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Triple Your Traffic by Guest Blogging for Backlinks [Case Study]

This guest post is written by Joseph from GuestBloggingTactics.com

Guest blogging is all the rage now; it’s easily the #1 marketing technique used by both individual bloggers and online corporations.

Unfortunately, most people are seeing guest blogging to be different from what it was originally painted to be.

It’s no longer the sure-fire, high-traffic formula. It’s no longer the thing you must do if you want to increase traffic to your blog. In other words, guest posts on blogs that would have sent you 500 visitors a year ago will barely send you 50 today.

Well, what if I told you you’re doing it wrong?

What if I told you I was able to get 120,000+ visitors as an indirect result of guest blogging to one of my websites in one year? And that from less than 50 guest posts?

You’ll probably want me to share the sites I guest posted on so that you can write for them, too.

But it no longer works that way. Even if there was a magic site that sent thousands of visitors per guest post, it’ll barely be able to send ten per post in a few years time once everybody bombards it with guest posts.

The good news is: it’s not about the site you choose, but the approach you use.

Most people see guest blogging as something that has to be direct, and that has to deliver results instantly.

However, by seeing guest blogging in a new light—by focusing on using guest blogging to build links instead of direct traffic—I was able to triple traffic to my blog in one year. To be specific, I experienced a 340% increase in search traffic—over 100,000 visitors—in one year.

Here’s a screenshot showing traffic to my blog a year before I started my guest blogging campaign:

Here’s a screenshot showing traffic to my blog a year after the guest blogging campaign:

How did I do it? That’s the question this post will answer.

Guest blogging and SEO

While there are many reasons people build links to their websites, the #1 reason is often to increase their search engine rankings.

Search engines are the number one traffic referrer online.

When most people have problems or issues they want to solve on the Internet, they visit Google and type a keyword that can provide solutions to the problem they’re experiencing. You do it and I do it too, every day of the week.

That’s why search engines, especially Google, are the top traffic source to almost every website on the Internet.

Getting ranked well for your desired keywords in Google and other search engines can be left to luck, a game of waiting and praying that things get right, or you can try to take control by actively building high-quality, high-value links that will improve your rankings.

One of the best ways to build these high quality links today is by guest blogging.

When most people guest post, they do it for the traffic and often ignore the link aspect. I’ve observed that the links you can get from guest blogging are much more powerful than any traffic you can get.

Why not start actively building links to your blog from your guest posts?

A personal guest blogging case study

I dedicated a month to writing and getting guest posts published for one of my sites last year. I started a guest blogging campaign to publish over 30 guest posts on several quality blogs.

The guest posts were written in a way that ties the topic of each blog I approached to the topic of my blog, without sacrificing quality, and with a focus on getting quality anchor-text backlinks instead of traffic.

In other words, since every blogger has to get an author bio below their guest post, instead of just linking back to my homepage, I used my guest posts to link to internal pages and posts on my blog with specific keywords.

I knew that doing this would be very effective, but I never knew it would be much more effective than I anticipated.

While most of the guest posts I submitted didn’t result in a single visit to my blog, and every guest post I submitted, combined, resulted in less than 50 visits, I saw a significant jump of 100 additional daily visitors in my search traffic a week after the campaign ended.

Ever since, without any active SEO effort on my part, traffic has grown significantly to up to 340% more visits a year after the challenge.

For me, that was an additional 120,000 visitors.

Of course, the guest posts I wrote in that month alone weren’t the only factor contributing to the increase in search traffic, but when I did the math I estimated that each guest post I wrote then would have attracted at least 2,000 search engine visitors in the span of a year.

Even if I’m not accurate and it’s half of that, receiving 1,000 visitors for a single guest post is very rare these days.

The campaign enlightened me and made me realize that guest blogging doesn’t always have to be for direct traffic and an instant boost in subscriber count. A link-building guest blogging campaign can also be very effective.

It doesn’t have to be “immoral”

Due to how widely abused guest blogging for links is today, most people immediately come to the conclusion that guest blogging for links is a bad thing.

It doesn’t always have to be. It’s just like SEO: there’s good and bad SEO, but when most people talk about SEO they talk about it as if it’s unethical. Does that mean you should ignore SEO? Not if you want your online business to survive!

Guest blogging is a natural thing for bloggers and it is okay to expect something in return when you write guest posts; instead of ignoring the real estate you have in the author bio of every guest post you write, why not focus on getting a high quality backlink or two that can improve your own blog’s ranking?

With that said, whether you’re a blogger or a company utilizing guest blogging, quality should of course be your number one focus. This is especially important for agencies using guest blogging, and something Georgina recently talked about here at ProBlogger.

So let’s look specifically at the steps you’ll need to follow to make this tactic work for you.

5 Steps you should follow to guest blog for backlinks

Here are the steps I take when trying to guest blog for backlinks.

1. Have effective content marketing in place

While guest blogging is effective, doing it alone won’t help you get results.

