience.

What can you do?

It’s time to start mixing up your keyword phrases so that things look more natural in your content. For example, include both “targeted” and “related” keywords in your content to increase the diversity of the links. There are many tools that can generate variations of keywords from your “targeted” keyword. The easiest is to use Google search bar…

For example, when you type in the phrase “building a website”, Google automatically displays several related searches right below. Make a list because you can include them when creating your content.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 3.59.09 pm

5.  Don’t Follow Competitors, It Can Hurt You!

We all love competition because it keeps you motivated and it can provide you with valuable information. You can use tools to find the “link” profile of your competitors and use it to build your own backlinks. However, things are beginning to change and carving out your own identity is the way to go. Many of your competitors have been around for years and some might have used link building techniques that might be considered “black-hat” or flagged by Google. If you use these strategies today, it can have a huge impact on your rankings often causing a decrease of 30%-40% and/or even getting you banned from the SERPs (search results).

After Google Panda 4.1, it’s important to build your own brand which includes using strategies outside the box.

Many times link building is NOT what to do compared to what to do which is why you should try different things and stick to the ones which work well. For example, guest posting on relevant blogs can produce amazing results driving “targeted” traffic to your website. Next, you can decrease the websites you use to build links from i.e…

  • Focus on high authority websites with high PR
  • Focus on websites with higher than normal domain and page authority
  • Focus on websites which are relevant to your blog and/or website
  • Only build links from the best article directories
  • Only build links from the best forums

Before, the focus was on building links from as many websites no matter what their link profile, PR, reputation and relevance. Now, however,  it’s time you tweak your strategy. Start to pay close attention to the websites you publish content on or build direct links from. You’d be surprised how many of them can harm your efforts just because they have a poor link profile and are known as lower quality websites.

Just remember to think outside the box and try things which your competitors are NOT doing. This can help build your brand and add value to your blog in such a way that it will increase your rankings within the long-run. Here’s a great example:

Recently, I started to experiment with PBN (private blog networks) which consist of creating smaller “high” authority websites. The twist is that you purchase websites and/or expired domains which have already built their authority but the owner forgot to renew them. What’s does this provide for me…

  • A relevant domain with an established PR
  • A website with an established domain and page authority
  • A website which can provide awesome link power right from the start

It’s a great way to streamline the process of building a website from the beginning and one with a solid reputation. There is a strict criteria that needs to be followed when building these websites however if done correctly, they can provide awesome ranking power for years to come. I’ve been performing a PBN case study and the results have been pretty impressive. However, the point I’m trying to make is you need to try things that others aren’t. You need to tweak different strategies so that it’s both beneficial to you and does NOT raise any red flags with Google. Private Blog Networks are perfect as long as you’re adding value and NOT spamming.

Rizvan Ullah is the founder of Ranktactics, which provides internet marketers with tutorials on traffic generation, social media marketing, product reviews, and case studies. Learn how to create a profitable blog step-by-step from the ground up. Get started by reading his expert roundup post on effective link building techniques. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Things Bloggers Should Know Before Using Google Adwords

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 12.01.53 pm

This is a guest contribution from Jignesh Gohel.

Google Adwords has been the most popular tool for online advertising. It is easy enough to set, optimize and start reaping the profits. However, a few know that it can be a highly relevant tool for bloggers too. Many popular blogs are already using Google Adwords to popularize and monetize the sites. While you might already be using other advertisement platforms, Google Adwords opens new ways to rise to the top.

Adwords, as such integrates several different methods for advertising. Trying to get deeper, you can actually be astonished by the largely unnoticed tools that were right there in front of you all this time. Things like advertising on keywords with paid search, advertising on display networks including local news websites or YouTube, etc can be quite fulfilling. Remarketing is another way that Google Adwords leverages the power of paid searches and is considered the highest ROI variant of online advertising. While many bloggers believe that only organic content is the best way to get to the top, paid search too can lend a helping hand. Promoting your content with paid search marketing provides additional opportunity in content marketing. Google Adwords allows bloggers to create ads and generate paid traffic for blog, but with some underlying constraints. Google adwords has pre-defined policy and strict monitoring system which reject or even ban the advertisers who violate their policies. Here are few important policies for bloggers or content marketers.

Google Adwords policies to drive traffic

As said earlier, Google Adwords presents a great platform for blog promotion but also integrates several important restrictive policies

1. Arbitrage

Among the most important Adwords policies, Arbitrage doesn’t allow promotion of blogs that have specifically been designed for the showcasing advertisements. This is line with Google’s favor for unique, original and useful content. Excessive advertising makes your blog unsuitable to advertise with Google Adwords and in some cases; the account can even be suspended. If your blog or websites is primarily focusing on following types of content, it may come under radar of “arbitrage” policy.

