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12 Blogging Lessons I Learned From Maxim Magazine

This guest post is by Tom Treanor of Right Mix Marketing.

Maxim magazine. It’s banned in my house (unless it’s used for research purposes).

With its revealing covers, dependence on taboo topics, and issues jam-packed with girls, booze, and cars, you’d think researching Maxim magazine would lead to a wasteland for any type of valuable lessons.

I decided to find out what makes Maxim tick and to understand why its target audience is such a dedicated bunch. If you’ve seen one issue of bikini-clad models, you’ve seen ‘em all. Right? How does Maxim keep the faithful coming back every month for more?

Turns out you can learn a lot of lessons that can be applied directly to blogging.

Here are the 12 most valuable lessons I took away from Maxim. (Hey, someone has to do the heavy lifting!)

1. Know your target audience, focus on their interests, and deliver the content they want

Maxim‘s audience is 78% male. 90% of its readers are between 18 and 49 (see the demographics here). The audience cares about women, drinking, cars, gadgets, sports, fitness and entertainment. Maxim includes an assortment of content related to these topics in each issue.

Key questions: Who is your blog’s target audience? What are their interests and are you delivering the valuable content that they are looking for?

2. If you’re about making money, focus on topics that sell

If you’re a non-profit, you may have a different goal. But if you’re blogging for a business or if you’re trying to use blogging as a business, you need to focus on topics that people are willing to pay money for. These topics include things like health, sports, gadgets, dating, sex and entertainment. Maxim focuses on a selection of very profitable niches.

Key questions: Are you fighting an uphill battle writing about a topic that no one cares about? Are you focusing on areas that no one will ever be willing to pay money for?

3. You need to take a creative approach, even for “no brainer” topics

Look, I know you think that a magazine like Maxim has it easy. Just put pictures and articles about sex, booze, and sports and you’re done. The reality is that they need to keep the audience interested. They have to come up with unique angles for topics that have been covered a million times already. Remember, they have to get people to pay their hard-earned money for this. If they don’t give them a reason to keep coming back, they won’t!

Examples:

  • “Leave The Puck, Take the Cannoli: How’d the Stanley Cups champs blow our $848″: Don’t just write about the NHL Stanley Cup winners. Why not give them an odd amount of money and tell the story of how they spend it?
  • “Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Porn Stars”: Maxim includes a twist on a tired topic.

Key questions: How are you breathing life into a tired topic? What new twists are you including in your blog to keep your readers coming back for more? Are you suffering blogger’s block?

4) Pictures, pictures, pictures

Maxim uses pictures to its advantage. On the cover and within the magazine. Enough said.

Key question: People love pictures. If you’re sharing your post via social media, it often includes a picture or thumbnail. Are you giving pictures the attention that they deserve on your blog?

5. Lists are still king!

Humans are naturally wired to read articles that include lists. Magazines have known this for a long time and Maxim is no exception. On the cover of the January 2012 issue, in bold lettering: “37 Ways To Rule Winter—The Best Snowboards, Snowball Makers & Snow Bunny Hangouts”.

Key question: Are you using lists to your (and your readers’) advantage on your blog? Ignore lists at your peril.

6. Compelling headlines (and pictures) drive sales and readership

Headlines are constantly streaming throughout the internet on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Digg, Delicious and all of the rest of the social media, social bookmarking and social news sites.

Is this any different than the traditional magazine rack where pictures and headlines scream out for attention? We’ve covered pictures earlier but don’t ignore the headlines. If you have ten minutes before a trans-Pacific flight and you’re picking a magazine or two for the trip, how do the headlines factor into your decision-making process?

Example Maxim headlines:

  • “Instant Threesomes! (OK, they’re cocktail recipes)”
  • “Bite Club – Inside the Sinister, Salty World of Snack Food”

Key question: Do your headlines pass the airport magazine rack test?

7. It’s not a one-way “conversation”

It may be a surprise to think about it this way, but a magazine is not just a one-way communication vehicle. For example, Maxim runs contests and includes reader input in a portion of their articles. Not to mention the interaction that can happen on a magazine’s blog, website and social media outposts.

Key questions: How are you fostering reader engagement? Are you treating your blog like a monologue or a dialogue?

8. How-Tos are a staple

Like lists, how-tos are another staple of magazines. Just look at the magazine rack next time you leave the grocery store. Two “important” how-tos from Maxim include the following:

  • “How Can I Open A Beer Bottle With My Teeth?”
  • “Reboot Your Life—reform your life for 2012″ (including multiple how-to articles on money, health, sex, tech, betting, food)

Key question: Are you teaching your audience how to do things that are important to them?

9. Include celebrity

Maxim doesn’t live on sex, booze, and sports alone. It also benefits from the glow that celebrities can lend to a magazine, book, movie, or TV show. Included in the January issue are JWoww from the Jersey Shore TV show (celebrity is relative), the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard and his vehicles, and Snowboarder Shaun White on music, movies and gold medals.

Key question: Are you including information about or content from influencers or “celebrities” in your industry?