Guest blogging should be a part of a bigger content marketing plan.

In other words, before you get started, you should have a blog that constantly publishes relevant articles; you should then develop a campaign focused on ranking your landing pages and pillar articles on your blog.

For a business, this might sound like something that won’t be very effective. After all, why put all that guest blogging effort into blog posts?

However, recent changes to Google’s algorithm and those of other search engines have made it very clear that content and social are the future of SEO. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for static web pages to rank well in the search engines—and that’s where you come in.

Of course, to really get the best from this you’ll need to ensure that articles published on your blog are properly aligned with the goals of your business; this could be getting leads, selling a product, or getting readers to take a particular action, for example.

The point is it’s easier to rank a detailed blog post that can get comments and social shares than it is to rank your blog’s homepage.

2. Prepare a set of keywords you want to rank for

Based on the content of special blog posts you’ve written as well as key pages on your website, prepare a set of keywords you want to rank for.

In most cases, these keywords should be centered on a particular major keyword.

So if I’m trying to rank for “guest blogging”, for example, instead of letting all the anchor texts I use in my author bio be “guest blogging”—which can be very dangerous—I’ll target a host of other keywords such as “guest blogging tactics,” “guest blogging tips,” “guest posting,” and so on.

If possible, try to avoid using the same keyword twice—even if it’s the main keyword you want to rank for. Instead, develop a set of keywords that center around your main keyword and use them in your author bio.

By using them, you’ll be able to rank for both those keywords and the main keyword you really wanted to rank for, giving you double benefits for your effort.

3. Research and select a list of blogs you want to guest blog on

They don’t always have to be as big and massive as Problogger.net, but in choosing the blogs to guest on, try to avoid link farms and poor quality blogs as much as you can.

If you can find a relevant authority blog in your niche, great. If you can’t find a relevant blog, however, you can look for a way to write content that’s relevant to both your audience and that of the host blogger to benefit.

For example, if I were to start a guest blogging campaign to rank ProBlogger for major blogging keywords, I can easily benefit from targeting entrepreneurship blogs and even law blogs by writing articles along the lines of:

  • “7 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur Should Blog”
  • “Why Not Having a Blog for Your Law Firm Could be a Disaster”

You get the idea?

The focus should be on quality. You don’t have to worry about the relevance of the blogs; your focus should be on making your content relevant and this is very easy.

4. Write great content for your guest posts

Now, don’t get this wrong. Because you’re writing a guest post ostensibly for the purpose of gaining a quality backlink, that doesn’t mean it has to be poor content.

On the contrary. Look at this particular guest post I’m writing here on Problogger.net; it’s helpful to you, and I’m able to get a quality link back to my blog at the end of it.

By focusing on quality for your guest posts, you’ll benefit. Social signals are starting to influence how Google and other search engines view any post published today; this includes the number of social shares across various social networks, the number of comments and engagement on the post.

These are things you can’t achieve by writing poor posts; you may get links, but that’ll just be it. The real value of this strategy I’m talking about comes from the value of your post months after it has been published, not in the few days it spends as the number one post on the homepage of the blog you submitted it to.

5. Spend some time on your author bio

While it’s important that your post is great, it is also very important that your author bio isn’t neglected. Don’t let your author bio look as if all you want is a link. It doesn’t have to!

Make your author bio as professional and descriptive of you as possible, and also include the link; when adding that, here are a few tips you should follow:

  • Don’t use the same keyword in all your author bios. You might want to rank for “health blog” but that doesn’t mean you should use only that keyword in all your guest posts. You can use variations such as “health tips blog,” “top health blog,” “professional health blog,” “best health blog,” and so on. Do you notice how all those keywords are variations of “health blog”? That will have much more impact on your rankings than just targeting a single keyword.
  • Don’t use the same author bio in all your guest posts. Search engines don’t list duplicate content, and duplicate content isn’t about your articles alone. Using the same author bio in 40 different guest posts makes your bio duplicate content; it’ll be the same in all 40 guest posts and will be seen as unnatural, thus making it difficult for you to even get the value of one of those links.
  • Not all your anchor text has to include keywords. Feel free to use generic keywords such as “click here,” “check him out,” “visit his website” etc. as they make your links look more natural than focusing on keywords.
  • Limit the number of links you include in your author bio. Depending on the blog, don’t have more than two or three links in your bio. If you include three links, include two to your blog and one to your social profile. Anything more is unnatural and makes it clear that you only want the backlinks.

Tools of the trade

Guest blogging outreach and research can be very difficult; knowing what to write, which blog to contact and who to pitch is tricky. Here are my favorite guest blogging and content tools:

1. PostJoint

If you’re a guest blogger, especially if you’re guest blogging on a massive scale, then outreach can be difficult and sometimes stressful.

Of course, sometimes, reaching out personally is great but you can also save time if you have access to a platform or directory of blogs that not only accept guest posts but that make the process easy; PostJoint removes the hassles that comes with pitching guest bloggers and waiting for weeks for your guest post to be published.