  • Websites designed primarily for ads
  • Websites showcasing interstitial ads (pop up ads)
  • Websites with scraped content
  • Pre-generated and template content
  • Auto-generated and gibberish content
  • Websites involving deceptive navigation, indistinguishable content or malicious ads
  • Websites integrating ad keywords irrelevant to the core content

2. Bridge Page

Adwords doesn’t support websites/blogs with Bridge Pages. Also referred to as doorway pages, it means landing pages that automatically link up to a completely different site. This is the characteristics with most affiliate websites but aren’t Adwords compliant. As such, these are also the pages that offer the visitor with no/marginal content and are solely meant to redirect traffic.

3. Information Harvesting

Websites/blogs that involve content meant to collect personal information from visitors aren’t supported under Adwords. These would involve websites that offer “free gifts” in exchange for personal information or web pages harvesting sensitive information (bank account details, credit card numbers, etc) over unsecured connections.

If your website is not harvesting information but collect sensitive information from customer, you must install SSL certificate on your website. Google Adwords information harvesting policy strictly recommends that the information mentioned below should transmit over secure processing servers (https):

  • Debit and credit card numbers
  • Bank/investment account details/numbers
  • Wire transfer numbers
  • Checking account numbers
  • Social security, pension, national identity, driver’s license, health care or Tax ID numbers

If you blog is running on HTTPS, it also had added advantages in Google organic search result. You can easily get FREE SSL certificate from startssl or ssl2buy that can easily installed on your server by following these simple steps.

Tips for bloggers to adhere to Google Adwords policies

The primary goal of Google remains the same – to provide unique, original and representative content to its users. Adwords, as such integrates the same policies to make the experience on the search engine more comfortable for users. Bloggers who plan to be successful with Google Adwords need to:

  1. Use original and unique content as opposed to scraped ones
  2. Stop using intestinal and excessive ads
  3. Stop using blogs solely for the purpose of advertising
  4. Create campaigns with content relevant keywords and format
  5. Avoid trying to harvest user/visitor information
  6. Understand and follow Google adword policies strictly

Creating good content is always half the battle won. It is more important to get it to people who would consider it benefitting. Content promotion strategies integrated into Google Adwords for bloggers can get you ahead of your competitors. As such, experienced content marketers spend as much on promotion as they would on trying to generate the likable, linkable and sharable asset. Google Adwords seems to be a relevant tool that every bloggers should try.

Jignesh Gohel is Founder & CEO of online business consulting agency OLBUZ specializing in eCommerce, products and small business marketing. In his minuscule spare time, Jignesh enjoys nature photography and yoga. You can follow him on Twitter or reach out to him via Linkedin.

How Much to Charge for Sponsored Content – is This a Question You’ve Ever Asked Yourself?

For new (and even established bloggers) there’s a cloud of mystery in the Australian blogging industry around setting advertising rates. As the community manager for Blogger Connect, one question I get asked a lot is: “how many unique views do I need before I start advertising?”. Secondly, it’s: “how much do I charge?”. With no real industry standard, it is also a question asked around the world. On the flip side,  in this industry with no established guidelines, are brands just as much in the dark?

It’s not as cut and dry as looking at website and social media traffic to determine how much to charge. A blog that has 20,000 unique views per month doesn’t necessarily trump a blog that has 10,000 unique views. The blog with 10,000 UV may have a more engaged audience than the blog with 20,000 UV, which makes it a much better value proposition for the advertiser.

But are brands on the same page? Do they consider engagement rates in conjunction with unique views, or are they all about the numbers? Are bloggers respecting their worth, and are brands prepared to pay?

It’s these types of questions that led us to launch a poll on Blogger Connect to give bloggers more confidence in setting their rates, and brands insight into what bloggers are worth.

We polled both bloggers and PRs/brands about unique views, advertising rates and engagement levels, and the results to date are surprising.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 4.37.26 PM

 

We asked bloggers how many unique views they had before they started advertising, and brands what the minimum unique views a blog needs before they will advertise with them. We also included an option for brands to indicate they don’t consider unique views at all when choosing which bloggers to advertise with.

In another question, we asked brands whether they consider engagement levels in conjunction with unique views when reviewing a blog, and 79% have responded with yes.

These results are heartening. At Blogger Connect we educate brands to not exclude the ‘little guys’ because smaller blogs with highly engaged audiences are of high value to their advertising mix.

