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Traffic: Stop Thinking in Numbers, Start Thinking in Words

Recently I’ve been writing down the frequently asked questions from my SEO clients. Here’s a few you may recognize:

  • How much traffic do I need to make $10,000 a month in revenue?
  • How do I get people to click like on my Facebook page?
  • Why is no one following me on Twitter?
  • Are the only people online successful because they are famous?
  • How many links do I need to hit page one on Google?

These questions are asked on nearly every incoming call. Sure, the keywords and markets are different, but it’s my job to manage the clients’ expectations and to give them the facts. Most of the callers just want straight answers, but every once in a while, one of them will listen and start to understand what you really have to do to achieve good search rankings. I know that the community on ProBlogger is full of great listeners and learners, so here’s my advice from are three years of SEO knowledge.

Forget the numbers look at graph shapes

Okay, you can use numbers as a guide, but unless you’re starting a magazine or advertisement-driven website, why are you worried about figures? The difference in sales you’ll generate from 5,000 visitors a month or 10,000 per month is very small. Trust me—it is!

What you need to do is look at the graph shape for the past six months. Is it going up in the right direction?. If it’s not, see where your best source of traffic is, and look to add content to that source. For instance, if your Facebook page brings in 500 hits a month, add a couple of photographs a week, and maybe a video or two.

Look at integrating share buttons after a transaction

A fresh visitor doesn’t know you, but a buyer probably does. I read ProBlogger for two years before I gave Mr Rowse any cash, but when I purchased his audio book from iTunes I recommended the product afterwards on Twitter to 5,000 people.

I think that’s much more powerful, in terms of buying traffic, than quickly sharing a story. Have a chat to your web designer about this. integrating a share button after a transaction on your blog may take five minutes of coding and be cheaper than you thought!

Build your story

It’s surprising how many of the business owners I speak to are scared of the Internet. When I suggest they should have a photograph and a brief story about themselves on their sites, they shy away from the idea.

Look at every successful business out there, and you’ll quickly see a trend: there will be a face attached to the logo on the company’s website and other media. In most cases, a short story is included to make the owner more memorable. An example is GaryVaynerchuk—from his story, you quickly get to know he’s a family guy, wine expert and loves the New York Jets.

I always ask my clients to start slow and build up to that—maybe begin with name and photo, or even an illustration of their faces. Over time, as they become more comfortable, build up to mentioning their hobby or hero, for example. It’s a great exercise that will improve your whole website. I’m working on mine at the moment!

Imagine you’re the visitor

We’ve all seen thousands of websites. So these days when we visit a site, what goes through our minds? “Nice logo? Not interested.” (Well, maybe graphic designers are.) “Blog posts? Not that great.” Most bloggers aren’t that great at writing compelling posts, and good content on its own isn’t going to stop a visitor pressing the Back button.

My advice is to think of it like this: your mission is to keep a brand new website visitor on your site for two minutes. I’ve found that’s a pretty good incentive to get a client to make the changes I’ve mentioned here. Try that for yourself, and let us know how you go in the comments.

David Edwards is the founder of www.asittingduck.com and now working as a freelance consultant, finally!

7 Ways to Make Testimonials Work Harder for You

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

While some of us are true trailblazers, the rest of us a’re happy to walk a path previously traveled. Yes, our individual journeys will be unique, but the tracks were already there—we just chose our own route.

This is never more evident when we’re buying stuff. We look for validation, primarily from a trusted source or, if that’s not available, through the words of strangers.

testimonial

Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

That’s why testimonials can be a powerful addition to the converting power of your site—particularly pages where you’re attempting to persuade readers to do something, such as fill out a form or buy a product. As a case in point, Darren’s sales pages have comments from external sources plastered all over them.

So as a basic starting point, if you’re sales or conversion pages don’t have testimonials, add some! But that’s just the beginning…

As much as people need validation, and see safety in numbers, they’re also getting smarter online, realizing that testimonials are easy to manufacture. This means that the true credibility of a plain, old-style text testimonial is diminishing. We need to get smarter.

Here are seven ways to make your testimonials work harder for you.

1. Steal trust from the famous

Look at the reviews on Darren’s copywriting scorecard. Brian Clark, Leo Babauta, James Chartrand are just a few of the names that appear. The common thread is that these are individuals who have their own audiences. Darren’s leveraging the trust a reader might have with those people, to give the words much more meaning. It’s what I’d call critical acclaim rather than a testimonial—and it works.

