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Making The Impossible Possible: How I Created A Full Time Blogging Income With No Qualifications

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Stacey Corrin.

It was a dark day in November 2012 when I first began to blog. Rain lashed the windows of the home we’d just moved into. Removal boxes lay strewn across the floor and the cries of my newborn twins rang shrill in my ears.

I felt trapped, with no escape plan.

Being a new parent can do that to you. It can make you feel like the only person in the room. It can sap your energy, your personality, your identity. Yet it can also put you on a path you might never consider possible.

Today I want to share how I got from that wretched point to my life now. Three years later, I’m now a successful ghostwriter, blogger and full time freelancer.

 

It Began As A Cry For Help

My foray into blogging began like most peoples does. It was expression, even a cry for help. Most importantly it was an outlet for the turmoil and confusion of young parenthood.

I set myself up with a free WordPress blog and proceeded to spend any spare time, jotting down my thoughts. Off they would go into the ether and I’d feel a little lighter, a little more relieved for having let it all out.

Little did I know that there were people reading my musings. They introduced themselves, faceless entities going through similar situations. They provided support, insight and friendship I’d never found offline.

These people introduced me to a whole community I never knew existed. People from all walks of life were doing just what I was doing. They were baring their souls to the internet and finding comfort in the practice. What’s more, they were making a living from it too!

 

I Immersed Myself In All Things Blogging

That realisation was a revelation to me. Immediately I set about learning all that I could about blogging, SEO, and how to build an audience. It wasn’t an easy process. I learned some terrible blogging habits along the way but I also found that there was so much help out there if you knew where to look.

I discovered sites like this one. I haunted the big names on Twitter and Facebook yet also took stock of the little ones who were making waves. Sites like Blogging Wizard who at that point was still fresh and new.

What was it that made them so successful? What were their secrets? What made them stand out?

And then it dawned on me. These people stood out because they didn’t follow the crowd.

Well, I knew a thing or two about that. Always the oddball at school, I spent the majority of my teenage years sticking out like a sore thumb. So how could I do that with my own blog? How could I stand out and make a living at the same time?

By this point I’d spent two and a half years figuring this blogging thing out. My twins had grown to the point that afforded me more freedom, so one evening I sat down with a notepad and wrote out the things I was good at.

Three things stood out at me:

  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • WordPress

A thought began to blossom. What if I did something drastic? What if I started all over again and built a new blog from scratch? This time I’d do so with the aim of sharing everything I’d learned over the last few years. At the same time I’d market my skills to those who needed them – my blog a testament to them.

 

How I Turned My Passion Into Profit

I realised that through helping others with their own blogs, I could show off what I’d learned along the way. Let’s face it, not everyone has time to write blog post after blog post, on a daily basis. Unless of course like me, you love to write. Thus blogging about blogging and offering my services as a ghostwriter seemed like a smart move.

Through the power of Selz, a simple and free eCommerce platform, I was able to create product listings for my services. People could buy these from my new blog. With a few clicks of a button they could get a ghostwritten blog post and within a matter of days, have it land in their inbox. All attribution would go to them, no strings attached.

The services I offered included:

  • Ghostwriting
  • WordPress content management
  • Virtual help
  • Social media management

These were things that people needed. I knew I could provide them as I did those things every day and over time the word spread. Recommendations came in, people gave great testimonials and I built a small client base.

That was over three months ago.

In that time I’ve written over 80 blog posts of 900 words and over (excluding my own). My blog has grown from zero traffic and shares to posts with over 800 shares alone. I’m now in a place where people want to read what I’m writing. Not because they sympathise, but because they can learn something valuable from my words. Needless to say the clients have poured in too, coinciding with an income that’s sustaining five people.

How did I do it? I listened to what people wanted. Then I promoted the pants off what I created.

  • Jump into Facebook groups and Quora discussions related to your niche and listen to what people are talking about.
  • Talk to people on Social Media instead of just link dropping
  • Offer up solutions through your blog posts, which answer people’s most pressing questions
  • Forget word counts when you’re writing. A post should be as long as it needs to be, to get your message across.

When promoting your content:

  • Join places like Triberr and follow tribes with similar interests. Here you can connect with influencers who will help your posts reach a wider audience.
  • Use the power of imagery with networks like Pinterest. This can be a massive source of traffic if you create excellent visuals to go with your posts.
  • Don’t forget your email list! Provide incentives like content upgrades for subscribers only. Follow up with personal emails that provide value to your list.

The best way of exposing my blog to new readers, was to guest post for other blogs. This has been my biggest source of repeat clients and traffic. By keeping some of your best work for other people’s blogs, you’re making a bold statement. You’re telling people that you care about quality, that you’re not just about self-promotion.

 

It’s Been A Humbling Experience

Looking back to that November day, I don’t recognise the person I was. Blogging lifted me from a hopeless situation into a life that’s rich, vibrant and full of opportunity.

If I can offer any advice to anybody, it would be this:

Always believe in the impossible. No matter how hard it might seem, there is always a way if you’re willing to dream big and work for it.

Stacey is a Ghostwriter and Blogger who creates content for influencers in the digital marketing and WordPress community. When she’s not blogging elsewhere, she hangs out on her own blog, sharing visual content and blogging tips.

How Bloggers Can Make The Best Use Of Their 24 Hours

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

Image via Flickr user Thomas R Stegelmann

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur Charles Crawford.

Whether your parents believe you or not, there are ways to make a living off of being a blogger. And with as many benefits that come with blogging, who wouldn’t want to at least check out this lifestyle? After all, you get to be your own boss for the most part, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of the hindrances that come with a typical 9-5.

However, being a blogger isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Instead, it’s a job where you’ll have to work hard if you expect to get paid. And if you don’t work, then you might want to give your old employer a call and see if they’ll hire you back.

Another obstacle that bloggers must overcome is being able to manage their time appropriately. Because you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck every day, you get to decide when you want to work and what clients you want to work for. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure that you make the most of your day, in order to be as productive as possible. Here is a look at how bloggers can make the best use of their 24 hours each day.