Not only are brands indicating they are reviewing engagement levels of blogs (not just vanity metrics), 60% are willing to work with blogs who have unique views from 1000 to 3000. Brands are valuing smaller bloggers who have engaged audiences.

However, 45% bloggers believe they need from 3000 to 5000+ to start advertising.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 3.24.59 PM

Now to the nitty gritty. As a benchmark, we asked bloggers if they had 5000 unique views, how much they would charge for a sponsored post. Equally we asked brands what the most they would be prepared to pay for a sponsored post with 5000 unique views.

Only 17% of bloggers would charge $300+, whilst 57% of brands are prepared to pay this. 32% of bloggers charge between $200 and $300, with only 9% of brands indicating they would pay that as a maximum. 51% of bloggers are charging less than $200, whilst 33% of brands are only willing to pay this much.

Key Takeaways for Bloggers

The poll results to date indicate brands have engagement levels on their radar, and it’s not just all about unique views. They are willing to work with smaller bloggers, and if you have an engaged audience, you may not need as many unique views as you think you do before you consider advertising.

Highlight your engagement levels in your media kit, and take them into consideration when setting your rates. Comments on blog posts used to be the holy grail of measuring a blogs engagement, but many communities are gathering around their social media platforms.

Whilst comments are still definitely worthwhile including, some additional ways to showcase your engagement levels are to include interaction levels on your social media platforms (i.e. ‘talking about this’ from your Facebook page), and page views (in conjunction with your unique views) and time on site from Google Analytics.

If you’d like to help to continue to bring clarity to the blogging industry, click here to have your say in the Blogger Connect Industry Poll.

Gaynor was a blogger for 5 years, and is now the community manager for Blogger Connect. She is dedicated to supporting bloggers to reach their full potential, educating brands on the growing power bloggers have with consumers, and setting industry standards for commercial blogger outreach.

Gaynor is also a social media and blogger outreach consultant, and social media course presenter for NET:101. She advocates social media as a means for organisations to establish strong communities around their brand, enabling direct engagement and long-term loyalty.

Using Visual Content to Increase Blog Engagement

1This is a guest contribution from Tom More of Slidely.com. 

Visual content is your secret weapon to boosting blog engagement. The blog posts of today demand fresh, eye-catching content that can be read and shared easily, which makes videos, infographics, photos, and slideshows a perfect companion to blog posts. People absorb information quicker and more intuitively from images than text and visual content attracts more engagement on social media channels. Additionally, visual content is extremely easy to integrate into your current blog posts, as well as add to your past posts. On your blog homepage, strong visual content can sustain new visitors attention so they are more inclined to explore your blog.  For these reasons and more, it’s clear that visual content partners great with blogs, but how will visual content affect your blog engagement?

Visual content increases social media engagement for your blog

Blog posts are a powerful content medium on their own, but a large part of their strength is their ability to be shared across social media channels easily. Blog engagement is largely built through social media because social media channels allow you to gain exposure, focus your posts to relevant audiences, and respond easily to those who comment on your posts. According to a study by HubSpot, posts with photos received 53% more likes and attracted 104% more comments than those without (via HubSpot).

2

Sam Kusinitz / Hubspot

 

Visual content generates more click throughs

When you link to a blog post, attach a catchy visual to grab viewers attention and prompt them to continue on to the post. Photo posts can generate over 80% higher link click through than simple text and link posts, HubSpot reports. So next time you link to a post, do your best to add a picture or video that illustrates your point.

Visual content helps you reach your audience by saying more with less

As you know, brevity can be key when it comes to blog posts. Visual content conveys information succinctly and quickly, making it a great way to say more with less. Using photos to replace excess words is a powerful way to boost engagement. In fact, posts below 250 characters can boost your engagement by up to 60% (via Visual.ly).

Let visual content speak for itself. You can give an introduction and a call to action, but sometimes a standalone video or slideshow is more powerful than one with a lot of extra text. Once in awhile, save yourself time and effort by using visual content to your advantage to replace long text-based posts.

Visual content makes your blog memorable

Not only can audiences absorb your message quicker and clearer, but using visual content in your blogs can lead to better retainment of information. We often remember large amounts of information better when conveyed visually rather than verbally, and when you need to get across an important message in your blog, you don’t want to risk it being forgotten after you put in so much effort to create it.