2. Show there’s safety in numbers

It’s sometimes easier to simply show your best three reviews, however you can wow your audience with an avalanche of testimonials—this product has over 21 pages of customer reviews! Not only are most of them glowing, they show that hundreds of customers have felt like they’ve got value for money. Amazon takes a similar approach with its review count.

3. Keep it real

We polish and polish our sales pages to perfection, but with testimonials, polishing can actually have the wrong effect. You want to ensure your testimonials are a down-to-Earth as possible. If your reviews contain the odd typo, it’s only going to serve to humanize the message.

4. Validate the authenticity

Reviews from even the average Joe can be given extra impact if you can show the reader that Joe’s a real person. It might be a link to his LinkedIn profile, Twitter page, or website—but if you can, facilitate a person-to-person connection. You want to avoid links to a generic website—that’s faceless and has a low impact. So if the CEO of a company provides you with a juicy quote, link to the About page where the CEO’s name and picture are on display. Amazon’s real name attribution is another approach to validating the authenticity of customers who make comments.

5. Take it off your site

People know you can control what’s on your own site, but they also know you can’t control what’s on others’ sites. If you can show that not only are your testimonials glowing on your own site, they’re glowing all over the Internet, the impact of those comments will go much further.

6. Show the bad and miss-aligned

When I suggest this, I normally get my head bitten off, but hear me out! People accept the fact that not everyone will be happy with your product, so if you don’t show the bad with the good, the reaction might be, “What are you hiding?” If you carefully pick the right negative comments to show, you’ll do more good than harm.

Say you’ve got a beginners’ ebook, and a more advanced reader is critical of the content. A bad review saying, “I felt like I wasted my money, the book wasn’t for me, it’s more for the beginner,” turns a negative comment into a positive for your target market.

7. Turn testimonials into advocates

You can take testimonials to a whole new level by turning your great reviewers into advocates. This might not work for low-priced products, but it’s great for premium products. Take your five best reviewers and ask them if they’d be happy to talk with potential customers. Providing that option to a potential buyer can be a deal-maker. Setting this up can be as simple as asking your best reviewers if they can stop by your forums or comment thread every so often to provide feedback.

Testimonials are a great way to lift conversion rates on your most important pages, but if you’re not making them work hard for you, you might be leaving money on the table. Are you using testimonials to their best advantage on your site?

Stay tuned for more posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

How to Win Readers and Make Them Stick

This guest post is by Gabrielle Conde of Mission Engage.

“Create a memorable experience.”

That’s great advice for businesses and large retail chains, but you’re wondering how it applies to your blog. You probably started blogging because you know something about an industry like technology or writing. You want to share your information with the world and they certainly need it. In today’s blogosphere, there are hundreds of blogs for readers to visit and read about those subjects.

What makes your blog so special?

You do—and the experience you create for the reader. It’s not really about you. It’s about them.

What if visitors land on your blog and read one post? They not only read it, they gobble it up. They read another and another and soon, they’re hooked. You, your blog is feeding them the information they want. They wantto connect with you on the major social media networks to get more from you. And when they go and find you, you’re telling them about your cat or complaining about the weather … again.

experience

Image is author's own

How do you create a memorable reader experience they’ll enjoy and keep them coming back?

Much of what we read about creating the memorable experience ties into technology. A few years ago, Flash videos were the attention-grabbers for visitors to websites. As a result, companies spent fortunes producing new videos each week—and still do.

Readers have gotten smarter. They demand good content, inspiration, tips, advice, and more. If your blog doesn’t have that overall experience they’re looking for, you’ll lose readers.

I’d like to change that. After working with clients’ websites and paying attention to other sites I enjoy reading, I’ve made a list of nine ways to create an experience for readers on your blog. There are plenty more, but this list should give you enough impetus to make the changes that will see readers stick to your blog.

1. Have them at hello

Give readers a headline that promises to deliver information about what they want. If you read Reader’s Digest online or just visit their website, you’ll find some of the most eye-catching headlines geared toward health and family.

Headlines are everywhere. Pay attention to the ones that catch your attention and try them on your blog to entice readers to click through to read the story.

2. Listen to them

The customer is always right. People complain about problems in person, on a blog, in a forum—anywhere they can speak freely. They’re putting their problems out to the world, and want someone to help solve them. Be the person who helps them through your blog, on social media, and in person. Say what you do for them in your blog’s header, so they know what to expect as soon as they land on your site.

3. Walk them through it

We, as bloggers, are sales people, writers, webmasters, and marketers rolled into one. We have to remember what our readers want and walk them through the steps to achieve it. If you’re showing someone how to do something in a blog post, walk them through it step by step, and make the action clear during each step.