2. MyBlogGuest

The premier guest blogging community online, MyBlogGuest can be a powerful tool in the arsenal of any blogger.

MyBlogGuest is a guest blogging forum where you can collaborate with other bloggers for guest blogging; it’s effective whether you want to publish or get published and there are bloggers in almost any niche.

3. Customrank

Customrank is a better alternative to Google pagerank and Alexa rank; unlike Pagerank and Alexa rank, Customrank isn’t overinflated.

Every website is ranked from 0–100 and the higher a blog’s Customrank, the more value you will get from guest posting on it.

4. Quora

Quora might seem just like an ordinary question-and-answer site, but to the discerning blogger it is a goldmine.

Whether you want to get ideas for blog posts on your own blog or ideas for guest posts, having an endless source of content ideas is important. By browsing questions related to your niche on Quora, you’ll be able to get more ideas than you need for your guest posts.

5. Google Keyword Tool

Before writing my guest posts, I come up with a list of keywords that inspire my writing and that I can also use as anchor text. There are a lot of quality tools online but a lot of them are expensive. The Google keyword tool is free and reliable and it provides data from Google.

Conclusion

What you just read is practically all there is to building links with guest blogging for beginners. It was what I did a year ago to experience the kind of increase I gained in my search traffic; I still do it for myself and my clients today, and it’s phenomenally effective.

Have you ever had an experience guest blogging for links or traffic? How did it go? Please share your tips and thoughts with us in the comments.

Joseph is a guest blogging professional with over 2 years of experience. He writes about all things guest blogging at GuestBloggingTactics.com. If you want to take your business to the next level by guest blogging, especially for links, you should hire him! Joseph is also available on Twitter @gbtactics

Why No One Wants Your Free Download (And 5 Steps to Make It a Must-Have)

This guest post is by Sophie Lizard of Beafreelanceblogger.com.

You finally released your free download. It took a lot of work to prepare, but you believed it would all be worthwhile.

Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Give something away to get something in return, like email addresses or questionnaire responses. Or the undying love of a vast tribe of readers.

So … why isn’t it working?

Hardly anyone’s downloading it. You’re not floating high on a tide of reader engagement. If anything, it’s the opposite: you’re getting kinda depressed with the whole situation.

It’s okay. Know why? Because hardly anyone’s downloaded it. And that means the problem isn’t necessarily with your content. All those people who chose not to download it haven’t seen the content yet. They’re doing the online equivalent of reading the box and then putting it back on the shelf.

People judge your free download on expectation and reputation, before they make the decision to either download it or leave. That means you can massively increase your download numbers just by improving the audience’s perception of your freebie. Here’s how to do that in just five steps.

Step 1: Angle your topic to make people care

Even if your business is something as mundane as cleaning mattresses, your download doesn’t have to be on that exact topic. You could offer mattress buying advice, interior decoration tips, or information about dust mites.

Research your audience’s most pressing needs and concerns, then choose a topic they’ll find immediately interesting. If you’ve already chosen a topic and created your download, don’t panic! You can re-angle what you’ve got.

Your topic may be something that many people would find dull. Like dust mites, for example. But your angle gives it the all-important connection to your audience’s real life needs. Here are three example angles you could take on the dust mite topic:

  • How dust mites in the home affect children’s health
  • How to reduce dust mites without using harmful chemicals
  • The biology of dust mites and why they live in soft furnishings.

Each of these angles appeals to a certain audience by giving them a specific expectation. Your download might cover all three of those pieces of information, plus more. But by focusing on one particular angle, you help your chosen audience understand the value of your download to them.

Step 2: Format your download to suit your audience

Has this ever happened to you? You find a free resource that sounds amazing, but it’s only available as an mp3 and you prefer to read. Or you can download it as a PDF, but then there are worksheets inside that you can’t fill in unless you print them out first.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

Your audience will be put off by a poor choice of format for your download, too. How did you decide what format to offer? If you asked your target audience what they’d prefer and then gave it to them, you officially aced this part already.

If you guessed, or gave them the format you like best, you’ve missed a trick. Let’s rethink.

Remember, some people are still bewildered by zip files. Some want to print hard copies; others work from a smartphone and don’t even own a printer anymore. You need to find out what format your target audience wants. If you don’t have an audience of your own to ask, go online and listen to what people on other sites similar to yours are saying about the free resources available.

And if they say there’s more than one popular format, consider offering more than one option. You can provide transcripts of your audio and video resources, create a slideshow presentation of your manifesto, or offer a Word copy of your PDF worksheet.

The easier you make it for people to consume your download, the more they’ll decide it’s worth downloading. If they ever notice it, that is. To make sure they do…

Step 3: Give it a name that grabs attention

The title is the only part of your download that most people read. I’m not being mean; I’m being practical.