Have A Plan

The first thing that any blogger will want to do as they look to organize their day is make a planned schedule. If you quit your job and became a blogger with the hopes of ditching a scheduled lifestyle, you may want to rethink things. Sure, you won’t have to be at your desk from 9-5 each day, but having a schedule for your blogging will be imperative if you plan to be successful. Even if the schedule changes from day to day, knowing what you want to get done will help you organize your less-traditional lifestyle.

Not only should part of that plan include time for blogging, but you’ll also want to accommodate for your personal life as well. Unless you plan on sitting in front of a computer all day long and blogging, you’ll also want to account for time to hit the gym or even hang out with friends.

Knowing when you have to work and when you have time to yourself in a schedule will do wonders for your time management as a blogger throughout the day.

Stay Focused

One of the toughest parts of being a blogger is going to be staying focused. Lets face it; there is a lot of stuff on the internet. For some bloggers, they may be looking on a website for information, but next thing they know they’ll look at the clock and two hours has passed by. When you spend two hours look at talking animals on the internet, it can really cut into your blogging time. Therefore, be sure that you stay focused and take the necessary precautions to avoid being distracted.

Keep Networking

Part of your blogging efforts should include time that you spend networking with other people. The more people that you meet in the blogging world, the more likely it is that you’ll learn from their advice and have more success individually. However, if you fail to meet the right people, you may struggle when it comes to your ability to get recognition for your blogging efforts.

Adapt To Your Plan

That plan that was mentioned earlier is a great starting point, but keep in mind that things might change over time. For example, you might need to arrange time in your schedule to contact new people about blogging opportunities. You may also need to check your email or social media accounts to communicate with other writers. The more that you can crunch into your work day, which will be easier if you have a schedule, the more productive you will be. And if you can easily work in changes into the schedule, you’ll be even more efficient.

Stay Informed

Part of your time while adapting to your schedule should also include staying informed on new technology, programs, or applications that can make your life as a blogger much easier. There are always new options to consider learning, or new niches to capitalize on, and doing so will help you to be more productive. Keep in mind that bloggers who work smarter, rather than harder, will likely see more success.

Know When To Stop

When you work as a blogger, the internet is always going to be at your fingertips. With that mindset, you might have a hard time turning your computer off and taking time to yourself. However, it’s equally as important that you know when to rest during your 24-hour day. If you fail to get adequate sleep, then you may have a tough time with being as productive the following day.

Being a blogger has plenty of rewards and it’s certainly a vital option for making a good income. But if you really want to be able to have your efforts pay off, then you’ll have to put in the work for it and make the most of your 24 hours each day.

Charles Crawford is a high-level entrepreneur and co-founder of Invisume. Charles has been studying internet marketing, web design, and tech start-ups for years, and he has been successful with multiple business ventures such as affiliate marketing (where 98%+ of people never make money).

How to Master Visual Customer Service in the Social Age

This is a guest contribution from Jennifer Landry.

There’s a reason why the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is still used today: 90 percent of information your brain absorbs is visual and you tend to retain 80 percent of what you see, versus the 20 percent of what you read. Marketers have already jumped on the visual content bandwagon, but ads and content aren’t the only places where you can take advantage of visuals. Forward thinking organizations have also incorporated visuals and social media with customer service.

Visual customer service might be difficult to envision, but there are plenty of ways you can incorporate it into your own strategy. Take a look at your current customer service process and see how you can improve upon it. Do your customers have a lot of questions on how to use a product or put it together? Create a video tutorial. Not only does this improve customer engagement, it can save you a lot of time answering questions. If you think outside-the-box, you can better understand how to deliver a customer service experience that engages and helps your customers. You should also research what your competitors are doing and see what will work for you and what won’t.

The infographic below provides examples of how brands are engaging customers through visual customer service and seven tips on how you can do the same.

VisualCustomerService

Jennifer Landry is a writer/journalist living in Malibu, California. 

How To Promote Your Blog With Content That Will Grow Your Traffic, Links, and Shares

This is a contribution from Gary Dek from StartABlog123.com.

Starting a blog is easy. Step-by-step tutorials to creating a blog and one-click CMS installations have ballooned the number of online blogs to over 200 million. But creating a blog isn’t the part you should worry about.

Unique and creative content can be hard to develop, especially when you are writing for a wide demographic. Am I producing something interesting, practical, actionable, valuable, and shareable? Would another blogger actually choose to link to it in the sea of other content available online?

Concerns like these are not uncommon when learning how to create a blog. All amateur and professional bloggers should evaluate their business strategies on a regular basis. It’s what drives us to constantly improve.

Fortunately, if you analyze some of the most successful bloggers online, it’s not that they are employing tactics or strategies that me or you can’t. There is no secret recipe or special club that builds traffic.

It’s the little things. Successful bloggers consistently execute on the little things that make their content relatable, shareable, and linkable.

Below, you will find a checklist of writing tips to help you create great content, increase your traffic and promote your blog. Don’t expect overnight results, but in the long-run, you and your readers will notice the difference. And to be more targeted, we’ve divided up the list between general writing advice, B2C, and B2B best practices.