4. Be a part of their daily lives

Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media, Inc made this point in a recent article, and she’s right. Do you check your daily horoscope on your favorite magazine website or the news in the New York Times? If so, then you’d know each of these companies have found a way to be part of your daily life. How can you make your blog a part of your readers’s daily lives?

5. Speak to their highest desires

Everyone wants something. Understand the one reason why people come to your blog. If you blog about marketing, your readers want you to help them get more clients and customers. If your blog is about blogging, your readers might want to know how they can monetize theirs. Everyone wants to pursue their dreams and know they’re needed.

Be indispensable. Remind readers of their desire. Then help them achieve those goals.

6. Be you

You don’t have to be anyone else—you’ll just waste everyone’s time and look like a fake. With billions of people in the world, and over 25 million of them online, you’re bound to run into at least 10% of readers who get you. They’ll love your humor, products, and inspiration. Mix authenticity with a little writing practice, and they’ll love you for the experience.

7. Make top-of-page navigation easy to understand

Here are some tips to keep top-of-page navigation simple for your readers.

  • Keep navigation tab wording as simple and to the point as possible.
  • Line up navigation tabs in order of importance to help readers find what they need quickly.
  • Direct users to a few pages, not twenty.

8. Let them contact you

If you’re for hire, give users the easiest ways to contact you—including phone number (even if it’s a cell), a contact form (that works—test it), plus social media buttons and links to accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and YouTube. Have accounts created across each relevant channel to make it easy for your readers to find and communicate with you.

9. Write good content

Think of your readers when you write. What do they need to hear? If your readers aren’t sticking around, then try practicing with a few techniques to help you write better and keep eyes glued to the page.

Most of all, you want your readers’ experiences to reflect you. Some people will disagree with your points of view and that’s fine. Everyone has a right to be heard, and you’ll have to make a stand on some issues. However, if you’re having a bad day, your car is leaking oil, your computer keeps crashing, or the neighbor’s dog won’t let you off the front porch, then the last thing you want to do is go postal on your readers.

Creating that experience

You want to win readers.

You want readers to stick with you.

You want to help people.

So give them an overall experience of you. It’s the right thing to do. Because there are so many people out there that need your help. And they’re looking for you.

Are you creating that experience for your readers right now? Tell us how you’re doing it in the comments.

Gabrielle Conde is an online marketing strategist in social media, copywriting and search engine optimization at Mission Engage. If you’d like to learn more about what it really takes to get found online, check out this free video and report on internet marketing strategies and social media marketing.

The Tortoise and the Hare: a Blogger’s Tale

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

I was out living the Internet lifestyle a little bit ago(you know, cruising to Bermuda) and I started talking to a random stranger at a bar on the boat we were sailing on. I had some time to kill while I waited around and we started chatting about how rough the ride was and other small talk.

Eventually, the man asked me what I did for a living, and I told him that I was a professional online writer, a.k.a. a “blogger.” You should have seen how wide his eyes got, as he apparently blogged about his hobbies, fishing and hiking, although it obviously wasn’t his real job. He asked me how I was doing as a blogger and once I told him, oh boy did the questions start coming.

I had a little bit to drink, so my answers were somewhat on the silly side, although in retrospect they were actually surprisingly insightful. His number one question was how I had so many subscribers so quickly on my sites, even though he had been working at it for almost six months and had virtually nothing to show for it. I asked him if he had ever heard the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. He replied that he had and then I told him:

“Have you ever considered that maybe you’re the Tortoise and I’m the Hare?”

He sort of looked at me strangely, blinked twice and then said: “What do you mean?” I explained to my new friend that the Tortoise is slow and careful because he is persistent. However, the Hare is fast paced and rushed because he is whimsical to the point of risking his success. The blank stare continued, until eventually he asked me whether I started off as a “Hare.”

I told him certainly not and went on to explain that although the Tortoise is slow at first he picks up speed as his careful persistence leads to wisdom. The wise Tortoise, after building up enough experience, eventually can trade caution for risk taking and let loose the creative, whimsical nature of the Hare. Had I started off as a Hare, I explained, then I would have ended up just like the rabbit in the story: completely off course and losing the race for success.

His next question was obvious, and I had the answer ready for him right away. He asked me how he could go from being a Tortoise to a Hare and I replied:

“You can’t transform yourself into a Hare until you’ve mastered being a Tortoise.”