Visual content is evergreen content

Evergreen content is highly valuable in the blogging world, because evergreen content that is not just relevant in the moment, but retains its value over time. This makes it one of the best types of content to build engagement over time because it can be shared and re-shared, resulting in many more chances for views and engagement. Visual content is evergreen because it has value in and out of context – in other words, even if your blog post becomes dated, the great photos or videos included in it can be relevant on their own, boosting traffic to your blog and shares for the individual video content.

If you are ready to get started with integrating visual content, here are some tips on using visual content in blog posts…

Remember while all types of visual content are powerful, not all are created equal. Different visual content mediums benefit different channels. For example, when it comes to social media sharing, the best engagement comes from photos, followed by videos and infographics. Slideshows are also on the rise as an engaging visual content medium because they can be used during live presentations or for online sharing.

You can see how we manage slideshows at Slidely:

Steve Jobs – Tribute by Slidely Slideshow

Additionally, when you post visual content matters too. According to Fannit, people are less likely to check Facebook during work hours, but morning is a peak time to check their newsfeed (via Social Media Today). When it comes to Twitter, engagement is higher on weekends than weekdays. For all types of social media, posting at night returns the least amount of engagement. What does this mean for you? Strategize with a posting calendar so you are consistently releasing visual-packed posts at peak hours.

Always consider your audience and use the medium most suited to them. Visual content is far less effective if it doesn’t match the audience it is intended for. Consider whether your target audience prefers videos, slideshows, or photos and then go heavier on this content (while still including a variety of different types). For example, travel bloggers often use photos for the majority of their visual content because travel photos can tell a story well, while business bloggers tend towards slideshows and presentations because their audience often wants a takeaway. Educators also often utilize slideshows and presentations, while a fashion blog is more likely to use photos. These are just some examples of how audience affects the type of video content.

Also, switch up the types of visual content you use. Photos are great for almost every blog post or hyperlink on social media sites, but it’s also important to include videos, slideshows, presentations, infographics, and moving graphics to keep your audience interested. No one wants to see the same type of content all the time, so vary what you present.

I’d love to hear – what kind of visual content do you feel works best for you?

Tom more is CEO and founder of Slidely, a popular creator of slideshows, videos and imagery.

7 Powerful Tips for a Winning Twitter Sales Strategy

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Jawad Khan.

More than 73% US companies use Twitter to connect with their target audience, get direct feedback from their customers and keep an eye on their competitors.

You might be one of them.

But are you getting any real value from the time you spend on Twitter? Have you been able to engage your potential or existing customers? Have you ever created enough momentum with your Tweets to impact your sales numbers?

A large number of businesses on Twitter fail to do any of those things.

Why?

Because they don’t see Twitter as a sales channel. They don’t have a sales strategy for Twitter and never design their Tweets to impact sales.

But you can change that with a few smart modifications to the way you approach Twitter.

Twitter can be a powerful sales channel. It might not always give you direct sales, but it can always impact purchase decisions.

Here’s how.

1. Understand the Objective

Before you get started, understand that Twitter, like all other social networks, is primarily designed to encourage social connections, conversations and engagement. Their primary purpose is not sales. You can’t keep posting links to your product pages or sales landing pages and expect people to buy from you.

That’s not how things work on Twitter.

Your objective should be sales, but it can only be triggered through engagement. More than 65% of Twitter users are likely to buy from the brands they follow on Twitter.

Why?

Because they trust them and engage with them regularly. So in effect, the only way you can convert Twitter users into customers is by building trust and engagement.

2. Attract Relevant Followers

As I said in the first point, your followers are much more likely to buy from you as compared to normal Twitter users.

But not just any followers. You need to have relevant and active Twitter followers. 100 relevant followers who engage with you regularly are better than 1000 followers who never speak up.

So how do you find such followers on Twitter?

By mass following your competitor’s followers? No!

Never use mass follow in the hope of getting followers. That will destroy your brand image and credibility.

Instead, list down your closest competitors and have a good look at their Twitter timeline.

Do you see any responses to their Tweets? Any unanswered questions from their followers? Any unacknowledged suggestions? Any complaints that went unheard?

There’s your opportunity. Jump in and join the conversation. Offer help and respond to their queries.

This natural engagement will increase your brand awareness and goodwill, and will also earn you natural followers.

3. Structure Your Tweets Carefully

I’m sure you must have seen countless Twitter accounts with thousands of tweets but no engagement. Incorrect Tweet structure is one of the main reasons for that.