Your download’s title can be read on your landing page, shared on social media, and displayed on search engine results pages. It’s one of the first things people will see about your download, before they make a decision about whether they want it. If the title doesn’t get more than a split-second glance, then your download sinks without a trace.

To create an attention-grabbing title for your download, check out the headlines competing for attention on magazine shelves or on Twitter, then try adapting them to your own topic.

You might see a headline like, “Warning: Single Women Think Your Man’s Available.” All you need to do is take that title and switch it to suit your download: “Warning: Dust Mites Think Your Bed is Their Playground.” For more headline templates to work with, check out Jon Morrow’s free Headline Hacks report.

Your title needs to create a hook of concern, pleasure or curiosity in your readers and keep them interested long enough to read further. You want visitors to your landing page to read beyond the title to the rest of the copy, and keep reading until they decide to download. So, on to the next step!

Step 4: Demonstrate high value with your copy

Your audience only needs to know one thing from your download’s landing page copy: how will this download make their lives better?

The features of your download—“30 pages with full-colour diagrams!”—are important, but your reader wants to know what it will do for them and how it will make them feel. So focus on the benefits of your download, like “Learn to reduce dust mites in your bedding so you can breathe easier at night.”

Once you’ve made the benefits clear, it’s time for a call to action. Keep it simple and clear, and only ask your reader for one thing: to download your free product. (We can tell them about all your other awesome stuff another time, I promise.)

After the call to action, feel free to add more information about the download format, those full-colour diagrams, and other details. Put another call to action after this extra info, so that anyone who reads this far can get your freebie without scrolling back up to find the download link.

Now, you just need to do one more thing to convince your audience:

Step 5: Prove yourself!

Everyone likes to try things risk-free. That’s part of the reason blogs and websites offer free downloadable products: sampling the free product makes your audience feel they’ve judged the quality of your products or services without the risk of losing money.

But here’s the thing: your average audience member isn’t only worried about money. They’re worried about losing time, too. You need to reassure them that your free download won’t waste their time, but will reward their investment.

One of the best ways to do this is with social proof.

Simply put, social proof is anything that suggests that other people have already tried something and liked it. That might include:

  • people sharing the link to your landing page via social media
  • testimonials from downloaders, customers, industry experts, or reputable celebrities
  • a case study explaining exactly how your freebie has benefited a particular user.

Most of the time, you can get social proof simply by asking for it. So, ask for social shares or testimonials when you deliver your free download, and ask again at the end of the freebie when people have finished checking it out.

Get to know some influential people, and ask them to share a link or testimonial if they think their followers will appreciate your freebie. Add a few of the best testimonials to your landing page, with another call to action at the end.

Send out copies of your free download to anyone whose opinion matters to your target audience, because…

You’re not alone

You’d be surprised how many successful blogs and online businesses have created a free downloadable product only to have it left on the digital shelf, friendless and unnoticed.

Many of the people you reach out to for social proof will have been through this experience at some point in their lives, and that makes them empathise with you. If your download’s relevant to them, they’ll want to help it find its audience!

So, don’t give up and watch your free download die—run through these five steps and give it the boost it deserves. After your download numbers increase, you’ll be in a position to judge how much people like the content. After you’re getting more downloads of your freebie, you’ll find that people start to offer their opinions on it before you’ve even asked.

For now, all you need to do is put your best foot forward, one step at a time.

Sophie Lizard is a blogger on a mission to help you increase your income and authority. To give your blogging career a boost, get free access to the “How to Make A Living Blogging” expert interview sessions and download your free copy of The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs: 45 Blogs That Will Pay You $50 or More!

The Diamond in the Rough System for Gaining Influence

This guest post is by Jonathan Goodman.

Content is still king, but influential relationships are queen. And we all know that women rule the world, so maybe we should start paying more attention to these queens.

Bloggers should publish less and promote more.

If you enjoy staying awake until 4am writing each night, and frantically trying to publish according to your over-zealous schedule, then continue doing what you’re doing. My guess is that you’re not paying enough attention to the queens though, and we all know how important it is to cherish, respect, and support the women in our lives.

That said, there are a lot of queens in the world, and everybody seems to be trying to get attention from the same ones. So you send emails to industry influencers and tweet at top bloggers. One day you get a response back and feel like you’ve made it to their inner circle.

Then you hear crickets … followed by tumbleweed rolling by. (Which is odd because you don’t live in the Wild West or in a cowboy movie. But I digress.)

The Diamond in the Rough System of relationship-building

In every industry there are a select few who are in the spotlight. They receive hundreds of emails, tweets, Facebook messages and so on every day. Likely they don’t answer their own mail and there isn’t much you can offer them in terms of support.

The Diamond in the Rough System is a way to get the influencers to want to approach you. It can be applied to any large social medium but I’m going to stick to Twitter for this article.

Twitter is a sea of shameless self-promotion. Much of it goes unnoticed. The feed is so cluttered and people are more interested in pumping their own information out than absorbing that of others. Add to that the unfortunate fact that what you’re saying isn’t unique—there are probably people with bigger followings already saying it—and you’re facing an uphill battle.