10. Utilize third-party research and spot industry patterns

Maxim included summaries of studies in an “Analyze This” section, including highlights of studies done on pick-ups, movies, happiness and money. It also included a “Sexy in stitches” article featuring recently injured actresses Halle Berry (broken foot), Reese Witherspoon (gash on forehead), and Bar Rafaeli (broken arm).

Key question: Are you including your own take on industry research and are you actively “connecting the dots” for your readers?

11. Storytelling is not dead

Even Maxim magazine would suffer if there was no drama. No human stories. No narrative. The January issue included a multiple page article about a “prolific art forger” who has never been arrested, entitled, “The Most Famous Painting In The World … And It’s A Fake.”

Key questions: Are you bringing stories into your writing? Do you include any drama, mystery or surprises in your blog?

12. Respond to audience feedback

Most magazines includes a reader letters section. Maxim is no different. In their “Ranting and Raving” section they respond to the good and the bad from their readers.

Key questions: Are you afraid to respond to your readers? Do you ignore the bad and only focus on the good? Are you responding to feedback?

It was tough duty but these are the 12 blogging lessons that I took away from the January 2012 issue of Maxim magazine. I suggest you go back over the key questions and see where you might have gaps in your blogging strategy.

Okay, your turn. What other blogging lessons can we learn from magazines?

Tom Treanor is the founder of Right Mix Marketing, which helps businesses of all sizes with Content Marketing Strategy. Sign up for his free e-Course on Creative Blogging.

Pageviews are Good. Pagereads are Better.

This guest post is by Paula Pant of Afford-Anything and Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Have you noticed how so many blogs are just … terrible?

There’s no polite way to say it. The writing is garbage, the design inelegant, the content inane. A bird pecking at a worm-scented keyboard could craft more interesting thoughts.

We always thought the people responsible for these blogs are idiots. But lately we’ve wondered if we have it backwards, and they’re the shrewd ones.

Pick a business model. Optimize it.

We—Paula and Greg—run different blogs, but with a similar business model. We each work toward building a following of true fans who respect us as authorities within our niche, personal finance. We want our readers to buy our books, listen to our lectures, attend our workshops and tune into our radio shows. We want editors of respected publications to tap us for freelance assignments.

So we put our full names and our faces on our work. We obsess over wording, paragraph spacing, and dangling participles. We’re each building a platform that, if you’ll excuse the cliché, is the foundation of our “brand.”

Writing quality content is a pain. From our experience, it can take up to four hours to write a worthwhile post. The return on time expended, at least in the beginning, is almost negligible.

It’s a long-term strategy, but a risky one. It might lead to recognition and fortune, or it might never amount to anything.

Strategically mindless content

Some bloggers have a different business model. They want to sell text links. Period. They know companies are willing to shell out a few hundred dollars per link to get some SEO juice, and these bloggers are hungry to sell.

Quality content is unimportant under such a model. Having a base of loyal readers is meaningless. The only important measure is PageRank, so these bloggers concentrate on building backlinks. Higher PageRank leads to more money.

If you’re blogging for people, rather than for backlinks … well, having an ardent fan base can help your PageRank, if indirectly. Devoted readers might consciously link to a site they love. But if PageRank is all you care about, waiting for your readers to promote your blog (while you spend hundreds of hours writing quality posts) is an inefficient use of your time. The more direct way to improve PageRank is to spend a few minutes pumping out garbage, then devote the rest of your time to activities that directly build rank—such as commenting on do-follow blogs.

Yet another class of bloggers uses a business model that centers on advertising impressions. These entrepreneurs optimize their blogs around any activity that maximizes pageviews. The people behind these blogs don’t care about bounce rate; they just need a five-second click.

Neither compare nor despair

If you have a passion for conveying your findings to your readers in a compelling way, you can get frustrated if you measure yourself against bloggers who only care about eyeballs (irrespective of any brains they might be connected to.)

It’s almost misleading to refer to both the mercenaries and those who go to the trouble of crafting quality posts as “bloggers”. They’re selling different commodities to different clients. Ian Bostridge, Lil Wayne, and a guy who makes his living recording commercial jingles are all technically “singers”, but they have nothing else in common. Forget apples to oranges; we’re comparing apples to cats to unicorns.

If you take time to create worthwhile content and delight your readers, reasoning that the financial rewards will come later, do yourself a favor and stop comparing yourself to bloggers who would sell their mothers for an inbound link. It’ll drive you crazy. Sooner or later, preferably sooner, you have to ask yourself: Am I blogging to share my unique perspective and contributions with the world, or am I only after revenue? It’s not a rhetorical question.

It’s easy to forget that blogging is a nascent industry. Its rules are still being written, and most of them haven’t been finalized yet. PageRank will remain meaningful only as long as it continues to be considered the gold standard of link analysis algorithms. That doesn’t necessarily mean forever. The same goes for cost-per-impression vs. other pricing models: advertisers will eventually discover a surefire method of targeting 30,000 qualified prospects, as opposed to 100,000 drones who’ll never buy.

But until the day the robots achieve sentience, there will always be an audience for innovative content spawned from inquisitive human minds. And unlike link analysis or pageview counts, worthwhile content is impossible to engineer artificially.