Yes, even these 140 characters need proper structuring. Here’s how

  • Tweet Length – You’re allowed 140 characters per Tweet, but Tweets that attract the highest engagement are between 110 and 115 characters according to social media scientist Dan Zarella

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.19.44 am

  • Link Placement – Link placement also impacts click through rates and Retweets. Instead of placing links at the end of a Tweet, put them in the middle and near the start.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.21.59 am

  • Images – Tweets that contain images attract 200% more engagement. So make sure most of your Tweets, especially the ones that contain links, have images.
  • Vines and GIFs – After Google Plus, Twitter has also allowed animated GIFs. GIFs and Vine videos attract a lot more engagement as compared to simple text or static image based Tweets. Using these multimedia Tweets in combination with image and text Tweets can give you great results.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.46.11 am

  • Hashtags – Hashtags expand the reach of your Tweets and give you exposure on the trending topics. Tweets with appropriate hashtags have a 55% higher probability of getting Retweets. Most experts recommend using up to three hashtags per Tweet.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.48.25 am

 

  • Tagging – When responding to a Tweet or tagging someone, make sure your Tweet doesn’t start with a Twitter handle. If it does, it will only appear to the tagged person.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.49.26 am

The Wrong Way to Tweet

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.50.50 am

  • Tweet Timing – Tweet at the wrong time and even your best content will go to waste. Timing is crucial on Twitter. Tweets between 9AM to 6PM everyday attract the highest engagement while Saturday and Sunday are the most engaging days of the week. I personally recommend using the BufferApp for scheduling Tweets

4. Become a Knowledge Source

Twitter allows only 140 characters per Tweet but, even here, content is the king. If you want to convert your Twitter account into a sales lead generator and a major source of referral traffic for your blog or website, you need to establish it as the knowledge hub for everything associated with your niche.

Users should be able to rely on your account alone to learn about the hottest news in your niche, solutions to the most common problems of your target market, innovations and industry hacks, and top quality content.

You can do that by dividing your Tweets into categories like news updates, blog posts, occasional product updates, quotes, tips etc. Schedule your daily Tweets in all these categories. You don’t always have to produce original content. You can curate the best content in your niche and still attract a lot of followers and engagement

5. Use Twitter for SMS Marketing

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.59.19 am

Twitter SMS is a highly underutilized feature. If you own a retail store or a small business that involves personally meeting customers, then this feature is for you.

Many people in the real world do not use Twitter. But you can still approach them with this feature. Whenever you meet a new customer, ask them to follow you through SMS to get updates on the latest products, discounts, competitions etc.

Your customers can subscribe to free SMS updates by sending ‘Follow @YourUsername’ in SMS to 40404 (this code is different for every country, here’s the list).

Whenever you Tweet, your subscribers will get it as an SMS. Make sure you create a separate Twitter account for SMS subscribers so that they don’t get all of your Tweets. Send occasional SMS Tweets for maximum impact.

6. Get Unfair Advantage With Twitter Lists

Twitter lists are a powerful way to monitor your target audience, divide them into segments and create targeted content for your followers. If you use Twitter lists intelligently, you can get an unfair advantage over your competitors because this is a largely underutilized feature.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.00.17 am

You can create your own lists and add users of a particular type to monitor them separately. You can also join public lists of other users that are already populated. Tools like Twitonomy can help you find the lists that are following your competitors.

7. Simplify the Buying Process

Things move at a much faster speed on Twitter as compared to Facebook and Google Plus. In order to give yourself any chance of attracting customers on Twitter, you need to simplify the buying process of your products.

Instead of Tweeting links of your product landing page, use Twitter’s built in feature of Twitter cards. Twitter cards display additional information within the Tweet content and increase the functionality of your Tweets. Twitter is also planning to add “Buy Now” buttons to its Twitter cards feature.

You can also use social selling tools like Selz. When you create a product on Selz and Tweet it to your followers, they’ll be able to see your product image, stock details and price along with a direct link to the checkout page. Selz also allows users to accept product payments from Master Card, Visa and PayPal so you won’t need to integrate any additional payment gateway.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.01.48 am

This approach makes your products much more sellable on Twitter and makes the buying process much more convenient. I personally recommend using Twitter cards in combination with Selz since it massively increases your Tweet CTR.

Conclusion

Selling products or services on Twitter requires a careful strategy that revolves around user engagement and a simplified buying process. You also need a balance between sales oriented Tweets and general Tweets aimed at user engagement. If you follow this strategy consistently, you can convert Twitter into a high value sales channel and your paid customers into loyal word of mouth marketers.

Jawad Khan is a Content Marketing Specialist at Quality Trade, a leading marketing and trading platform for B2B companies. Follow Jawad on Twitter and Google+