The Diamond in the Rough System will teach you how to find the Queens behind the scenes and court them.

First, understand that there are a number of influential people in every industry:

  • The influencers are the ones in control of the big brands. They may or may not be smarter than you, but they have hustled to get to where they are, and built an empire and great network around themselves.
  • The large magazines are usually faceless organizations with multiple walls and levels of bureaucracy getting in the way. This makes it difficult to get in touch with anyone.
  • The bloggers are gaining more steam in some industries. In the tech industries, for example, it could be argued they control the information; in plumbing they are relatively non-existent.
  • The senior editors are the top-level editors at magazines and industry publications. These people are over-worked and usually under-paid or under-appreciated.
  • The beat reporters and supporting editors are easy to access and have a lot of influence as to what goes into major publications. They are the diamonds in the rough.

Right about now you’re thinking I’m crazy. Because, if you’re like most people attempting to gain influence, you have tried to follow the conventional path and emailed various editors desperately trying to get his or her attention—and never gotten a response.

Get creative and get unconventional

Email is conventional. People have learned to ignore it. You must evolve your practices to get noticed.

Twitter is a way to build a relationship with the queens and create a friendship. Most of these reporters have modest, if any, followings on Twitter. So while they get 100+ emails a day, they might only get two @ mentions on Twitter. Which do you think they would be more likely to respond to? 

How to find the diamonds in the rough

  • Follow the head editors and scan the lists of the people they follow. Look for accounts that say something like, “NY Times editor focusing on social media and marketing.” Follow everybody that seems to cover your niche.
  • Identify the top bloggers in your niche and follow the same steps are above.
  • Identify the top influencers in your niche and follow the same steps as above.
  • Search newspapers websites and find the editors that cover the subjects your niche pertains to. A Google search is usually all you need to find their Twitter account if they have one.
  • Every magazine lists the various editors and writers on the first couple pages. Identify the top magazines in your niche and write down the names of everybody on this page that fits your specifications. Do a Google search and try to find their Twitter account and follow them.
  • Pay attention to networks of influence. It’s not uncommon for a number of influencers to tweet back and forth with the same person that you have never heard of. That person is likely an important member behind the scenes.

The community of people at the top of your industry is close-knit. There are the influencers that you know and a supporting crew that acts behind the scenes that you don’t. These supporting crewmembers are your diamonds. Find them and make them feel important. Support them and build relationships with them.

How to court your queens

Now that you’ve found these people, respond intelligently to their tweets. If they promote a blog post or article with a link, take the time to read the entire article and respond with a piece of feedback or a question. If they say something about their personal life or hobby, send back a joke or tidbit of information.

As an aside I’ll add that you should not respond to every tweet. This comes off as needy. Respond only if you have something intelligent to say and not more than once or twice every couple of days.

Don’t ask for anything in return. Your bio on Twitter says who you are, and includes a link to your work. They will check you out. And you only publish your best work right?

You should have a headshot as your profile picture in Twitter, not your company logo. People like talking to and doing business with people, not faceless organizations.

It works

Following this system, I have been able to get featured as one of the Top 20 Smartest Fitness Trainers You Might Now Know by Livestrong, had my book featured both in Muscle & Fitness and as one of the Top 21 Health, Fitness and Nutrition Books, also by Livestrong, and recently I was contacted by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s right-hand man to write content for his site.

All of this happened because I built relationships with those that control the content behind the scenes. I never once submitted an article. Every time they reached out to me.

Write great material and only publish your best work. Then spend all of the time you saved finding the diamonds in the rough. They are the ones who will get your work to spread.

Jonathan Goodman is a 2X author. His second book recently reached the #1 spot on Amazon in both the marketing and web marketing categories. Aside from consulting and running http://www.theptdc.com, he is currently writing Viralnomics: How to Create Directed Viral Marketing. The sections are being published for free online as they are produced. You can get up to date at http://www.viralnomics.com.

Celebrate Your Marketing?!

This guest post is by Karl Staib of Domino Connection.

Have you ever planned out your day and put marketing as the last thing on your list because you just can’t stomach another rejection?

I know I did. I have a popular blog named Work Happy Now that gets 15,000 visits a month. That’s due to backlinks, Google search, and social love. This happened because of my desire to build relationships with people. I didn’t force myself onto anyone. I connected with them via interview, guest post or Twitter. It was this kind of outreach that I enjoyed.

The marketing that I avoided was cold calling, cold emailing, and buying ads on websites. I just didn’t want to build connections with people who weren’t interesting to me.

You marketing should be a celebration instead of some stodgy task that you have to do to get a few sales. If you hate the kind of marketing you’re doing, your business won’t grow.

Think about it this way: everything you do is marketing, from a blog post to a conversation with another blogger. You are creating something. You can create something beautiful and memorable, or you can create something forgettable. It’s up to you.

