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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?

Update: read part 2 in this series – How You Can Make Your Writing Twice as Fast by Making It 3x More Time-Consuming; Wait, What?!
.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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The Wrong Way to Tweet

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  • 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

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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.

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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.

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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+

 

Why Web Push is the Next Big Thing for Bloggers

This is a guest contribution from Tim Varner of GoRoost.com.

Raise your hand if you’re a blogger who’d like to turn your one-time visitors into repeat visitors — and eventually, engaged community members.

If you’re not raising your hand, I’m sorry — but we can’t help you. Go watch a cat video or something.

If you are raising your hand, get stoked.

Because coming soon to a browser near you is a new technology called web push.And it’s quickly becoming every blogger’s go-to traffic driver.

Intrigued? We thought so. Read on to learn what exactly web push is, and why it’s the next big thing for bloggers.

So Wait… What’s Web Push?

If you use Facebook or YouTube (or any number of other apps) on your phone, you’re likely already familiar with push notifications — you just might not know it. They’re the messages that pop up on your phone — regardless of whether you’re using the app at that moment — to tell you there’s an update on a stream or channel you’re subscribed to.

Though mobile notifications have been around for a while, web push is brand new. It’s different because it sends notifications through web browsers — not apps.

This innovative technology is already available in Apple’s Safari browser, but this fall it will become an option in browsers Chrome and Firefox, which are used by far more of the population — in other words, more of your readers.

And, yes, this is a solution that will support desktop and mobile web browsers.

Translation: web push is about to become HUGE.

Here’s how it works:

  • While surfing on her laptop, Lucy lands on your blog…. and a window pops up asking if she’d like to subscribe to push notifications.
  • To accept, all she has to do is click “Allow.” (She doesn’t even have to give her name or email address.)
  • The next time you publish a new post, a small notification will appear in Lucy’s web browser. If she likes the headline, she can click on it. If she’s not interested, it will disappear after a few seconds.

This is what the process looks like in Safari:

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And here’s how notifications show up (Gigwise box in top right corner).

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Now that you understand how it works, it’s time to learn what sets this traffic-driver apart from social media and email.

Why You Should Pay Attention to Web Push

We know you have lots of options for driving traffic to your blog. So why should you shift your strategy to include web push?

One very important reason: Web push is an incredibly effective way to turn one-time visitors into loyal readers.

Here’s how:

It encourages opt-ins

Web push notifications have a 15 percent opt-in rate, which is about 10 times higher than email newsletters. People have grown wary (not to mention tired) of giving out their email address all the time, and web push solves this with just one click of the mouse.

That’s awesome news for anyone trying to build an online community — because once a reader opts in, it’s easy to bring them back to your site again and again. One-time visitors will then turn into loyal, repeat readers, which is exactly what you want as a blogger, right?

It has a broad reach

One of the problems with sharing your message on social media? Your reader has to be a member of that specific network and using that network when you send an update.

With web push, your reader only has to use a browser — which applies to pretty much everyone who uses the internet. Rather than hope your reader will be on a specific social network at the exact time you’re posting, you can catch your readers where they’re already hanging out: on the web.

We all know nobody has a long attention span anymore. That’s why web push notifications were designed to be brief.

When you publish a new blog post, your subscribers receives a headline, rather than the full article — similar to a 140-character tweet. Yetunlike Twitter, the message isn’t lost in an overwhelming clutter of other posts. Instead, it shows up where the subscriber is already working or playing: right in the browser.

It makes audience segmentation easy

You may have always wanted to segment your email list — but didn’t have either the know-how or the time.

Web push makes segmentation easy. It allows you to send specific content to specific subscribers, which means you won’t waste time sending content to people who aren’t interested, and your subscribers won’t feel spammed by constant updates.

Here’s an example: If you write blog posts on pizza, pasta and hamburgers, but your subscriber is only interested in pizza-related content, they can choose to only be notified when you’ve written an article on pizzas. This ensures that both you and your reader get the most out of the experience. (Not to mention it gives you an inside peek at your audience’s true preferences).