After a small curse at me, my friend began to get up and leave. I said hang on a moment, I still have a few minutes here, would you like me to explain what I’m talking about? I waited for him to sit down and let out a sigh before I continued with my alcohol inspired story.

To become a Hare, you need to master the elements of a Tortoise that make him so successful at racing the rushed, whimsical Hares. First off, a Tortoise is cautious but he’s always trying to learn new things, which is exactly what makes him wise. The Tortoise is not afraid to try new endeavors but he understands that experience is more important than what anyone else says online. This mentality allows the Tortoise to absorb new information and remain open to trying new things without sacrificing his primary goal: winning the race for success. If you, as a Tortoise, cannot stay focused and maintain a strong work ethic while being open to new ideas then you are never going to be able to successful morph into a Hare.

Once you’re ready to become a Hare, it simply happens. You become more social and far more creative because the vast majority of your time is spent taking risks outside of your own blog. You put yourself out there and you build relationships, but it’s your attitude and wise yet helpful manner you acquired as a Tortoise that brings the masses to your blog daily.

My friend at the bar left with a big smile on his face, I just hope that he was sober enough to remember my words. Maybe he’s even reading this post, I never did get his name!

How can you take the best of both approaches and create the ultimate successful blogger? Are you a Tortoise or a Hare? Are you too afraid to come out of your shell and become a Hare?

Chris is a self proclaimed expert at showing bloggers how they can get traffic, build communities, make money online and be successful. You can find out more at The Traffic Blogger.

How to Keep Your Blog Hacker, Spammer, and Spyware-free

This guest post is by Sean Sullivan of F-Secure.

It’s a notion that strikes fear deep in the heart of every blogger. No, we’re not talking about getting dooced (fired for blogging). We’re talking about waking up in the morning, loading up your blog, and finding a screen that looks something like this:

The website has been blocked

The website has been blocked

Or perhaps it wasn’t as overt—you just discovered links injected into your site footer containing the anchor text of a certain famed pharmaceutical brand.

In any case, these kinds of scenarios aren’t good news for bloggers. Those fickle web users you work hard to attract can easily be put off by a hacked site and never return. Or, just as bad, being hacked (and not fixing it) risks the search engine equity you’ve built up over years of blogging, and which is time-consuming to restore.

If your site has been hacked or spammed, you’ve likely been through the tedious and time-intensive process of combing through MySQL databases, theme files, and directories on your server. If you’re lucky, you found the problem, removed it, and got things back up quickly (without having it replicate again, which we’ve seen). Or perhaps you had a backup copy and completed a restoration process.

But even then, this situation is not ideal. If you’re anything like us, you feel it’s unacceptable for your blog to be brought down, even for a moment—and especially by hackers.

The single most important tip? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In no area other than security is that adage more important. This is simply because hackers, both the automated and the manual kind, choose the path of least resistance.

To a large extent, many are playing the numbers game to try to build black-hat links or manipulate website content for the benefit of helping illegitimate companies rank higher in search engines. To accomplish this, hackers frequently send crawlers searching around the web, to seek out the most vulnerable sites.

So how can you stay safe?

1. Keep your blogging software up to date

As we know, most bloggers here use WordPress (and definitely most professional bloggers use a self-hosted installation). Keeping it up to date is critical. Since WordPress is so popular, unfortunately that means it’s frequent prey for hackers. By keeping up with the latest updates, you’ll ensure security, and get vulnerability fixes straight from the source, as the WordPress community actively seeks to maintain security of the software.

2. Choose secure logins and passwords

Brute force attacks can easily be prevented: choose a secure login and password. By “secure login” we mean change it from the typical “admin” to be more specific. For a “secure password,” use something that is at least ten characters long, and contains at least one upper-case letter and one symbol, such as an exclamation mark. This will make it virtually impossible for either a human or computer to guess your login details.

3. Beef up security with WordPress plugins

There’s a huge number of free WordPress plugins written by Good Samaritan developers looking to keep their blogging peers safe. A few must-haves include Secure WordPress, which removes some critical meta information that a hacker could use against you from your WordPress install, Limit Login Attempts, which makes a brute-force attack basically impossible, and WP Security Scan, which provides a report about your specific configuration of WordPress and suggests corrective actions.

4. Only blog from a system that is safe, secure, and spyware-free

Computer virus

Computer virus

For those who aren’t so tech savvy: your WordPress install (or any blog install) is software and runs on an operating system, similar to how your own computer runs.