That doesn’t mean readers will flock to a well-written but underpublicized site. The successful paint-by-numbers bloggers know this all too well, which is why they choose to value backlinks over content.

We’re betting against that strategy. In the long term, the bloggers who downplay content do so at their own peril, as they forgo the opportunity to build long-term connections with readers. These bloggers will never sell ancillary products nor other brand extensions. Their blogs resonate no more loudly than supermarket flyers do.

Any moron can go through the mechanical steps of commenting on do-follow blogs and submitting to link exchange directories. But if you’re willing to develop a voice that readers will instantly recognize as yours, you’ll set yourself apart from the bloggers with neither the aptitude nor the desire to do so.

Paula Pant has traveled to 27 countries, purchased a 99-year-old Victorian home near central Atlanta’s most beautiful park, and has never — ever — had a penny in debt. Her blog, Afford Anything, is based on one radical idea: money can fuel your wildest dreams.

 

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

 

What’s the Secret to Monetizing Social Media?

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

Have you been able to make money from social media? Has your effort and time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and your own blog paid off?

If you’re like most bloggers, you probably realize it’s not so easy. However, no matter how difficult it seems, it’s not impossible.

Just like Darren Rowse of Problogger, there are people and companies out there who are turning a profit with social media. Let me introduce them to you and show you how they do it.

Step 1: Build brand awareness and traffic

I love what Gary Vaynerchuk says in this interview when asked, “How do you monetize social media?” His answer: the same way you monetize any other media.

Vaynerchuk says that from newspapers to magazines, to blogs and commercials, advertising has been the backbone of social media monetization. However, he points out that you shouldn’t even be thinking about monetization until you’ve built up traffic and brand awareness.

Fortunately, when it comes to traffic and sales, the news is good for you. In a study done earlier this year by HubSpot, they discovered that blogs with at least 51 posts see 53% more traffic than blogs with fewer than 50, but more than 20 posts.

Furthermore, you’ll see three times the traffic if your blog has over 100 posts. Two hundred or more posts? You’ll see almost 4.5 times the result.

So, your first step to monetizing your blog is to drive adequate traffic to it, which as the HubSpot report showed comes down to consistently producing good content, whether it is interviews, podcasts or useful copy on a daily basis.

Step 2: Build audience engagement

Social media is all about conversation. Companies who think that the conversation is one-sided and do nothing but pump out sales promotions tend to look at social media as a necessary evil. In addition, they don’t tend to be as profitable, which just re-enforces their bad attitudes about social media.

But running an effective social media campaign is all about creating engagement with your audience. If you don’t have that engagement, then trying to monetize it will not work.

One company who is doing social media right is PETCO. They have a really strong presence on the social web with their Facebook page and YouTube Channel. Both these channels generate a lot of comments and discussions.

PETCO is generating all of this engagement by asking their audience specific questions about their pets, their pets’ diets and other concerns pet owners might have. Why are they going through all this effort to engage their audience?

Well, as you get to know your audience, you can start to give them more of the content they care about. As you give them the content they want they become more engaged. And it’s a whole lot easier to promote a product to an audience that is engaged.

Step 3: Monetize with online advertising

Once you’ve built consistent traffic to social media sites and built up your brand and credibility through meaningful conversations, you can start thinking about making money with advertising.

The most basic form of advertising is simply to put ads on your website. According to the 2011 Technorati State of the Blogosphere, of the bloggers who put advertising on their blogs, 60% use self-serve tools, while 50% have affiliate advertising links on their site.

Want an example of what this looks like? This is the Problogger sidebar:

If you don’t like the idea of displaying an ad across your website or blog, you could offer an advertiser a page devoted to their product or service.

Still another way you could make money is to charge for a membership into a teaching series, club or software, like SEOMoz and Copyblogger do.

Or do it like Darren Rowse does and create information products that people buy, like his popular 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Of course these options only work if you have highly engaged, consistent traffic coming to your site, so don’t jump the gun. Get the traffic first, the trust second, and then sell your audience something.

Step 4: Monetize with applications

Another monetization, traffic-building trick is to offer apps.

Some people generate income through their social sites by building software apps to sell. But if you think about, providing free apps is a great way to drive traffic to your blog or Facebook page.

The best apps are those that have a purpose or solve a need. For example, ROI calculators and keyword research tools are popular apps that solve meaningful problems. People will come to your site to use them.

A lot of well-known companies use apps to interact with their loyal customers. For instance, through Gucci Connect loyal customers used their smart phones and tablets to see a Milan fashion show from the comfort of their homes. They could watch runway footage live and behind-the-scenes videos. Live chats were included through Facebook and Twitter. Throughout these experiences Gucci exposed its audience to offers, making money off of all that traffic.

Wordstream uses its AdWords Performance Grader application to drive traffic to their site and capture leads. This app promises a week’s worth of analysis in less than 60 seconds. The goal is to get you to come to their site, use the free tool and then consider buying their PPC management software.

You can also give away basic plans for applications to drive traffic and capture leads, like Survey Monkey and KISSinsights do. These limited plans drive traffic to their sites through social media, leading to future sales as they send promotions to these users.