Create Content To Promote Your Blog

Best General Writing Tips

  1. Start with a good headline. A good headline makes people want to click and read your content. Impart a sense of urgency, be dramatic, promise better results, or use a big number like “101 Ways…” Readers will be enticed out of curiosity.
  2. Write a good introduction. Your headline can get readers to click, but your intro needs to hook them to continue reading. Make an outrageous statement. Ask a difficult or relatable question. Tell them how the article is going to improve some aspect of their life.
  3. Have a conversation. Do you talk to your friends using 15-letter words or long, complex sentences? Readers don’t want to reference an online dictionary every other sentence, nor do they want a subject matter so complicated, they don’t understand what they are reading. Make reading easy by using simple words and sentences, which also makes for more shareable content.
  4. Talk directly to the reader. This is similar to the above point. Don’t alienate yourself. Use words like “you” and “I” freely. Write as if the reader were in front of you.
  5. Don’t BS. Don’t ramble to meet a word-count. Delete the fluff and unnecessary discussions. The sooner you make your points, the longer you will have them engaged.
  6. Write short paragraphs. No offense, but readers have short attention spans. I probably lost half the readers of this blog by now. There is no hard and fast rule, but generally, 5 to 7-sentence paragraphs are easier to comprehend.
  7. Break up your content with subheadings. Subheadings help organize content, making it easier on a reader’s eyes to scan the page.
  8. Use images. Start your post with an interesting, relevant image. Research shows that images increase click-through rates, shares and links. In fact, images (charts, graphs, spreadsheets, graphics, etc.) can often facilitate the transfer of information better than text.
  9. Tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. Don’t just present facts and figures. Share how the topic of discussion has changed or influenced your life or someone you know.
  10. Connect with your readers. You’re a human being with character, personality, and experiences. Allow your readers to relate to you and build a stronger connection.
  11. Write a good closing. Don’t leave your readers hanging. Just as a good intro hooks them, a good closing makes them feel that they didn’t waste their time.
  12. Proofread and fact-check. The facts and statistics you use to support your opinion/argument need to be accurate if you want to be seen as credible. Similarly, one or two typos is acceptable, but an article littered with poor grammar and incorrect spelling won’t get shared.
  13. Make social sharing buttons visible. It’s hard to expect social shares when you make the act of sharing difficult and tedious. If you are a B2B blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook are your top platforms. If you are a visual B2C brand, such fashion or foodie blogs, you will want to leverage Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. Research your target demographic and be active on the social mediums they utilize.

Tips For Business To Consumer (B2C) Blogs

  1. Be timely. Timing is crucial to earning exposure. Write news when it breaks, not days after.
  2. Be consistent. If you’ve been blogging for a while, you have undoubtedly developed a loyal following. Don’t let your readers down by posting randomly. If you don’t post on a daily basis, make sure your readers are aware of your editorial calendar. Furthermore, there is an SEO benefit to posting fresh content regularly.
  3. Keep up with pop culture. Consumers keep tabs on pop culture, and if you want to get their attention, you have to keep yourself up-to-date. Read, listen, and watch so you can write about current trends and make your content relevant and relatable. This is especially important if your target demographic is Millennials.
  4. Rotate between evergreen and trending content. Trending content can last a few weeks or months, but evergreen is timeless. Intersperse your content with both. It’s the equivalent of diversifying your investment portfolio between equities and bonds – one can offer huge upside, while the other is more consistent and stable. Combined, they offer balanced growth.
  5. Use videos and images freely. A creative or beautiful image at the start of a blog post can really draw in a reader, especially if it organizes information more effectively and clearly than a textual description. This is especially true with B2C writing because consumers often don’t like to read long, in-depth articles.
  6. Experiment with different types of content. Text may be the backbone of your blog, but if Upworthy and ViralBuzz have taught us anything, don’t underestimate the power of well-curated videos and images.
  7. Tap into emotions, but don’t exploit them. Consumers are prone to emotional stimuli, the most popular of which are humor, wonder, and empathy. But don’t exploit it and purposefully tug at the heart strings of your readerships. You will build a bad reputation of being overly emotional.
  8. Respect your readers. Be honest, open, and treat your audience like you would family. Even if your blog is instructional in nature, don’t talk down to them. Present concepts thoroughly, but assume a certain basic level of intellectual sophistication.

Tips For Business To Business (B2B) Blogs

Writing for business requires you to make slight adjustments. One positive is that B2B audiences are more focused and willing to spend money if your product or service genuinely solves a problem and furthers their professional interests.

  1. Use credible headlines with statistics. Headlines still need to be catchy in B2B writing, but business people are more likely to want data-driven analysis and results. For example, “How I Grew My Email List By 329% In A Week” explains the benefit of reading the article. However, don’t be full of it and use outrageous claims – they will hurt your brand and reputation. No one wants to feel duped.
  2. Narrow down your topics. Ever heard of “inch wide, mile deep”? This concept suggests you limit the scope of each article, but thoroughly and comprehensively cover every aspect of the subject matter. Businesses don’t need general information. Instead, B2B readers want very specific, actionable content that addresses an issue or problem they are dealing with.
  3. Write more evergreen content. Evergreen content is timeless and will always be relevant. For instance, “How To Start A Business” gets 40,500 monthly searches in the United States alone. A focus on this type of content will bring you consistent traffic for years.
  4. Provide credible supporting evidence. Use white papers, government figures, research studies, and professional publications to prove your point. Business people don’t want unsubstantiated opinions, but arguments molded by reputable sources.
  5. Offer step-by-step solutions to problems. To build a reputation as an authority in your niche, you must demonstrate that you understand the factors, issues and obstacles facing the industry. Delivering reliable solutions via free content builds trust and confidence so when you eventually want to sell a product/service, your readership sees the value in working with you.
  6. Show personality and liven things up. Veer away from the stereotypical dry, boring B2B content. Crack a joke now and then. Share an anecdote. Business people are human, too, and are not immune to humor.
  7. Highlight your achievements. Credibility is paramount in B2B writing. Use an author profile somewhere on the page, and craft a story that showcases what you have achieved. It’s not bragging. It’s telling the audience that you know what you’re talking about.
  8. Always over-deliver. It’s a matter of developing goodwill. Instead of selling a guide or eBook and earning a quick thousand dollars, give it away for free. In the long-run, the loyalty and brand value you build is worth far more.Don’t ever forget that blogging is your business. When running a business blog, remember that you not only represent yourself, but your company’s brand. As such, maintain some level of professionalism and always emphasize great customer service, support, and satisfaction.

Final Word

Content creation doesn’t need to be a difficult process. Many successful bloggers don’t even consider themselves great writers. The key is to focus on finding your place and unique value-add to the internet, and you’ll develop your own niche and loyal community. Incorporate these writing tips and you’ll already be ahead of the curve.

What other ways have you leveraged to produce great content?

Gary Dek is the founder of StartABlog123.com, which provides a free step-by-step tutorial on building and growing a blog.

How to Make Your Blog Look Attractive in No Time

This is a guest contribution from Daniel Glickman of Emaze.