One of the easiest ways for malicious code to find its way onto your blog is through an infected system. In reality, your blogging software is only ever as safe as the system you access it from. The best way to keep your system safe is with a comprehensive Internet security and anti-virus product. Alternatively, you can check with your ISP—many of them now offer Internet security to their subscribers.

5. Automated backups: set it and forget it

You can setup backups to be made easily via a simple plugin. Alternatively, for those who run popular sites and are very serious about the safety of their posts, Automattic (the makers of WordPress) recently started to offer a premium service called VaultPress, which provides the dead-simple backup of not just databases, but all files associated with WordPress. Frequent snapshots of your install are critical and, aside from providing peace of mind, will ensure even if you ever get hacked, you don’t lose your work.

6. Stop spammers in their tracks

You can use Akismet (which analyzes comments via hundreds of tests) to quickly and effortlessly deal with spam comments, or use Bad Behavior (which references bad IP addresses via Project HoneyPot) and block them from even reaching your site in the first place.

What to do in the worst-case scenario

Even with prevention, code compromise is always possible. It happens to even the savviest bloggers. If you ever do get hacked or find webspam on your site, and aren’t sure what to do, don’t panic and start deleting files. This can make the situation much worse.

Instead, take screengrabs of the issue, and send them to someone who specializes in WordPress (or whatever your blogging software is) along with the most recently known good backups. This issue is very common, so there are many who specialize in helping fix just this situation.

Of course, these are just basic tips for prevention that everyone should take. There are more advanced tips (for example, locking down the /wp-admin/ directory with an .htaccess file) but if you can start out by implementing the tips above, you’ll already be a notch safer than most.

Has your site been hacked? Tell us what happened—and how you rectified the problem—in the comments.

Sean Sullivan is security advisor for F-Secure, a provider of award-winning anti-virus and computer security software. You can find more great security tips like this on F-Secure’s Safe and Savvy blog and stay at the cutting edge of the latest online threats via the F-Secure labs blog.

A Superior Writing Method

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Picture this: you have just finished writing and editing a magnificent piece. The next morning you sit down with your favorite warm beverage to read your masterpiece once more. But as you reread the post, you realize it is about as eloquent and insightful as a concussed football player. Oops. This has happened to all bloggers in some degree—we have off days.

Thankfully, I’ve found the solution to this conundrum. Unfortunately, I forgot to patent this system, so I suppose it is free for everyone to use. You may still send me royalty checks.

Why this solution works

Before I tell you exactly what it is, I will explain why it works. This method is superior to the default one-post-in-one-sitting method because it utilizes the fact that your mindset changes every day in small, yet potentially significant ways. This change occurs because we are constantly being exposed to new information/ideas and a lot of other neurological reasons that I don’t know about.

The great posts that you read on ProBlogger today will have a greater impact on your psyche today than tomorrow. Maybe you’re going to be different and say that the true impact doesn’t hit you until the next day. In either case, the important thing is that your thought patterns change in some way on a daily basis.

When you write, the writing that flows is from a snapshot of your current thoughts and mindset. I’m writing under the same mindset that I started with. If the snapshot happens to be hazy or convoluted, how do you expect your writing to turn out?

It is often recommended to walk away from a problem if you’re struggling with it. Why? Walking away gives you a chance to “reset your mind” and look at the problem from a new angle. Waiting until the next day almost guarantees this effect. Here is how I do it.

The (simple) two-day blogging method

  1. When you decide to write about a blog post idea, furiously write the bulk of the idea or post down. The important part of this step is to fully cover the topic as well as you possibly can. You’re dumping your mind out onto paper or a computer.
  2. (Optional) Once you have written your rough draft, you may edit and revise it a little bit. Now your main idea is on paper and just needs to be edited, revised, and conceptually organized to be completed. Do not try to perfect it at this point.
  3. Finish revising and editing another day. The reason you do not bother to perfect it in step two because you’re probably going to tear it apart in this step.

Final tips, additional benefits, and conclusion

Flexibility bonus: This system will work regardless of how often you write blog posts and how many you write per day.

  • If you write five posts a day, start this process for all five posts. The next day you can finish the five posts and start five new posts that will be finished the following day. If you can’t afford the one day gap needed to get into this routine, do the first two steps and wait a few hours instead of a full day to finish the post(s).
  • If you write one post per week, try breaking up your writing time across two days instead of writing it all in one day.

The benefit? When I start writing a post, I have found it comforting that I don’t have to finish it that same day in the same session. My effectiveness in the following categories fluctuates every day to some extent: content ideas, writing style, humor, editing skill, organizing concepts, and one more than I cannot think of. If my writing style is great the first session and my sense of humor is at full capacity in the second session, I can combine these temporary strengths to make a better article.