So whether you give away the app to build traffic that can lead to sales from other products or sell the app itself, software applications offer you the opportunity to monetize your social media. Let’s look at another example.

Step 5: Offer special promotions

Some companies monetize social media traffic by tweeting deals to their audience. An operator of luxury hotels in California called Joie De Vivre  tweets exclusive deals every week to their Twitter. These followers only have a few hours to act on these deals. How well does Joie De Vivre do with this strategy? They typically books about 1,000 rooms that might remain vacant.

Even large companies like Virgin use social media effectively. For example, the fourth-highest sales day for Virgin America came when they tweeted, “$5 donated to KIPP Schools for every flight booked today.”

Offering special discounts is really easy to do. Here are some ideas:

  • Post on Twitter and Facebook that you’ve dropped the price on your ebook to 99 cents for the weekend.
  • Go on a guest posting spree teaching people how to use web analytics … offering half your consultations fee in your byline.
  • Build an email newsletter list that promises special discounts on the products that you sell to subscribers.

Can you think of any other ways to share special promotions via social media?

Step 6: Retain customers through social media

Finally, while social media is really easy to monetize once you’ve got the engaged audience, don’t forget that you should also use social media as a customer service tool. Just because you’ve closed the deal doesn’t mean your job selling is done.

See, it’s also about keeping all those people who are buying your products happy after the purchase. It’s about keeping them loyal … and you do that by retaining and increasing mind share of your brand through good customer service.

In fact, notice the top three interactions users want from social media are incentives, solutions to their product problems and to give their feedback on your business:

In other words, people expect you to use social media to answer customer service questions.  In fact, according to Debbie Hemley and Heidi Cohen, you can actually enhance your customer service through social media in 12 ways:

  1. give business a human face
  2. listen to what customers are saying
  3. proactively engage with prospects and customers
  4. provide additional product-related content
  5. answer product-related questions
  6. supply alternative contact channel
  7. give customers a channel to talk to each other
  8. share customer feedback
  9. celebrate your customers
  10. show customers behind the scenes
  11. make special offers
  12. create new purchase options

When you provide an excellent customer service experience through social media, you will continue to build traffic to those sites as people go from being prospects to customers to rabid fans. Monetizing your social media will only get easier.

Conclusion

In the end, you can make money from social media when you have an integrated strategy that includes building traffic to your site, developing your brand, choosing the right products and advertising channels, offering promotions and enhancing your customer service.

What methods and tools are you using to make money with social media?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

5 Reasons Why Dai Ling Ping is Going to Win On YouTube in 2012

This guest post is by David Edwards of A Sitting Duck.

I’ve just passed three years on YouTube and I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved so far.

But over the last few months I’ve become mates with a guy who owns one of the fastest growing channels in the UK—and he started just over a year ago. Dai Ling Ping has gone from zero to over 25,000 subscribers! It’s awesome for an individual to achieve this.

I’m blown away by how quickly his brand is growing and even though you may not be into video games, you will still be able to take some notes from his story and start something of your own. Get your pen and paper ready, here’s what Dai has done!

1. He uploads five videos a week

Most top YouTubers usually produce one video a week. I know that, within the animation industry, the top guys try to get one video live every calendar month, as their work is more time-consuming. But Dai is cranking them out. He’s not dwelling on the fact that some videos get a few hundred views and others are getting thousands, he just keeps on going!

2. He is part of something big

What ever subject you choose, you should always think of yourself as being part of something much bigger than you. For instance, Dai got involved with the Machinima network, which has a database of millions of gamers all over the world. If they like one of Dai’s videos, they can get it in front of hundreds of thousands of people very quickly.

3. He leverages his most popular video

Dai has a video titled “My House”—it even ranks top on the search engines, having racked up over 500,000 views. And his other videos are feeding off the success of this one.

On YouTube, you have two spaces beneath the video to promote your other works. Also, YouTube will line your other videos above and on the right hand side of the displayed video automatically. So, if you have a popular video, be sure to add others—don’t give those valuable spaces away to other YouTubers.

4. He is always looking for the next big thing

Because he’s organized with making videos, if something breaks out on the news, Dai can create a video on that topic within a few hours, and send it straight to his subscribers. Sometimes his videos rank next to the original news story on YouTube!

5. He is original

Many people are getting a bit stuck online now because they don’t know what information to read and what to do.

By keeping it simple, cranking out funny videos and illustrations, and chatting with his fans in the comments, Dai has built something that is growing faster than he could ever control. Because he invented the Dai Ling Ping character, he will eventually be able to make some big profits from original merchandise sales.

You may find some of Dai’s videos offensive, due to bad language. But if I was half as productive as Dai I would be sitting on a lot more subscribers today! Comedian Ricky Gervais once said “always produce more than you hope” and in the online market that has never been more true!

David Edwards is the founder of http://www.asittingduck.com and produces animations over at www.youtube.com/asittingducktv

Confessions of a Narcissistic Blogger

This guest post was written by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice.