In this post, I’ve put together a few concepts that you can use to delight and encourage people to talk about your blog.

Give away surprise gifts

Studies have proven when people receive an unexpected gift their dopamine levels skyrocket. Knowing this you can give someone an extra boost to your visitors. You may even want to include a little blurb about it on your blog.

I would suggest keeping track of everyone that leaves a comment on your blog for one month. The person with the most comments for that month wins a free ebook, ecourse, or something along those lines.

The idea is to keep it a surprise. I guarantee that person will keep coming back to your blog and leaving comments for a long time.

Throw an online party

Throwing an online event is a great way to get people talking about you. The technology is so good today that you can do almost any kind virtual event. You can create a webinar, tele-seminar, Twitter party, Facebook giveaway, or a contest that engages people.

The idea is to build authority and friendships with your tribe.

Throw a physical party

An online event is cool because it’s not as stressful as a real-life event, but a live event has a few benefits.

I still remember my first tweetup with Robert Scoble. I’m not really a tech guy, but I wanted to see what a tweetup was all about. Robert was visiting Austin and put together a group of people to meet at the restaurant. He was a cool enough guy, but the best part of the party was the people I met. I still keep in contact with someone I met that night over five years ago.

By creating an event for people that allows them to bond, you are creating something worth sharing. Since Robert threw that Twitter party over five years ago, he gets a link from Problogger.net. That’s priceless.

Help out a charity

My friend Colleen Wainwright created the 50 for 50 event. She promised to shave her head if she was able to raise $50,000 by her 50th birthday.

You should check out her link. She has an image of her shaved head on the page. She was able to raise over $50,000 for WriteGirl, a charity that helps young girls improve their writing skills.

Colleen gets the benefit of raising money for a super-cool charity, but also building her network. I know that’s not why she created the event, but it’s a nice bonus to have a new network of people to help you with your business.

Your story

It’s all about creating a story. If you can get people on board with your story, you are able to create an event that tugs at their hearts.

Chris Guillebeau created The Empire Building Kit to help people who wanted to create a lifestyle business that fits their needs. He wasn’t sure how to get people excited about it, so he went on a trip. His return trip stopped in Chicago and he wasn’t able to get a flight to Portland. His wife suggested that he take the train. At first he balked, but then he found out the train was called Empire Builder.

He then got a bag from Tom Ben called the Empire Builder. Chris realized that he needed to launch the Empire Building Kit while riding on the train back to Portland. He invited his friend J.D. of Get Rich Slowly and it kept building from there. He blogged about the whole trip, turning the story into his launch. A very successful launch.

Can you see how this story sucks you in? This is great marketing that can be a lot of fun. When you are planning on releasing something to the world, you need to have a plan that grabs people’s attention and makes them take notice of who you are and what you created. It’s a little more work than a standard launch, but very much worth your time and energy.

These are just a few ideas, but each of us has a different approach. What have you done to celebrate your marketing and turn it into a fun event?

Check out Karl Staib of Domino Connection and his free e-course “How to Create an Amazing Product Launch,” You can also check out Domino Connection on Facebook because he shares all kinds of great content and tips.

Get More Blog Readers Using Lessons from Email Marketers

This guest post is by Alana Bender.

Bloggers could probably stand to learn a few marketing tips from email marketers.

For years, email marketers have used all kinds of demographic email lists to build up customer bases. They’ve created lists aimed at women aged 40-plus, with kids, driving a family car, and working part-time from home. And there’s a list targeted to reaching those professionals who work in a particular field of industry or service. Another list for guys in their 20′s who are single and spend $500 a year on electronic devices.

Acquiring or developing these lists is the first step for a good email marketer. But it takes a bit more than that. Email marketers (or in-house writers) must be skilled in the practice of writing great subject lines (sound familiar?), catchy copy (know what I mean?), and an offer to buy (comments, please?).

Then they have to wrap their message into a great email marketing design, one emphasizing Buy now buttons and with a mobile-optimized view that’s readable on both Android and iPhone. Without a compelling visual to back up the content on offer, a particular marketing promotion might fall flat.

As it stands, email marketing isn’t fading away as a marketing tool. In fact, it’s likely growing in usage. Internet research firm eMarketer points out that email volume and revenue increased over the previous year. And customer retention and acquisition are leading priorities for marketers.

What does all this have to do with blogging, you might ask? Well, the same touch points that make customers respond to emails are the same touch points provoking your readers to comment on a post and/or email.

Simply put, customers reply to emails because they’re interesting and relevant to the customer. If a customer regularly purchases school supplies from a local small business site, the likelihood is that this person will be open to new, interesting emails about new school-focused items.

The same goes for blogging. If you write regularly about a topic that amasses a large amount of comments, why not return to that topic (if possible) on a monthly basis? You have proven the relevance (check) and interest to your readers (check) of that particular topic. Come back to it.