Another benefit is that using this method is like having two opinions. Two minds can accomplish much more in tandem if they work together effectively and combine their best ideas. In the same way, two different mindsets are superior to one.

And there’s a third benefit: this is a less stressful way to write because it isn’t all-or-nothing like single writing sessions typically are. When you’re attempting to write a flawless guest post, you don’t have to get it perfect the first time. If you’re having writer’s block and forcefully write a terrible article, you can fix it later and salvage what is worth salvaging. You’ll have that second round of editing and revising to make it sharp.

This method, however, is not the only way you should write. I use this method frequently because of the many benefits mentioned, but there are still times when I complete posts fully in one writing session and they turn out just fine. One post I wrote on multi-tasking took me 15 hours over three sessions! It all depends on the material and length of the post.

Do you always write your articles in one sitting? If so, do you see the problem with that approach now?

Stephen Guise typed this guest post using the THREE day blogging method. He writes at Deep Existence, specializing in changing lives through the power of deep thinking. There was once a small goat that lived in a field. He began to eat grass fiercely. A pilot flying overhead looked down at the field and saw “Subscribe to Deep Existence or you’ll feel empty inside” carved out in the grass. The goat ate the grass because he hadn’t subscribed yet. The pilot was amazed.

Is Traffic Potential a Good Proxy for Link Quality?

This guest post is by Mark of GiftedSEO.com.

Since Google’s recent Panda Update, the world of SEO and blogging has been buzzing, and while there have been some innocent sites caught in the crossfire, the one thing most people will agree on is that Google has once and for all let the world know that poor quality, spammy content is not okay.

A side-effect of the update is that if you have a lot of links to your site from poor-quality sources, those links probably just lost most of their value, too.

statistics

Copyright Frank Gärtner - Fotolia.com

Basically, as far as SEO link building is concerned, quality is more important than ever right now. But after years of directories and article submissions, some people seem to have forgotten what a quality link actually is!

What does “good quality” even mean?

SEO has always been about trying to second-guess Google and create links and content that check all the right boxes. But sometimes, this can be taken a bit too far.

Chasing an algorithm is like chasing a carrot on a stick: every time you get close, the stick moves, and the carrot moves a step further from your grasp. Why not just aim for wherever the carrot is headed and meet it when it gets there?

If you aim for the same goal that Google is already moving towards, every future algorithm change is only going to make your blog stronger.

A world without SEO

Let’s just pretend for a minute that we don’t care about SEO or search engines at all. Before SEO existed, back when links were just links, what exactly made a link “good”?

Put another way, if you were trying to make money blogging, and SEO wasn’t in the picture, what links would you care about getting?

As I see it, the amount of relevant traffic generated by a link is the purest possible indicator of whether it’s a worthwhile link or not.

A quick analogy for the Internet

There is an actual, actionable point here: whenever you gain a new link, rather than trying to guess what the almighty Google is thinking, why not just check your own analytics and see whether you are actually getting any traffic from it?

Links are essentially the bridges of the Internet. And for some reason, people have started to worry more about making them look nice for the big guy in the sky, than about getting people safely across the water. (In this metaphor, the water is the parts of the Internet that are full of nasty spam sharks.)

This is the equivalent of a small high street business caring more about their advertisement getting some industry award than whether or not the ad actually generates any sales. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Action plan

If you don’t have it already, install Google analytics (or something similar) and start looking at where your traffic is actually coming from. You should be able see which specific sites and pages are sending you traffic. If you visit those pages, you can see the links that are sending you traffic.

By doing this, you’ll get an unparalleled insight into which links are providing you with real traffic, and which areas of your site are the most popular.

Next, look at the pages on your site that are popular, and try to figure out what you did to make them so. Also look for unpopular pages and try to improve them.

If you can learn what makes good content for your site, you can start building more of it. Any time you get a lot of links from a page, try to build on that success and repeat it.

You can also start to spend more time looking for and connecting with the sorts of people who own the types of sites that are linking to you. Ask for links if you like, but you might soon find you don’t even need to!

A final thought

SEO and link building have a bad reputation because there are a lot of ways to do it, and let’s face it, some of them are pretty scuzzy, as Mr. Cutts would say. But in my opinion SEO can and should be a positive thing.

In the last few paragraphs, I discussed what I think is a powerful new way to think about SEO. It’s not so much about pleasing the algorithm as it is about finding new ways to build real links and at the same time improve the quality of what you are offering to the Web.