I came across this interesting quote from psychologist Alexander Lowen:

“To experience joy, one must be free of anxieties about letting go and expressing feeling. Or to put it differently, one has to be carefree and innocent as a child.”—Alexander Lowen

Masks

Image copyright stock.xchng user bluegum

I would like to experience more joy. Wouldn’t you? Isn’t joy what life is really about?

I first got into writing because I felt this explosion of feeling, like I could release everything I was on the page and fill it with beautiful and terrible truths. Sometimes I get so excited about writing, my eyes fill with tears. It’s a great experience.

This is life experienced to its fullest. But then I look at my pageviews and my game face goes on. All I care about is the numbers. Immediately, my joy fizzles out like soda gone flat.

Lowen continues, “Narcissists are neither carefree nor innocent.” Have I become a narcissist? Here are four narcissistic blogger tendencies:

1. You worry about your image

Is my design interesting enough? Will viewers bounce immediately after seeing it? Are my tweets funny enough? Do I post/tweet too much? Do I post/tweet too little?

2. You attempt to get people to respond to you the way you want them to

Why aren’t people commenting? How do I get them to comment more? I need more comments!

3. If you’re not in control, you become panicky

My views were supposed to go up this week! Why are they going down? Why aren’t people sharing my Tweet? It was really funny! Why the heck aren’t people commenting?

4. You look for ways to make people do what you want them to do

Read my blog. Comment on my blog. Share my blog. Like my blog. Tweet my blog. Please retweet. If my views don’t go up, I’ll be an insecure wreck.

Do you have any of these tendencies? I know I do.

True confession: One time I went to a party with some friends just after publishing a really great blog post. When I got there, I didn’t have a deep connection with the divine. Instead, I felt, These people are lucky to have me. I’m a really good writer. What a great resource I am for them.

I cared more about my image than spending quality time with the people I loved.

Not quite five tips to become less narcissistic and experience more joy

The truth is that I’d like to give you five tips on how to be less narcissistic. I’d like to give you seven bullet points on how to be a more loving, less self-conscious, more joyful person.

But I’m not sure it would help.

My all-time favorite TEDtalk is from researcher Brene Brown. She said, “We don’t need more tips. We pretty much know the right way to live. ‘How to’ isn’t working.”

Instead, I’m going to give you just one.

Be real.

We don’t need more tips on how to live more joyful, less narcissistic life. Instead, we need openness, honesty, and vulnerability. The secret to fighting shame and narcissism is to feel your feelings, to share them without concern of getting hurt (you might get hurt, by the way).

There is no secret. There is no key to effective non-narcissism. There is no tip to experience joy.

There is only yourself. You as you really are. Unhidden and unashamed.

Do you struggle with blogging narcissism? Do you want to be sophisticated? Share your own true confession here. Feel free to comment anonymously if it’s too personal.

Joe Bunting is a professional writer, fiction editor, and platform consultant. You can follow Joe on Twitter and download a copy of his eBook, 14 Prompts, for free.

What Has Blog SEO Got to Do With How Your Readers Feel?

This guest post is by Dr. Mani of Internet infopreneur.

My blogging has evolved. Since 2003, when I first started blogging, the style and nature of my writing has changed to match trends, experience, and personal growth.

One thing however has remained constant. I write for my audience—and about things that matter to them. Or at least, I try to.

And, from what I’ve seen shared by many successful bloggers, that’s one of the keys to enjoying rich rewards from blogging. I read this snippet in an article about gaining social media influence by Haydn Shaughnessy:

“Writing stopped being a megaphone a long time ago and is now a journey where you meet a few of the same people regularly and a whole lot of new people all the time.”—Haydn Shaughnessy

So the key to blogging success is to attract a relevant, clearly defined, and in some way ultimately profitable (to you) readership—and this begins by knowing what to share with them in order that you may reach out meaningfully.

Listen, no one cares about you. Not in the beginning. Maybe never. They only care about how much you care for them—and how you can help them.

It helps when you genuinely care about them, because then your blogging will automatically align with ways you can help them meet their most pressing needs, get rid of their most worrying problems, and take them closer to their most desired dreams.

In order to reach the largest possible audience of such prospects, you need to rely upon tactical approaches like blog SEO. For many years, I blithely ignored that and wrote ad lib. In the early days, it worked because a. there was little, if any, competition, and b. the writing still appealed to readers, who then helped amplify the signal to others like them.

This last point is still in effect, except that the playing field has grown unbelievably more crowded. Everyone is an author. Everyone has a blog. Everyone is out to find more readers. Everyone is clamoring for your attention. Everyone is getting frustrated at not finding it.

Everyone wants a magic wand to wave at their computer screen and attract blog visitors.

Blog SEO can become yours.

Search engine optimization is partly the art of weaving into your content specific keywords and phrases which are used by people seeking information on search engines. Google and Bing get a humongous number of visitors every day, all of them in pursuit of more information. By positioning yourself in front of this crowd, you can funnel a few folks to your blog.

But you’ve got to know the right words to use.

Blog SEO is, in that respect, unique and special, because it speaks to the way your audience thinks and feels. When you’re in synch with your viewers, you already know intuitively what keeps them awake late into the night. You sense what things might get them bounding out of bed each morning, eager and excited.

You know because you care.