Bottom line: Web push works.

It opens a world of opportunities for content creators, helping bloggers and publishers see incredible results for opt-ins and engagement. So when are YOU going to turn your visitors into a loyal community?

Tim Varner is co-founder of Roost, which makes it easy for content producers to use web push notifications to grow their audience. Sign up for free at GoRoost.com.

7 Ways for Bloggers to Be More Productive

This is a guest contribution from Charles Crawford.

If your business is blogging, productivity is essential. The only way for you to get the results you want is to put out consistent high quality content. While this is often easy in the beginning when the blog is new and exciting, as time goes on this can become more difficult. There are some ways that you can improve your productivity to keep your blog current.

1. Work at the Right Times

A common misconception is that people work better first thing in the morning. The problem with this is people are all different. You may not be a morning person at all.  This is why you need to find the time of day that you are most productive and work then, even if it is 3 AM.

2. Use Technology to Your Advantage

If you are like many writers, then inspiration will come at the most unexpected times. You may be sitting at a red light or even in the doctor’s office when a great idea for a blog will come to you. Rather than trying to remember it, which often is unsuccessful, use your smartphone to your advantage. Apps such as Evernote syncs with your computer and other devices. It will allow you to type note, snap pictures for inspiration or even record audio notes. This is a great way to organize yourself and ensure you never forget an idea again.

3. Create a Schedule

A common mistake many bloggers who work from home is not creating a schedule for themselves. When you know what you plan to work on within a time frame, you are more likely to get this done. Otherwise you may find yourself wanting to scroll through your social media feeds or even doing household tasks. Make sure you schedule everything you need to get done for the day, both for work and personal tasks to ensure you get everything done.

4. Change Things Up

For those who are not productive because they feel like the blog has gotten stale, find a way to change things up. Write a new style of blog. For instance if you have been reviewing products every week, try making a list style blog with great images that matches the theme of the site. Don’t be afraid to try something new as this is a great way to grow your writing skills and have more fun.

5. Have Fun

If you aren’t having fun with the blog, then it simply won’t work. Find ways to make the blog fun. This can be with giveaways, Q and A sessions or many other activities. Make a list of different things you would like to do with the blog and if you can’t think of any new ideas, visit other blogs to get inspiration and ideas.

6. Work on it Every Day

Even if you just spend five minutes writing or tweaking, you will find that this will make you more productive. In fact, you may also find that the five minutes turns into half an hour and you have the first draft of your next blog done or have taken care of the back end SEO work you have been putting off since you created the site.

7. Utilize Social Media

Social media is a great way to connect with your audience and find out what they are looking for. You will also find this helpful in keeping you motivated to put out the next blog, as you know there are people waiting. Your fans can be a great source of support and help when you are not feeling productive.

Charles Crawford is the co-founder of Crawford and O’Brien. Aside from doing dental SEO and helping dentists get new patients, Charles plays jazz piano in restaurants in Scottsdale, AZ on weekends.

 

Why Your Blog Isn’t Growing and How to Make It A Success

How To Build A Successful BlogThis is a guest contribution from Gary Dek from StartABlog123.com.

If your blog is dependent on Google search engine rankings like most websites, you should know that one record month of traffic can easily be followed by a record low. Growing your blog’s traffic and revenue requires leveraging traffic and design strategies to build and retain visitors, eventually converting them into loyal readers and followers. Otherwise, you risk the chance of starting from zero after an algorithm update.

Here are some possible reasons your blog is failing to capitalize on its current readership, and what you can do about it.

The Cornerstones of Building A Following

You are not actively seeking growth. If you update your blog regularly with comprehensive, high-quality content and are not seeing growth in terms of traffic from returning visitors, then you are doing something wrong. Chances are, your traffic is comprised of one-time visitors who forget all about you after they’ve exited your blog.