What do you think about this approach? Are you already using it? How’s it going for you?

This post was written by Mark from GiftedSEO.com, a new kind of SEO company for a new Internet. We get by by helping good sites be better sites and in doing so earn the rankings they deserve.

5 Reasons to Be Authentic Instead of Generic

This guest post is by Nihara of Doing Too Much.

I’ll never forget what my sister said when I showed her the first iteration of my blog.  “BOH-ring!,” she announced after scrolling through the first few posts.  “It’s all so very dull and generic.” Fortunately, she did have some constructive advice: “You always have the most interesting stories. Why don’t you try telling some of those instead?”

At first I wondered why anybody would be interested in hearing about the little snippets of my life, and what I have learned from my experiences. But after I started writing in my own voice, an amazing thing happened: people started to respond.

I haven’t been blogging long, but I have already learned how to blog better. Here are five good reasons why you, too, should aim to be authentic instead of generic.

1. Being authentic brings something new to the conversation

There’s not much you can write about that someone else hasn’t already covered. But by bringing your unique personal angle to the topic, you can add something new to the discussion.

Rachel Meeks, the voice behind Small Notebook, offers this advice in her ebook, Simple Blogging: Less Computer Time, Better Blogging:

“Everything you could possibly write about has been written about before, but none of those ideas have been written about from your perspective. Nobody else has that special combination of life experiences which influence the way you think. You can weave a unique, personal thread into every story.”

2. Getting a little personal can help you get your point across

When you tell people a little about yourself and your experiences, it’s easier to convey your message. It gives your readers some context—a framework in which to understand what you are trying to say.

Gretchen Rubin, the cheerful writer of The Happiness Project, has found that she “often learn[s] more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences” than she does from “sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies.” This is why she regularly posts interviews with “interesting people about their insights on happiness.”

If you want to get your message across, it helps to share your “highly idiosyncratic experiences” with your readers.

3. Being authentic inspires and engages people

Opening up and telling people a bit about yourself, in your own words and in your own voice, gets people interested and engaged. They want to jump in and join the conversation!

Here’s what Ken at Mildly Creative has learned: “the more honest you are, the more people seem to respond. I guess there’s something about being human that attracts other humans.”

4. It’s so much easier to be yourself than to be anyone else

When I first started blogging, it felt like I was hearing an echo … of other people’s blogs. I had been reading so much of other people’s writing that I had forgotten the sound of my own voice.

What I wish I had stumbled upon sooner was this advice from Tsh Oxenreider, editor of Simple Mom and the founder of Simple Living Media:

“Be you. Write like you. It’s way more fun. You’ll definitely stick with it longer, and people will enjoy reading you more.”

Once I changed my blogging style to write from my own perspective, a small miracle occurred. Writing blog posts suddenly became incredibly easy.

When you write as yourself, writing isn’t hard work anymore. It’s just telling a story to your friends … and that isn’t very difficult at all.

5. You’ll learn about yourself in the process

Blogging in your own voice can put you on a path to self-discovery. When you open up and let your personality shine through on your blog, you can learn a little bit about yourself with each post.

Just ask Arsene Hodali of The Good Life? | dancePROOF, who blogs just as much for himself as he does for others. He has found that blogging can help you “get your ideas in order” and “find yourself.”

Honest blogging “forces you to … be specific, and take sides,” he writes. “And in doing so, it makes you learn about yourself.”

Do you blog authentically? What other benefits has it given you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Nihara is (slowly) figuring out how to make the most of her time and her life—and you can too. Read Nihara’s thoughts on how to live a better, saner life at Doing Too Much.

How to Use Private Label Rights to Get Content for Your Blog

This guest post is by Pawel Reszka of Affhelper.com.

For the time-strapped blogger who’s constantly struggling to write fresh, unique content, PLR can seem like a godsend.  Pre-written copy that you can claim as your own?  Sign me up—right?!

Of course, as most of us know, it isn’t that simple.  Although PLR can be a useful tool in developing content for your blog, it isn’t a “copy and paste” solution (at least, it isn’t if you don’t want the Big G to come down hard on you and your search rankings!).  To understand why, let’s take a closer look at what PLR content is and how you can use it effectively to develop content for your blog.

First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the acronym, PLR stands for Private Label Rights.  Essentially, when you purchase PLR content, you aren’t just getting the text—you’re also getting the rights to claim the content as your own and use it in whatever way you like.  For example, PLR content can be used in your blog posts, converted into audio or video formats, or even incorporated into your blog’s email autoresponder series.