You care enough to ask people in your niche. You care enough to monitor your blog metrics and follow trends. You care enough to engage in conversations with your loyal readers. You care enough to take time to read other blogs, network with other bloggers, and keep up with industry developments that fuel these fears and dreams.

And then, you care enough to write (or speak or record a video) about these things—things which speak deeply, intimately, personally to each individual member of your tribe who favors you with their attention and time.

Blog SEO involves using that insight about your audience, matching it to time-tested principles like keyword density and anchor text for links, and optimizing each of your blog posts in such a way that they not only rank high on search engines, but also resonate with those who visit and read them.

Your keywords aren’t always those with the highest search volume—they are the ones closest to your readers’ hearts. Your on-site optimization isn’t all about seeding the text of your blog with the right density of phrases, but sharing value that your market craves.

Because blog SEO is no longer influenced by purely on-page factors, but also depends heavily on social sharing, this approach maximizes your impact. Your blog readers will happily share things they find helpful and interesting with their friends and contacts, growing your blog’s ranking ability and attracting new readers into your fold.

That’s why the craft of SEO for bloggers has morphed into a fine art that hinges more upon how your special people feel—and why. Understand that, apply it intelligently, and you’ll crack the secret code to blogging success—even in this over-crowded and cluttered marketplace.

Dr. Mani is a heart surgeon and Internet infopreneur. His information business helps fund treatment for under-privileged children. He has taught thousands of entrepreneurs “how to earn a steady online income doing what you love”. Learn more about information marketing at his blog, or get his book Think, Write & Retire!

How Millionaires Approach Social Media

This guest post is by Jaime Tardy of EventualMillionaire.com.

I’ve interviewed over 50 business owners who have a million-dollar net worth or more. As a blogger and podcaster I am always so curious as to how they use social media in their businesses.

If I were to generalize, most of the millionaires I interview use social media, or at least have someone in their company use it. But they are very clear on what it can and cannot do for them.

Social media is just the newest marketing avenue, just like cold calling, direct mail or networking. Social media helps you find people who might need you, and provides a way to introduce yourself. It also helps others find and recommend you. The easy-to-share aspects of social media make it hard for a business to ignore.

Here are a few tips, straight from millionaires, themselves on how they handle their social media.

Get clear on what you want out of social media

Amy Applebaum said,

“Social media is not a waste of time if you’re clear on what the purpose is. There’s millions and millions of people on Twitter and Facebook. Decide why you’re on it and then go for that. So if you’re trying to up your sales, then you’re looking for clients. So go find your target market and start talking to them.

“If you’re doing it for a totally different reason like you want to get publicity, then you’re going to start befriending journalists and people like that and following them. I mean, I have had some really incredible people contact me through Twitter or I have reached out to them on Twitter and they email me back because nobody is talking to anybody.”

Amy Applebaum found me on Twitter and then we set up a phone call. She is using these techniques for her million dollar business.

Social media is no good to you if you don’t know what you want. Whether you are a blogger or a small business owner you have objectives you want to achieve. As a blogger, maybe it’s more traffic or affiliate sales. As a small business owner, it’s most likely sales.

How can you get clear on what you want out of social media?

What does your customer want?

When I asked Ken Wisnefski, CEO of Webimax, what the first thing a small business should do in social media he said:

“I think the biggest thing is to not try to overdo social media. Companies have people that are their ‘social media’ person and they’re just putting information up there that almost becomes overwhelming. They’re putting up 20 tweets a day about things that aren’t really all that important. People look at different case studies and maybe they’ll look at what Charlie Sheen or Kim Kardashian has done and they’ll think that’s what they need to do for their business. And the reality of it is, for celebrities, people feel endeared to them and maybe want to have some entrance into their daily lives and they’re curious about what they ate or whatever the situation may be, but when it comes to businesses, people aren’t quite as interested in some of those small intricacies.

“They’re really more interested in just facts and maybe offers or specials. Before you start to engage in social media for your company, take some time and think about what the customer behavior is and how you can really begin to leverage that, so you can actually see a return on your online marketing specific to social media as opposed to just kind of doing it just to do it.”

Once you are clear on what you want out of social media you have to get clear on what your customers want. Why are they on Twitter or Facebook?

We all know we need to provide value to our fans and followers. But what value are they really looking for? Are they looking for information or deals? How can your company make their social media experience better?

Take some time to sit in the mind of your customer. This may mean surveys or just talking to them. But find out what they really want from you. Then create your strategy around serving them and their needs.

Two different types of social media

When I interviewed Guy Kawasaki, he broke up social media into two types: Push and Pull. He explains what is essential as a marketer:

“I think that technology can be divided into push and pull: push is Twitter and email, and pull is Facebook fan page and website, and you need to do both. The beauty of Twitter and email is you can control when and how you interact. You could push a lot of stuff at people. Assuming that they read it, it’s kind of involuntary. On the other hand, with pull, you have to really attract people to websites, which is not trivial but theoretically, once you get them to a website, you can do a lot more with them.