Appearance matters.

How your blog looks when visitors first visit has a powerful effect on their interpretation of the quality of your content. However, when designing your blog, it may be difficult to know what’s most important. Is it better to look professional and risk looking like every other company blog, or to focus on being unique so that you stand out from the rest? The truth is, neither is most important – what’s most important is creativity.

Communicating creativity shows that you are not ordinary. It shows you are capable of thinking outside of the box to deliver fresh content that offers something different than the rest. This is valuable no matter what niche your blog is in, so how do you capitalize on creativity and start making your blog look creative in no time?

Step 1: Understand creativity doesn’t equal off-the-wall.

Creativity doesn’t mean sharing purposeless viral dog videos or snazzy online presentations just because you think it will make you stand out from your competition. In fact, this is the opposite of creativity. Creativity is working with purpose to do what everyone else is doing in a unique way.

Even the most professional website can be creative just by taking a different approach to classic design. In fact, the best instances of creativity come due to the element of surprise. If your audience expects you to use a certain font, create advertisement campaigns similar to those you have in the past, or make the same offer as every other blog, you won’t be creative if you serve them what you want. For instance, if every business blog in your niche is offering a helpful marketing manual or white paper, be creative and think of what else you can offer. Once you understand what creativity is, you can outline what creativity looks like on your website.

Step 2: Outline what creativity means to you.

To determine what creativity means for you and your blog’s brand, there is no better place to look than around you to see how your competition is succeeding – or failing – at being creative. Some questions to ask yourself…

  • What similarities do you see across other blogs in your niche?
  • Do they all share the same content or have look-alike landing pages?
  • Is there one that is distinct among the rest?
  • What are they doing right – do they have a killer video advertising campaign or a logo you can’t get out of your head?
  • Where is there room for improvement? Are you a travel blogger and notice every other blog has great photos, but few videos or presentations? Or perhaps you notice all the other startup’s company blogs have generic logos or that everyone in your niche is sharing the same content on social media. Find weak spots among your competition to identify where to begin.

Use this to decide how you will bring creativity to your blog. Of course, your plan can (and should) evolve as you see what works and what doesn’t, but starting here is a good place to begin.

 

Step 3: Start communicating creativity before audiences ever reach your content.

Think about how many opportunities you have to plant ideas about your brand in your audience’s head before they even reach your content. To start, think of how they get to your site. How can you make your advertisements more creative, either by integrating creative touches within the ad content or using creative methods to reach new viewer? How is your blog’s meta-description language different from the others who come up in Google search results? What do you do that screams, “Come to my blog over the rest!” Integrate creative tactics for every step of your blog, including those leading to a visitor landing on your blog.

And of course, remember, landing pages matter. A lot! A creative landing page is one of the single most important moments for sticking your brand in your audiences’ mind. Integrating videos and highlighting focus keywords through design and font are all great ways to catch your audiences’ eyes.

Step 4: Don’t forget the little touches.

When creating a brand image, every little thing matters, and it’s important to ensure that they all fit with your desired message. Creativity doesn’t have to be grandiose – it can be as small as a rare social media link graphic or a dash of humor in your About Me page. Creativity is all about catching the visitor off guard – and making everything different is over-the-top and can defy this purpose. For example, pay attention to your logo to ensure it’s in line with the rest of your branding, and then add an unexpected touch of color to your color scheme or pick a unique font for standout content on your landing page. Creativity relies on little touches that draw the viewer’s eye and set you apart. Just like putting too much content can create an impression of clutter, so too can adding too many details because you think they are “creative.” Creativity is best when subtle, which is what makes it so powerful.

 

Step 5: Look at every piece of content you absorb through a creative lens.

When looking at others’ content online, start seeing the world through a creative lens. Notice what makes you pay attention and ask yourself why this company or advertisement was able to grab your focus. Chances are, you’ll notice a large part of it is due to good old creativity.

Let creativity funnel into every aspect of your blog. Use original marketing techniques and social media posts so you continuously communicate your ability to re-imagine the typical ways of doing things. An audience’s perception of you often comes from many different sources – an amazing Tweet you shared, a great logo, or an awesomely different landing page – every piece matters for creating the whole.

Daniel Glickman is the CMO of emaze. He loves analyzing marketing data and building strategic and tactical plans. 

Analytics for Content Marketers and Bloggers: What Do You Need to Track?

This is a guest contribution from Rizvan Ullah of Ranktactics.

The term “content marketing” refers to strategic marketing techniques where you create valuable and relevant content to attract a clearly defined audience. You’ll use this content to market a product and/or service in an attempt to generate profit through your blog or business. Since Google has changed the way they rank content, often giving higher rankings to that content which provides value, you can use this technique to dominate online. For example, imagine writing content on “link building” and mentioning a few products which streamlines your entire process. With an in-depth post, you can rank high enough and generate enormous commission through referrals. However, there’s a growing problem…

Many people are moving away from older marketing techniques because they are expensive, highly regulated (PPC) and provide little results, it’s becoming more important that you utilize content marketing more effectively. It’s no longer as simple as putting together 1500+ words hoping to generate sales because many bloggers are failing to analyze the long-term benefits. There’s NO point in writing 20 blog posts and none of them generating the desired results you want. It’s important to have the right tools in place and know what to look for so going forward your time equals money (T=M).

If your business relies on content to generate profit, then it’s important to analyze the right metrics and tweak them until you’ve achieved the desired results.

Let’s look at the five most important content marketing metrics to keep an eye on and how they can help double your conversions.

Desired Results

Before starting any type of campaign you need to determine what your trying to achieve. You need a “target” to compare your overall results making it easier for you to analyze how effective your campaign actually is. Through content marketing, you have many different types of desired results like profit, traffic, social media buzz, subscribers or even advertising conversions.

Once you determine what your trying to achieve, you can move into the next step which is production.

Before you continue, ask yourself this question…Through content marketing, am I trying to

  • Generate income through a product or service?
  • Increase traffic to my blog and/or website?
  • Increase user engagement (clicks, decrease bounce rate or forum interaction)?
  • Increase social buzz through shares and/or likes?
  • Double or triple email subscribers?
  • Generate income through advertising published within the content itself (banner ad, contextual, etc)?