As a pro blogger, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I reach my customers (readers)?
  • Where do I look for new customers (readers)?
  • What tools do I use to retain these current readers, and what tools do I use to find new readers?
  • What can I learn from pros in the email marketing business?

If you’re unsure of how you’re building your base of readers, or you’re just blogging away happily without an idea of how to gain new readers, then maybe the lessons of email marketers will apply. That’s what we want to focus on in this piece.

There are email marketing tips that easily transfer over to your blogging strategies, to help build readers, find sponsors, and grow advertising. And, with the ease of email marketing software programs, you can learn how to create a great-looking email to help find new potential readers, and use repeated emails to turn an interested reader into a daily subscriber.

Let’s look first at creating a smart email marketing list for small business or blog sites. How can you get your site out to interested readers or customers using good email marketing practices in the most effective way possible?

In the presentation mentioned above, eMarketer suggested several key ways that email marketers can increase their success with finding new customers and retaining existing customers.

Customize email content

Personalization helps build relationships. We all want emails to be personalized to some extent. Sure, it doesn’t always mean, the Dear (Your name here) email will be fantastic every time, but it beats a completely anonymous email send.

You can do the same thing with blog posts. Address a topic you absolutely know is near and dear to your readers’ personal interests, or be open and transparent on your own blog about a personal issue that you feel might be applicable to others.

You’ll see that getting to the core of an issue at a blog can be a boon for social media pass-alongs and comments at your site.

Use email marketing software

Good email marketing software can help develop a professional and effective marketing campaign, to help you win over new readers for your blog. Most email software packages feature options to allow you to design and create an attractive email. You can fully import already-developed landing pages from your site right into the email template or use one of the email templates to create a new design.

Draw in new blog readers with pictures, video clips, background images and audio clips in your emails.

Customize landing pages

Can you customize landing pages at your blog? Sure you can. Offer a special deal or discount to existing readers (or use new subscribers) on a personalized landing page the reader can go from a link in the email directly to a page for the discount. One-on-one communications rule here.

Leverage customer data

Have you ever found who reads your blog, and more importantly, why they read your blog? Take a chance to survey readers once or twice a year to get to know some general knowledge about who they are, what work they do, and why they read your blog.

Learning why a large portion of readership cares about what you do can inspire you to blog more frequently about issues that matter most to readers.

Be personal (and personable!)

Let your blogging tone of voice be unique (all your own) and uniform (consistency is key). When readers see that your blog has a good release consistency, that it’s well-written, and more prepared than not, they’ll respond to your blog’s direct emails for special offers and joy.

Building a consistent readership, consistently

As bloggers, we all know the value of a consistent readership. Our readers not only keep us on our editorial toes, but help to serve our content with tips, ideas, and suggestions throughout the year. So it makes sense that we should continue to look for ways to keep existing readers on board, while using techniques from email marketing pros to acquire new readers.

How is your blog working to acquire new readers? Are you using customizing your email content? Are you developing special landing pages for new and existing readers for discounts on reports and case studies? Can you use your reader data to bolster your editorial efforts? Let us know in the comments!

After getting my Computer Science degree in NorCal, my interest in writing about technology took over and I started freelancing for various blogs and publications. I love the beach and Apple products!

Quality Vs. Volume: The Traffic Spectrum, and How You as Bloggers Can Harness It

As web usage grows, and we all become more connected more of the time, it could seem like getting traffic to your blog should be getting easier.

But as connectedness increases, so does competition. There are only 24 hours in a day, and the blogger’s job is to convince readers to spend a few precious minutes with us.

motorway_traffic_trail

Image courtesy stock.xchng user ansmedia

Attracting more readers to your blog

A lot of the time, it can seem like we have two options for attracting readers to our blogs:

  • entice them in, one at a time
  • “explode” your blog with “viral” content or promotions.

You can imagine these as two extremes on a spectrum; for most of us, traffic growth usually sits somewhere in between. Though for bloggers at the beginning of their careers, the one-at-a-time scenario is very real. And occasionally, any of us might hit on an “explosive growth” moment where our blogs get a massive volume of traffic for a brief moment (comparatively!) in time.

Of the traffic that comes once, only a portion will ever come back, and even fewer will subscribe. No wonder it can seem like an uphill battle to build a tribe around a blog!

I’ve found the best way to make the most of both kinds of readers is to cater to both.

Capturing attention—and holding it

If a blog has strong, targeted content that really gives value to readers, it’s off to a flying start. The design should also be easy to use, and attractive to the target group—that goes without saying.

So what is it that captures and holds the attention of individuals arriving at your site either as one-offs, or as part of a massive stream of traffic that you’ve generated through, say, some viral content, or great search positioning?

Let’s look at some of the tactics that suit each group.

The hard-won, single visitor

Perhaps this person’s found your site using a very specific search phrase, or they were having coffee with a friend who mentioned your blog. They might have seen the column you write for the local paper, and typed in your blog’s URKL out of curiosity, or had a contact share a link to a particular article on your blog that they thought would help this new visitor.