“So there are positives and negatives of both of those, and I think that both are essential these days. You cannot really be effective as a marketer without doing both. I actually think that Twitter and Facebook are just the best things that ever happened to a marketing person. It’s a great time to be a marketing person, Jaime, it’s just, wow! Twitter and Facebook are free, ubiquitous, and reach millions of people. Life is good as a marketer right now.”

You can read more about Push and Pull in Guy’s book Enchantment.

By listening to both Ken and Guy, I would suggest to have an overall plan to hit all aspects of social media. But only do one at a time. Figure out what works on Facebook for your business first. Only after you have a method you know you can use again should you move on to Twitter or Linked In. There is too much to learn all at the same time. If you have tons of social media profiles and spend a lot of time updating them but they don’t produce results; it won’t help you!

The overall tone I get from millionaires is that social media is important now. Even techno-phobic CEOs are plunging into it because they know they need to in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Jerry Mills, CEO of B2BCFO and someone who needs his kids to help him with technology, says:

“Any business who doesn’t adapt and doesn’t understand social media, using Google, using LinkedIn, Twitter and those kinds of things to find clients and find business are going to be left far behind. So that part of business has changed. The part of selling, meeting people’s needs has not changed at all.

“Our business has grown mostly because of social media. I was not only the pioneer of this business but I think I was a pioneer in terms of learning how to use social media.”

Get the relationship away from social media

Chris Gravagna, a serial entrepreneur and owner of Elitemate.com, suggests building relationships offline to make them more personal.

“I do a lot of networking. When I look at social media, social media is like hyper growth networking.

“I’m out there constantly driving, doing events, meeting real people, shaking hands. But then I’ll go back, look at that business card, and see if they have a LinkedIn account. I’ll see if they are on Facebook and Twitter. Then I’ll continue to interact on a digital level as well as a personal level with those people so that there’s constant touch points. I’ve seen that be very successful for me.

“It works a lot better. Nothing is going to replace interpersonal interaction with people. I mean, nothing is going to replace that. Those relationships that you are able to nurture and you are able to facilitate are so important to driving success and driving relationships. But having that constant hyper connectivity through the social media platform helps you in nurturing that relationship. It helps you in creating a high level of that relationship and driving that instant communication with those people.

“We all live a different world today, full of information overload. Now we can get that information and form a connection online and then go offline and build the relationship. It absolutely helps.”

We can bring our relationships to the next level when we take them off social media to email or Skype chat. In a world of text, speaking to each other or being face to face can really create a higher level of trust in the relationship. People like to do business with people they trust.

To wrap up, social media is a great tool as long as you don’t let it become a distraction. The millionaires I interview have become very successful and some owe it to social media. But they don’t let social media run their business. They use it as one tactic to flow customers and clients into their funnel.

So be clear what you want, what your customers want, the best methods for your specific business, and then build the relationship by moving it offline.

And make 2012 an amazing year for you.

Jaime is a business coach and speaker and has been featured on CNN, MSNMoney, Success Magazine, Fortune.com, Yahoo’s homepage and more. She interviews business owners with a net worth of a million dollars each week for their tips, advice and stories on EventualMillionaire.com. Check out her free webinar series that will eliminate the excuses of “No time, No money and No plan!” for newer entrepreneurs.

A New Linking Strategy: Out is the New In

I’ve been thinking a lot about my linking strategy lately. Trying to get incoming backlinks, making sure I have good inner links…

But one area that I think is too often overlooked is outbound links.

Hello, it’s called the “web”

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

When HTML was initially designed (and yes, I’m old enough to remember those days), the resulting conglomeration of pages was called the World Wide Web. Why? Because the structure of the pages resembled a spider’s web.

There was no central starting point. Each page contained hyperlinks that referenced other pages that were relevant.

There were no search engines and directories were fairly small and specialized. The only way that you could get to a page was if you knew the URL, or followed a link from another page.

In those days, the idea was to provide access to information. The internet was not a commercial place back then.

But then things changed…

The nature of links has changed drastically in the past few decades. Instead of being a helpful way to share relevant content with our readers, we’ve come to view them as a way to increase our SEO. We’ve become stingy with links because we want to keep our readers on our own pages, viewing our AdSense ads and buying through our affiliate links.

We allow links in the comments, but we nofollow them so no link juice escapes. We’ll put the odd blog in our blogroll, if we even have one. But how many of those are owned by us as well?

No, our focus is all on how we can get links back to our own site and build ourselves up in the eyes of Google.

It has to change

All of us need to change our mindsets about linking. We need to get back to the original mindset of the web.

That’s not to say that getting backlinks is bad (provided you’re not spamming to do it—that’s another article altogether). Nor should you ignore the SEO benefits of internal links.

But we need to get back to the idea of sharing links simply because the information is of value to our readers.

As the search engines get smarter, and the value of comment links, forum links, and social media links drops, the value of in-content links (i.e. links from within an article itself) will rise.

Who else thinks this way?

Am I the only one thinking about this? Not at all. Some A-list bloggers have written about this topic.

Brian Clark of Copyblogger wrote Why Linking to Other Blogs is Critical back in 2007. He even suggests linking to your competition—you’ll have to read his article to find out why.