Answering these questions will allow you to create a clear cut plan going forward. You can even tweak your content marketing to compliment your desired results. Once you determine your objective, it’s time to move to the next metric.  

Production

In order for you to generate a report, you need a trial group, in this case, a wide range of content to analyse. Without having a blog with content published you won’t be able to determine what’s working and/or what’s not. That’s why the “production” metric is so important because when you analyze the results, you’ll be able to see where most of the organic traffic is flowing or user engagement is occurring. The question is…

How much content do we need?

It’s no secret that Google loves a website which produces “high quality” content, and fresh content is great for brand awareness. However, if you’re not achieving the desired results then both high quality content and brand awareness doesn’t really matter. With that said, it’s important that you have enough content on your blog to provide results. For example, you need to ensure that you get a clear cut reading into what content, landing page, queries have been producing significant results. There are many FREE tools which will provide EXACTLY what you are looking for.

Google Analytics has been my tool of choice to analyze my data daily. It provides me with the information I need to tweak my content and landing pages. It’s a good idea to connect your Google Webmaster Tools with your Analytics so that you can get the entire reading under one platform. In the next step, you’ll learn how to correctly explore user engagement on your blog to pull out the information you need.

User Engagement

One of the best ways to analyze data is to view user engagement and how it’s increased or decrease over the weeks. These days you have many options available which will allow a reader to engage directly with your content. For example, you have: social shares, blog commenting, click through, bounce rate and even opt-ins. When you see an increase in engagement, it’s a great indication that your content resonates with your readers. The higher the engagement, the higher the chances you’ll achieve your desired results.

Once you find content which has high user engagement, you can tweak it to optimize conversions. For example, if I know that my “create a website from scratch” post has enormous shares and comments, I’ll strategically try different things to see what works well and if it achieves my desired results. If I want to increase email subscribers through content marketing, I’ll try placing opt-ins boxes in different places until I achieve optimal conversion.

Here are FREE user engagement insight tools to keep an eye on:

Facebook: When you publish content, look for the amount of Facebook “Likes” your content is receiving. If you notice that some content has much higher likes than others, then you can devote more effort into tweaking that content to increase your conversions. An indication of “Likes” will also provide you with a good idea of content which resonates with your readers.

Twitter: Add a “Tweet” button and analyze what content got shared on Twitter. Just like Facebook, the content shared several times is a good indication of where you should be focusing your attention. In the next section, you’ll learn how to make full use of engaging content.

Blog Commenting: I’ve been a big fan of blog comment because it increases interaction and provides content ideas. For example, many times people would often drop a question within the comment box which I can answer in-depth next time I publish content. Either way, analyzing the commenting between content on your blog will provide insight into what content works well with your audience.

Topsy: This is an awesome tool that many people don’t utilize to the full potential. It’s a great indication of the type of content which resonates with readers online.  Type in a keyword and Topsy.com will provide a breakdown of content which have the highest social shares, etc. How can you use this information?

If you plan on marketing a specific product or service, use Topsy.com to find what topic creates a massive buzz. Visit the 1st website on the list and create something better. You already know the content creates buzz so tweaking it into something more in-depth will work well for you.

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Bitly.com

A great way for you to track click-through rate and/or conversions is through Bitly.com. Bitly.com is a FREE URL shortener which you can embed into your contents external links. Every time someone clicks on an external link, it will be tracked within the Bitly backend. It’s a great way for you to find out which external links are being clicked and within what content. When you have enough data gathered you’ll be able to determine two very important metrcs:

First, you’ll be able to determine the content marketing strategy working through content creation. Next, what anchor text resonates with your reader, for example “buy now, “read more” or even interlinking structures.

The goal is to figure out where the conversions occur so time and effort can be focused around creating similar content with identical links.

Traffic

This metric still remains the most important of all providing you with information crucial to your content marketing strategy. For example, if you have traffic, your marketing strategy is working however if you don’t, you definitely need to do some damage control. The traditional traffic metrics include: organic, direct and referral. The good news is finding out this information is NOT difficult since all you need is a Google Analytics account.

Simply, log into Google Analytics, then click on Acquisition>All Traffic

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You have several metrics you can view under this dropdown which will provide you valuable information. It’s important to connect your GWT account to your GA so you get a breakdown of the queries & landing pages. Let’s see how you can use some of this information…

Organic Traffic: Acquisition through search queries and is FREE traffic. This means that content and corresponding keywords are ranking within the SERP’s. Depending on content marketing strategy an awesome way to build readership and/or get conversions.

Direct Traffic: A good indication of people who are loyal readers and know your URL. They regularly visit which means an awesome source providing user engagement via social shares, comments, etc

Referral: Many people don’t understand the power of referral traffic. This means that other platforms are sending traffic to your blog. For example, through social media, other blogs, social bookmarking, etc. The more referral traffic, the higher the user engagement however this can also mean that people are linking directly to your content which can build readership and your link profile.

When you connect your GWT to your GA, you can click on Search Engine Optimization under Acquisition and get a clear breakdown of the queries, landing pages and geographical structure. Now what?

Simple, I would analyze the highest performing pages, etc and optimize those with banner ads, email opt-in forms or even affiliate links to increase conversions.

Effect

All the metrics discussed are very important as they are solid indicators of a successful content marketing campaign, For example, “production” indicates how hard we are working while “user engagement” is a good indication of quality. “Traffic” can provide valuable information because it can shows progress overtime and what content should be the focus going forward. However, when analyzing the “effect” your content has had on your readership, nothing beats actual conversions. This is why it’s important to keep checking your statistics in affiliate networks, email platform or advertising network.

Content marketing is about achieving what we discussed in factor number #1 which is “desired results”. Personally, the effect of your content marketing is an easy metric to follow since the results depend on production, engagement and traffic. All that’s needed to track results is to log into your different platforms tracking sales, clicks, subscribers or anything else.