What can you do to maintain a connection?

  1. Collect emails. If you don’t collect email addresses from your readers, you can’t get those readers to come back to your blog on a regular basis. You can use these emails to send a message each time you publish a new post. Alternatively, you can send a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter highlighting your best posts within that period. A mailing list can even offer a targeted audience who may be interested in a new product or service you’ve developed, leading to a higher conversion rate than a general blog post. Whatever your reason for collecting emails, doing it will keep your readership updated and constantly interacting with your brand. Word of caution: make sure you ask for permission before you add an email to a newsletter or mailing list. Like you, I absolutely hate it when blogs add me as a subscriber when I input my email for another purpose. The last thing you want is to be labeled or even reported as a spammer.
  2. Build a community. Blogging has always been all about people interacting on a more personal level compared to traditional news outlets. If your blog is not growing, then you may have issues with engagement. Are you getting comments? Are you responding to comments? Do you have a group of people who talk to each other through your blog? Do you ask for user input at the end of each blog post? Is your comment system intuitive and easy to use? Is your content original, personal, and addressing the needs and wants of your readers? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself when building a community around your blog.
  3. Get on social media. People spend more time on social networking platforms than other sites. In 2014, Facebook reported that the average user spends 17 minutes on the site every day. If you want to get a reader’s attention, then you need to have a social media presence. Start with one or two platforms – Facebook and Twitter – and build your presence there. Share your posts. Ask your readers for their opinions or experiences. Pose a question. Share other experts’ guides. You don’t even need to stay on your own Facebook page – interact with other blogging authorities in the niche and build relationships. If your contributions are insightful, you may even be invited to guest blog. The traffic you build through your social sharing can never be taken away from you by Google’s algorithm.

Are You Insecure About Your Knowledge or Blogging Skills?

You lack conviction. Some of the most common indications that you don’t believe in yourself or your ability to offer value through your blog content include:

  • You don’t think you’re a writer because you didn’t major in journalism or creative writing.
  • You question your authority to write about a certain topic.
  • You think, “Who am I to express my opinion strongly to the public?”
  • You’re afraid to let your personality shine in your writing.
  • You’re a perfectionist and afraid to post anything but a 10,000 word “masterpiece” that covers every angle, argument, or consideration.

If you consistently feel self-doubt, then you need to take a step back and remember why you started blogging in the first place. The barriers to entry when starting a blog are so low that you could have written about anything, but you chose this niche for a reason.

Either you had first-hand experience and knowledge in the industry and you believed you could make a difference or you were passionate about learning something new and wanted to document your research and journey.

The former is common in the SEO industry, where online marketers who worked for agencies or themselves building and selling sites decide they want to finally share all their SEO knowledge with the masses. The latter is common in the personal finance niche, where individuals document their own troubles managing money and share their journey to financial independence.

If you do not have that confidence and passion anymore, you can do all the research you want and spew thousand-word posts, but your writing will not resonate with your audience.

Blogging Isn’t Just About Writing. Remember, you don’t have to be a poet to create a useful article. As the respected author E.B. White said, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” You need to find that confidence and believe that you have something to offer your readers. Don’t let your lack of training as a writer bring you down. All things can be learned, but passion can’t be faked.

This lack of self-belief can also lead to the next problem.

Your blog is bland. Tepid. Has no personality. There are millions of blogs out there and the number of online visitors is finite. You need to have something unique to attract readers and grow your audience. Since more than one person is ever writing about the same topic, you must add your own unique touch or contribution.