And if you look through the list of trackbacks, you’ll find Linking Out Instead of Link Building to Rank in Google as a recent entry by Tad Chef at SEOptomise. I especially like one thing that he said: “Linking out is a strategy you have to embrace holistically.” Read the article to see what he means.

Dawud Miracle wrote on Lorelle on WordPress Why You Want to Link to Other Blogs where he explores more than just the page rank/traffic benefits.

And to help you find interesting stuff to link to, check out Ben Yoskovitz’s Blog Hack: Link to New Blogs and Get More Readers.

You’ll also find articles here at ProBlogger that talk about how to use outbound links. Kimberly Turner’s Monthly Trends + 10 Tips for a Flawless Linking Strategy touches on the subject, for example.

And don’t forget Darren! He wrote about this back in 2009 in Outbound Links—An Endangered Species? [And Why I Still Link Up].

Explore the trackbacks and links found in those articles and you’ll find lots of people writing about how important linking out is for your blog.

So, what’s a blogger to do?

Excellent question! I’m glad you asked.

We all need to adopt a mindset that includes outbound links in our articles—not necessarily every article, but I think it should be 25% at a minimum. I think you’ll find that as you intentionally look for and link to quality articles, you’ll be able to link out in almost every article you write. This one has six (if you don’t count the blatant plug back to my own site in mu bio!).

I’ve actually come up with a list of six guidelines for outbound links. You can find the list at the end of this post. Maybe you can think of some other guidelines to add — feel free to share!

Above all, remember that Out is the new In when it comes to links.

Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson is a programmer, web designer, trainer, writer and all around nice guy. He has several blogs on the go and loves to tinker with plugins and themes (more than he should). You can see what he’s learning about blogging and online marketing at LoneWolf’s List Marketing Adventure.

3 Traffic Generation Tactics from an Ordinary Human Being

In two and a half years, David Cain of Raptitude.com has built a large and lively audience for his blog, which takes a “street-level look at the human experience.”

He says the most important fuel for this growth was writing quality content. You already know about that, yeah? So in this interview, I dug deeper to find out the specific tactics David uses to make his content interactive, clickable, and sharable.

Here are three tricks that help Raptitude get more visitors.

1. Join a small group of bloggers

This was probably the smartest thing I ever did with my blog… I found a little group of beginner bloggers, there were six or seven of us that had all started in the last couple of months.—David Cain

During our interview, David twice emphasized the importance of joining a peer group. He says that not only does it hold you accountable to continue and give you a forum to bounce ideas off, but also provides a “starter community” to comment on and share your work. This is especially useful early on when the small inner circles of your peers can magnify your efforts. Once your community has this lively base, new visitors can participate by commenting or sharing as well.

Here are three suggestions for finding your support group:

  1. Google Groups: try searching at www.groups.google.com for “blogging”, or “beginner blogging”
  2. Facebook Groups
  3. Ask around: new bloggers are lurking everywhere, so see if you can find allies within your existing network.

Action Step: Join a group of bloggers at a similar experience level. Have a loose rule that if you like each others’ work, you’ll share it with your circle of family and friends.

2. Make your post titles clickable

Every headline has to say “if I read this post, then what’s in it for me?”.—David Cain

David stressed the importance of a good title for your posts. He says that on the internet there is so much information, someone could read it their whole life and never get a fraction of it done. That means that your potential reader might encounter hundreds or thousands of links in a day, and it’s only your few select words that affect whether or not they click on yours. You can leverage that decisive moment by having a headline that you yourself would click on.

Check out how David names his posts:

  • Literal: Raptitude’s most popular post of all time is a list of 40 quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche. They are pretty powerful, like #33: “A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.” A literalist might have named this post something like, 40 Quotes by Nietzsche. Kind of boring, yeah?
  • Clickable: What did David actually name this post? 40 Belief-Shaking Remarks From a Ruthless Nonconformist. Here, “belief-shaking” poses a challenge to readers, “remarks” sounds cooler than “quotes”, and with “nonconformist” being a little bit of a buzzword, many potential readers already identify with it. Another advantage is that when you search Google for “nonconformist quotes”, David’s post is on the first page of results.

Action Step: For your next post, brainstorm a few titles, and decide which one stands out as the most clickable.

3. Post link bait

It’s worth including posts geared towards people wanting to share them.—David Cain

David admits that sometimes he mixes list posts into his work because they are more sharable on social media. He says posts like 7 Ways to Do X or 88 Truths I’ve Learned About Life are easily digestible. This means that a wider variety of people can enjoy this writing, than say posts with a long discourse about human suffering.

Alright, the term “link bait” may have negative connotations, but it doesn’t mean you have to deprive your blog of dignity. On Raptitude, list posts are still very much in line with the pursuit of understanding the human experience. Do your best to ensure that your link bait maintains the quality of your blog—and yeah, people will share it!

Action Step: Try posting link bait. Maybe a list post, photography, or other work that expresses creativity.

What about you?

I’d love to hear from you: are you proud of a particular post title? Created some link bait you can share here?

Michael Alexis is the producer of WriterViews, where you can learn the specifics tactics and strategies that worked for successful writers. Follow him on Twitter at @writerviews.