Wrapping Things Up…

Going forward, you’ll be surprised how important content marketing will be online. So far, over the past several months, we’ve seen Google implement changes to their algorithm focused on eliminating poor content pages. Let’s think for a minute…

If Google will be promoting high quality content especially which provides a complete resource to readers, it’s a great way to start marketing your products, services, etc. Obviously the focus should be on providing users with the best experience through your content however it’s a door which has just been opened to your marketing efforts. The only roadblock within content marketing is NOT finding out what works compared to what does. This is why having unique analytical tools in place is so essential. Start by using these metrics above and if you have more of a budget then others, you can purchase tools which will provide more in-depth analytics.

 

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.

5 Ways to Grow Your Blog Without Relying on Google Traffic

This is a guest contribution from Jerry Low.

Google is a b*tch

Like so many things on the web, the world of Google is constantly evolving – and while that flex can lead to good things, it also creates a volatile environment for bloggers and websites that rely on their search rankings – which, is pretty much all of them.

The short of it is that, while 90 percent of internet experiences begin with search – but of those, only a small fraction will move beyond the first two pages of results. Needless to say, there’s a reason so many people have invested in SEO to boost their ranking – but that volatility we were talking about makes that a huge risk as all of that work and investment could go out the window overnight should the algorithm changed. Which has happened many a time.

Google Penguin threw the SEO world into frenzy… and you’d think we’d have learned. But they did it to us again in September with the Panda 4.1 update – so much so that some sites are seeing more than a 70 percent loss in search visibility. As ever, we don’t know exactly what the algorithm changes were – only that they work to better hone in on quality content.

You need Google-less approach to build blog traffics

All of this having been said, Google’s algorithms are constantly changing – so it’s important to build your blog’s success in other ways. You know that saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” Apply that here.

Relying solely on Google’s organic search to drive traffic to your blog is simply not a good business model – you need to diversify. In this article, I am going to share a few strategies that work well for me – these are the mainly how I quadruple my site traffics ever since it got hit by Penguin in April 2012.

Strategy #1: Blog Commenting

First off, commenting on blogs is quite possibly the most overlooked method for building blog traffic – mostly because people suck at making quality, meaningful conversation with strangers (myself included). However, blog commenting is a quality method for building traffic that also happens to be free – can’t argue with that!

Blog commenting, NOT spamming

Let’s back up for a moment – I’m not talking about dropping a link out of the blue or spamming the blog owner with a “nice post – thank you” comment… those aren’t relevant, nor will they get you anywhere.

I’m talking about leaving a quality, helpful comment that intrigues the blog owner and their readers, making them want to learn more about you – which means you need to give other readers a reason (in your comment) to learn more about you.

Effective blog comment marketing

There are two golden rules to blog commenting:

(1) Always write a quality comment – meaning, if you don’t have something meaningful to add to the discussion, don’t leave a comment (Read: Do not leave “Thank you – great post” comments… they’re useless); and

(2) Only drop a link where appropriate – don’t spam, no matter how tempting it may be; it will backfire on you. While not a golden rule, perhaps, it is important – if you leave a link, don’t just give your blog’s URL – instead, link to a relevant post of your own that contributes to the original post and discussion… that relevancy is key.

Real life scenario: Blog commenting done right

Here’s a great example of someone who has done it right:

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For starters, Mr. Miller goes into some detail, offering unique perspective relevant to the original post while also letting readers know about him and his relevancy to the topic. By sharing his own experience, he displays his own expertise in the search field, earning my attention and drawing me to learn more about him… so much so that I clicked on his Moz profile and now follow him on Twitter.

This is how it works… and did I mention that it’s free?

Strategy #2: Freebies marketing

This one is fairly straightforward – after all, who doesn’t like getting something for free?

You, the blogger, will provide readers with an incentive – something free in exchange for joining your email list, subscribing to a newsletter, submitting a giveaway entry… you get the idea.

However, not all freebies are good on their own – you need to think outside the box when you promote them so that you provide the public and other bloggers a reason to talk about your freebie and link back to your blog… the whole point is to get traffic, after all. Beyond that reason, you need to think like your audience – where does your target audience hang around? Where can you best reach them? Venue is just as important as getting your freebie out there in the first place.

Use freebies as a reason to reach out

Also, when you launch your freebie, don’t just sit on your laurels and wait for the visitors to come – you need to stay active, reaching out to influencers to let them know about your giveaway; otherwise, you’re leaving too much up to chance and missing opportunities.

As for your actual freebie – it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg; what it does need to do is hold relevancy and value to your target audience.

For example, if you are selling your cooking ebook no your blog, you’ll likely want to stay active on mommy blogs or other cooking blogs where your target audience is likely to reside – giving away free recipes on those blogs is a great way reach that audience and intrigue them to learn more about you (and your own blog).

Real life scenario: Free icons at Web Hosting Secret Revealed

Another example – my core business at Web Hosting Secret Revealed (WHSR) is promoting hosting services.

Rather than squeezing into the crowded Google SERP, I’ve found better odds targeting web designers who likely have use for my hosting advice… to land a seat with that audience, I’ve created loads of freebies. Those loads of free icons? Yep – freebies targeted to my primary audience. The free icons actually earned substantial attention from the blogosphere, bringing in new visitors and social followers. If you’re interested, these are just a few of the blogs that featured our free icons:

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Strategy #3: Crowd Sourcing Post

Crowd sourcing is a way of playing in the sandbox with the other kids.

You’ll leverage the reach of other bloggers, customers, business owners, etc., getting a seat in front of their audience for your blog.

The best way to get this moving is to invite others who could benefit from the cross promotion (or simply want their link on your website) to publish their opinions or tips on your blog. The get for them is that they get their own backlink while also getting to establish themselves with your audience – and, since they’re likely to want to share their being featured as an expert outside of their own site, they’re likely to share your post with their own audiences.

Real life scenario: How I did it?

For example, to create this crowd-sourcing post, I reached out to roughly 30 bloggers, asking for their past blogging mistakes. The response was overwhelming and led to tons of new traffic, social media shares, and blog mentions… for free!

Like I said – playing nicely in the sandbox with others.