Now, savvy bloggers have probably already picked up on the biggest problem with PLR content—that if you can buy the content for use on your website, so can every other site owner on the Internet.  And what’s the point of buying PLR content if there’s a good chance it’s already been published on another site?

In fact, PLR can be a great resource and a huge timesaver, but only if you use it correctly.  And the two keys to doing so are selecting good PLR content in the first place and modifying it to suit your needs.  Let’s look at each of these concepts in more depth.

Finding good content

First, if you want to use PLR effectively, you simply can’t use the same old PLR article packs that have been passed around the Internet since the dawn of the digital age.  You know what I’m talking about—those packs of “10,000+ PLR articles” that are sold for a dollar on PLR clearinghouse sites or included as bonuses with the sale of Internet marketing products.

The truth is, there’s a reason these packs are sold for a few dollars or less, and it’s because they really aren’t worth much more than that.  These articles have circulated for so long and been published on so many sites that it’s nearly impossible to transform them enough to be effective blog content.

Instead, look for PLR content that meets the following criteria:

  • recently developed
  • written by a reputable author
  • published in limited circulation.

Out-of-date PLR content is the worst—imagine buying a pack of PLR articles for your “make money online” blog only to find out that the articles were written in 2001 and still contain references to the Overture search engine!  Rewriting out-of-date PLR content isn’t impossible, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to check that the content you’re purchasing was written in the last few years in the first place.

You’ll also find that the quality of the PLR content available for sale today varies widely based on the author.  Much of the PLR content in the “10,000+ article packs” mentioned earlier is written by outsourced workers whose native language isn’t English.  Transforming this sometimes barely intelligible content into coherent text that flows nicely is often more work than simply writing original content yourself!

But how do you know which authors write good quality PLR content?  First, look for recognizable names in the PLR industry. Nicole Dean, Tiffany Dow, and Jimmy D. Brown are three PLR authors whose reputations for quality content precede them, although there are plenty of other great writers in this industry.  You can also purchase PLR content through forums like the Warrior Forum’s “Warrior Special Offer” section where customer reviews will tell you whether or not the PLR content for sale is good quality. As an example, take a look at Edmund Loh’s PLR package.

Finally, it’s also to your advantage to seek out PLR content that’s available in limited circulation.  By this, I mean looking for content where only a set number of licenses are available—for example, maybe only 25 or 50 copies will be sold before the product is pulled from the market.  The fewer people that have access to the same PLR you’re using, the easier it will be to make the content seem unique on your blog.

If you follow these guidelines, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding good PLR content—but then, how do you use the content you’ve purchased effectively on your blog?

Making good PLR content great

Obviously, the last thing you want to do is to copy and paste the content you’ve bought to your blog as is.  Even if you don’t believe in the duplicate content penalty, remember that your goal as a blogger is to provide unique, interesting content to your readers.  How will your perceived authority suffer in the eyes of your readers if they happen to stumble across the same article being published—word-for-word—on another blog, under another blogger’s name?

At the very least, you’ll want to rewrite your PLR content to add your own voice and to make the content appear unique in the eyes of the search engines.  There are plenty of experts out there who will give you their opinions on how much you need to rewrite your PLR content, but at the very least, I recommend aiming for at least 30-50% uniqueness.

Alternatively, instead of rewriting each individual PLR article you purchase, you can also use them as a jumping off point to create your own content.  Typically, good PLR authors write content based around profitable niche keywords and information that people in the niche are actively seeking.  You can use their insights and PLR content as research sources, and then write your own blog posts based on the information they provide.

But don’t just think of PLR as a source for your blog posts.  PLR articles strung together can form the basis of a free giveaway report or email autoresponder course that you use to entice readers to sign up to your email list. Although you’ll still want to rewrite these articles, using PLR content to create these bonuses is a lot cheaper than outsourcing the products to be written from scratch.

Using PLR content to create videos and podcasts—whether they’re posted on your blog or used in your promotional strategies—is another great idea.  Because the articles won’t be indexed as text using these formats, you can be less concerned about duplicate content and invest less time in rewriting your PLR.

Really, when it comes to using PLR content on your blog, the sky is the limit—anywhere you need fresh content, you can use PLR sources to save time and money.

Do you use PLR content on your blog?  Have you used it in a format other than the ones described in this article?  Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments.

Pawel Reszka runs Affhelper.com, a blog dedicated to providing tips and techniques on how to make money online.  If you are looking for affiliate marketing tips makes sure to check out his website.