Some ways to do this:

  1. Inject your real-life personality in your writing. If you’re outspoken and unabashed, then write that way. If you aren’t, force yourself to be and share all the things you’ve always wanted to say but didn’t.
  2. Don’t shy away from controversy. Even though you may not have a confrontational personality, discussing controversial issues can help your blog get attention. People like controversy, and they like discussing it. Whether they agree with you or not, it doesn’t matter. What counts is that you get them reading, sharing, and commenting. However, always think before you “speak” and don’t make a fool of yourself.
  3. Talk to your readers as if they were right in front of you. Much like letting your personality shine through your writing, you also need to remember that your readers are real people and not just numbers in your analytics report. Write as if you were having a conversation with one of them. Create something that you yourself will want to read and share.
  4. It’s okay to be weird. Let’s be honest – we’re all weird. I’m OCD about cleanliness and organization. Everything on my desk is parallel or perpendicular to each other. Everything on my laptop is titled a certain way and saved for optimal convenience and efficiency, including my music and movies. When setting my thermostat or the volume on the TV, I prefer even numbers or ones ending in 5. Those of you who share my “weirdness” may feel an instant connection with me because we share the same “problems” ;). Weird is definitely more eye-catching than bland.

Treat Your Blog Like A Business

Everything you offer is free. There is nothing wrong with giving away free content, products, or services. But if you want to grow a blog and make money online, you need to train your readers not to expect everything for free. Sometimes the most valuable information or tools require an investment of your time and money to develop, and you will need to take that into consideration.

Nevertheless, you should understand that “paying” doesn’t always involve money. Many readers have an aversion to shelling out money for content, especially if you are not a big name yet or have given everything for free up till now. Fortunately, you can achieve growth in other ways.

One way is to show only a snippet of a long-form resource. Make sure that the preview is interesting enough to make readers want to read the entire resource. Here comes the caveat – in order for the reader to see the whole article, you ask them to tweet or share the URL on Facebook. Not only do you provide something of value, but you also get something in return: more exposure. Similarly, you can require an email address for your mailing list.

This strategy isn’t innovative and new for 2014, but it does work and can provide a way to constantly keep in touch with your readership, as discussed earlier in this post.

You’re not taking things seriously. You most probably started blogging as a hobby. Then one day, you installed AdSense on your blog and started making a couple dollars a day. Several months went by and that part-time income started growing to an amount that made you realize the potential of your blog.

The problem is that some bloggers who want to succeed still don’t take blogging all that seriously. They think that it’s just writing and publishing whenever they want. And when they analyze their websites, they are subjective and passive instead of being honest and critical with themselves.

Here are some things you can do to take your blog to the next level by taking it more seriously.

Be consistent. Consistency is vital to your blog’s success. You should maintain an editorial calendar or simply choose to post Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Consistency means being in it for the long haul. Don’t rest on your accomplishments for the past month – set new goals and keep working.

Manage your time well. If you want blogging to be a source of income, then you need to run your blog like a business. That means you need to learn to manage your time and have a good work-life balance. Set work hours, and set aside time to spend with your friends and family. When you know you have all day to accomplish a task, you will likely procrastinate. Alternatively, when I’m feeling burned out, I like to go on vacation or visit a nice part of town. Having fun or observing other successful people motivates me to get there too.

Always Hold Yourself Accountable

I feel this is where a lot of people fail, whether they are bloggers, entrepreneurs, or employees. Do you want to appear to be or feel successful, or do you want your dreams to be a reality? You can blame your blog’s stalled growth on Google, Facebook, competing bloggers, or your hosting company, but ultimately, you are the boss.

You are the master of your own fate, and that is one of the best feelings in the world. Except for extenuating circumstances, your blog’s success begins and ends with you. This can either empower and motivate you or cripple you.

As a final thought, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twight:

“Modern man is conditioned to expect instant gratification, but any success or triumph realized quickly, with only marginal effort, is necessarily shallow. Meaningful achievement takes time, hard work, persistence, patience, proper intent and self-awareness. The path to success is punctuated by failure, consolidation, and renewed effort.”

Author Bio: Gary Dek is the founder of StartABlog123.com, which provides a free step-by-step tutorial on starting and growing a blog. He is passionate about helping new and professional bloggers build sustainable online businesses via content and social marketing.