Strategy #4: (Creative) Social Media Marketing

Social media is a no-brainer – it’s free and a great way to find and grow your audience.

That said, sometimes making that social media endeavor a winner is a bit of a puzzle.

Remember that quality content is key to social media marketing success.

Key to success: Quality content, timing, headlines, creativity, connection with influencers

Before you can drive traffic to your blog, you need to give readers a reason to follow you; the best way is to provide quality content. Take a stand and don’t be afraid to speak your mind – then, write a quality post about it. Here’s a great example from Sean Davis about his frustration creating web forms with Aweber. It’s relevant to a specific audience, it has a voice, and it’s identifiable – net, net; there’s a benefit.

Secondly, timing is everything. Your audience is bound to have peak times and low times that they use social media – time your posts accordingly by applying intel learned from Simply Measured free tools.

problogger_ajkohnWhile a book can’t be judged by its cover, that cover certainly catches eyes – so make a point to write interesting headlines. UpWorthy has a rule that, for each post, you should write 25 headlines – the idea is that your thinking will evolve and you will better hone your message as you let your ideas filter and play on one another. Whether 25 is your magic number, I don’t know – but I do like and stand behind the idea.

Next, don’t forget the value of images. Use as many as possible – not just to add color to your page or because “you’re supposed to,” but to actually add value and make your content more digestible and appealing. Ditch the clipart and instead look to infographics, flow charts, memes, and scenery – they’re evergreen and a great way to attract a social media following. Also, in my own experience, I’ve found that using tall graphics and writing meaty content improved my Google+ engagement rate by 8,400% in one of my recent posts… yes, that’s right; 8400%.

Finally, be fun and creative. Take the lead from AJ Kohn’s Google+profile… okay, yes – people follow him anyway for sound SEO advice, but I bet there are also many followers who were attracted by his beautiful scenery photos.

 

Strategy #5: Q&A Platforms

Forums are another great place to get a seat in front of your relevant, interested audience. The trick is to monitor ongoing conversations in your niche so that you can chime in when you have something helpful to say (and no, not every post is going to be an opportunity – but some will). You’ll need a good feed reader, such as Feedly, to make this work.

Not finding an exact fit or enough on-the-dot opportunities?

Create some custom content relevant to a particularly hot conversation. For example, if someone asks how to do something with .htaccess code, you could write a tutorial and post it to your blog – then, in the Q&A section of the site, respond to the requester with a teaser, linking them to your blog to get the full codes and demos. Odds are that if one person asked the question, others have that same question – and your forum answer and link will live on to advise them as well when the time comes.

Real life scenario: Where to start?

In terms of which Q&A platforms to use, I recommend Quora, Klout, and Yahoo! Answers – these are three of the best general Q&A platforms out there. If you are a publisher selling programming books, StackOverflow is right up your alley – at a minimum, ask your writers to stay active on the site. For travel bloggers, I highly advise staying active on Trip Advisor.

Bonus: Sponsor, speak at, or organize an event

Here’s something that lots of people overlook: you can market your blog offline. Events are a great opportunity to establish yourself as a leader in your space and to promote your blog in the process.

Real life scenario: ProBlogger Event

Take for example Darren who created Pro Blogger to fill a void. Initially created as a roundtable concept for bloggers, the event grew substantially in just two years – so much so that more than 30 speakers had access to an audience 550+ strong. Can you imagine getting to speak to a relevant audience of that size – and directing those attendees to your blog? That’s potentially 550 new hits in just one day.

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Some events will invite speakers, whereas others take submissions. Do some searching and see what you can find – odds are there’s a relevant opportunity for you, but in the off chance there’s not, take a page from Darren’s book and launch your own. And when you do get that opportunity, don’t be shy – shamelessly shill for your blog, Pinterest boards, Twitter handle – you name it. Be a real resource and offer attendees a way to continue getting value from your experience.

What’s next?

One thing often overlooked: getting that traffic is only a part of the game – you still need to know what to do with it.

Remember that you’ll need to focus on maintaining that traffic – so focus on creating an ongoing conversation and way to continue the dialogue. Landing pages are key here, providing you a quick way to get information from and to your reader.

When your visitor lands on your landing page, make it clear what you want them to do – that could be signing up for your newsletter, following you on Twitter, commenting on your blog – the list goes on. The point is, be clear and direct – this is not the time to be coy. Also, take the opportunity to include a sign-up form that collects their email address; this is a seamless way to grow your brand and create remarketing opportunities.

There are plenty of ways to grow your blog’s traffic – without relying on Google. Better yet? Most of them are free!

Have a method I missed or questions about one I included? Please share your thoughts below.

 

Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets. Get his best blogging and growth hacking advice here.

Never Too Soon: Using Your Blog to Generate Sales During the Holiday Season

Another holiday season is fast approaching, and that means websites are scrambling to ready killer campaigns (or have already launched them) that will generate North Pole-sized sales. For those fortunate enough to have a wealth of resources at their disposal, this will mean lavish advertising campaigns that will feature them prominently on the most highly-trafficked sites on the net.

Those with more moths in their digital wallet than Benjamins will need to rely on other assets, one of their most prized ones being their blog. While blogging and SEO have always been valuable tools in the online marketing arsenal, the paradigm is shifting, and quality content is now more important than ever.

There’s two reasons for that. On the one hand, Google’s search engine has evolved to put less emphasis on keywords and more of it on other aspects of a post’s content and quality. These changes will continue to happen as Google’s crusade for an unadulterated Internet only increases. And on the other hand, search engines and SEO are no longer the primary method to attract eyeballs in the first place. Instead, social media and social sharing have become a prominent means through which content is found and consumed.

That, more than anything else, is why quality is king. While search engines can still be tricked, real people can’t; or at least not quite so easily. Your blog post has to strike a chord with readers, a powerful chord; a “this post was so cool I just have to share it with my friends” chord.

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At the same time, your post has to be a little self-promotional. It’s not entirely enough just to get people there, to read your post and depart. You need them to read your post, love it and share it themselves, but to also draw something from it and become interested in what you’re selling. That is a very difficult balancing act.

 

The Art of Sharing

 

 Firstly, you need to understand what content is being shared. Contrary to popular opinion about the attention spans of the internet hordes, long-form content is shared far more often than short-form. In fact, the longer and longer it gets, the more likely it becomes that it will be shared. Sharers clearly respect the effort put into longer pieces, and that effort is finally being rewarded by the internet.

 

Meanwhile, on the emotion front, readers tend to share awe-inspiring or humorous posts more than anything else. 46% of all shared posts were deemed to be either humorous, joyous, or amusing, and 25% awe-inspiring, according to a study conducted by OkDork. People want to share pleasing content, not something that will bring their friends down.

 

The easiest of those emotions to hit is probably humor. While it’s hard to inspire awe or joy in some subject matter, you can always sneak humor in (like I could put something funny in this bracket right here if I wasn’t so lazy; don’t be lazy!).

 

Tying it All Together With a Pretty Bow

 

In the end though, it all needs to tie-in with your product(s), encouraging your now-joyous readers to either look into other information on your website, return later for more information, or head straight to your checkout so your online payment processor (and hopefully you have a good one that won’t butcher that final, crucial step and will also be cost-effective for you) can rack up another sale for you. All of these are crucial to succeeding in an online sale. Your blog content can drive them there, but your inefficient and non- user-friendly shopping cart can drive them away just as quickly.

 

The content needs to be engaging, but also self-promotional. In this sense, your blog post should almost borderline on a sales letter masquerading as shareable content with a catchy title, a very personable (and personal) feel, and laden with humor. It should skillfully extol the virtues of your product or service in a way that feels fun and non-aggressive. Finding something shareable to talk about in your industry should be quite simple to not only come across, but to write about in an educated manner. After all, you are an expert in your industry, and your customers will surely think of you as such should you deliver consistently as both a content provider and retailer.

 

One possible way to pull this off is to compare your product to another comparable one, but not a direct competitor. Say you’re selling a motorized skateboard, instead of trying to attack other products in that niche, take a shot at regular skateboards instead with your blog post “5 Reasons Why Pushing a Skateboard with Your Foot is soooo 1990’s”.

 

You’ve just created an article concept with the potential to be a fun, viral success, while innocuously touting your own product and generating interest and potential sales for it. Congratulations. Now get to it; these blog posts (and the jokes in their brackets) don’t write themselves. Good luck!

 

Owen Andrew is a tech journalist and Apple enthusiast. When he’s not writing or drooling over the latest Apple announcement, he’s usually hanging with his kids and doing family activities. Feel free to give him a shout on G+ or Facebook

Effective Planning for Video Content

This is a guest contribution from Robert Benoit.

Video production is a great way to engage and expand an audience, whether it is for a blog, website or business venture.

Whether you’re an established blogger or simply trying to break into film production, developing a video requires the consideration of some key pieces before, during, and after the green light process.

If you’re thinking of diving into video production, the following tips may give you the edge you need to create the best video content without spending more than you need to.

Establish a budget

  • You can only imagine how often people will go into the production of a video and spend more than they have. This can be a disastrous situation, it’s best to avoid it and be smart. You want the video you’re making to be the first of many, not the last, so sit down and decide on a set amount of money you’re willing to spend on the production. This will save time and money in the long run.
  • Bonus Tip: It is important to map out the length of the production to estimate how long it will take to film. Quickness and efficiency will be an essential component to this process!

Think about your audience

  • Based on your business or interests there has to be a certain audience you want to reach with this production. Are you a musician trying to send a certain message or a small business attempting to reach those in the public that would benefit from your product? No matter what the message or purpose, there is an audience waiting for you to grab their attention.
  • Therefore, it is important to think about your audience before deciding the content of your video to ensure it is a piece of content they enjoy and like. Think about their interests, behaviours and what they like about your blog or business and be sure to incorporate these into the video in some way. This helps to ensure the video is relevant for your desired audience and is something they find enjoyable and interesting.

Storyboard your ideas

  • A beneficial part of this process is storyboarding as it allows you to organize the story you wish to tell and how you can visually achieve it. By analysing your video content frame by frame before filming, you will have an idea of what pieces of it work and can redesign the ones that might not. How can you determine this?
  • Look at the still frames and think, which ones enrich the emotion and theme of the content. Those are the ones you definitely need to include in your video.

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Tools of engagement

 

  • While raw video footage is the skeletal structure of your project, video-editing effects are what allow the viewer to engage with the content and understand the overall message you’re trying to convey.
  • Remember the film “2001: A Space Odyssey?” Near the beginning of the film, ‘The Dawn of Man’ segment shows apes violently using bones to beat each other and then the bone is thrown into the air. Then the frame immediately cuts to a space satellite, four million years later! Kubrick makes a match cut from one time period to the next. What he’s trying to relay to the viewer is that humanity at one time was primitive and now views itself as technologically advanced.

 

 

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  • An effect used largely in the “Star Wars” film franchise by George Lucas is the wipe effect. This is utilized when a scene ends where a line wipes the previous scene away on screen and simultaneously reveals the next scene.

Why use this effect? It can establish an emphasis on events taking place linearly, allowing for action to blend with more action in two different places.

Be original

  • The single, most important thing you can do to arrive at the best video content possible from a production is to be original. Standing out from the crowd and avoiding secondary ideas will show in the final product, presenting the world with a video that is unlike anything else is the goal of any video production. Never forget to keep in mind “originality” above all else.

Now it’s up to you to take the necessary steps towards your successful video production. Believe in yourself and do your best to enjoy the process from start to finish. Careful planning pre-production is key, if you want it to go as smoothly as possible and remember the purpose of your video and the audience it is being aimed at, at all times during production. Ultimately, originality and relevance are the two most important features of a video. As long as it is something relevant to your target audience that they haven’t seen before they are sure to love it.

Robert Benoit is an intern at Phink TV who is currently studying English Writing and Mass Communication at Assumption College. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and is currently studying abroad in London. His future aspirations include film production and professional scriptwriting, as well as a passion for developing creative works.