I think of these kinds of visitors as pre-engaged. When they arrive at your blog, they’re open-minded about what it has to offer, but they also have an expectation that it’ll solve a problem or answer a need that they have.

What can we do to capture the attention of these readers? Things like:

  • links to further reading on the same topic
  • signup forms/newsletter subscriptions
  • a contact form for questions they might want to ask
  • a free download targeting their need
  • an active community of commenters or forum members
  • links to social media/rss subscriptions.

The generic, viral visitor

By “viral visitors,” I’m talking about people who arrive at your site as part of a crowd sent by a viral piece of content you’ve published somewhere, or a big-name blog making mention of you.

We know that this traffic traditionally spikes and plummets soon after, and while the traffic can be strong for a short period, the majority of those visitors tends not to come back.

Every blogger wants to capture a larger slice of the viral traffic pie. How can we? I think that the answer here is a little more complicated. When I click a shared link on social media, I’m in either “entertainment” or “intrigue” mode. I’m wanting distraction, or a quick fix of new knowledge in an interest area. I’m not looking for a long-term relationship with a blog!

If I’m coming from a contextual link that’s on another site I’m reading, my motivation is usually a fairly specific kind of curiosity related to the topic in question, and my level of engagement will depend on how much I trust the site that linked to you, and the content I was reading when I came across the link. I’d guess that viral traffic that comes through contextual links is likely to have higher expectations of your blog than that coming through social media—I know this is true for me as a user.

So how can we capture viral readers with such different levels of engagement and motivation?

To be honest, I think that if the landing page for viral traffic convinces them to re-share the link, you’re probably doing a pretty good job. The fact is that a lot viral traffic coming through social media isn’t often strongly targeted.

If you can go one better and entice them to follow you on social media as well, you’re doing very well. To achieve this, you’ll need prominent social media buttons that allow them to follow you on every post. If they can also reshare the content direct from the page, so much the better.

To capture those coming through links from another site in your niche, you might consider extra tactics like:

  • making comments on posts prominent
  • offering a free download or subscription related to the content on the same page
  • following up with the linking site to see if they’ll accept a guest post, so you can further build your profile with the site’s readers
  • offering the linking site an exclusive piece of quality content (e.g. a whitepaper or report that links back to your blog) on the same topic, or one that’s related, that they can share with their readers.

How do you capture different kinds of new visitors?

These are just a few ideas that I’ve used to try to capture different kinds of new visitors to my blogs. Do you target different kinds of new visitors differently, or use specific tactics to try to grab their attention?

I’d love to hear how you’re handling things—and what’s working for you—in the comments.

Tap User Psychology to Build an Indestructible Community Around Your Blog

This guest post is by Richard Millington of FeverBee.

Many blogs attempt to build a community, but few succeed.

At best, they build an audience. They build a following that reads and responds to posts, but those readers don’t meaningfully build relationships with one another.

If you want a blog that solely distributes information, this is fine. However, if you want your blog to be the hub of a major community, then you need to develop a strong sense of community.

There is decades of advice about building a sense of community. To simplify, we’re using McMillan and Chavis’ 1986 Psychological Sense of Community summary.

In this post I’m going to highlight how you can apply proven research concepts from social science to build a strong sense of community around your blog.

To build a strong sense of community, you need four elements:

  1. membership
  2. influence
  3. integration and fulfilment of needs
  4. shared emotional connection.

Let’s go through each of these in turn.

Building a sense of membership

Membership is how members know who’s “in” and who’s “out.” How would one member identify another? Membership comprises of four elements:

  1. Boundaries: these are the skills, knowledge, interests, experiences and assets that allow members to be accepted into the community. Communities with higher boundaries have a stronger sense of community. If you want to increase the sense of community, raise the boundaries. Write and talk about the elite people in the field.
  2. Emotional safety: in the community, members have to talk about their most difficult issues. You need to initiate and facilitate discussions about the most hardcore topics. Discussions about whether it’s best to use the ZT451.4 Transistor or the ZT452.3 instead are terrific for increasing the sense of community. So are skewing discussions to the most hardcore, deeper levels of self-disclosure. Your community has to be the place for members to discuss the most emotive and hardcore topics. Members have a social fear about discussing these matters at first, so you have to help them feel comfortable enough to do so.
  3. Personal investment: successful communities solicit active contributions from every member. It’s not enough to ask members what they think and respond to a few comments. You need to establish challenges, set goals that members can contribute towards achieving, and call for support on future topics you’ll tackle. Co-ordinate events with your members.
  4. Common symbol systems: members identify each other by their shared symbols. In the physical world, these relate to the way we dress, speak, and style ourselves. Online, these symbols include the words, images, ideas, and signs that have unique meaning to our audience. Identify these (interview your members if you have to), then use these within your content.

Give your members influence

To build a strong sense of community, your members need to feel they can influence that community. Most brands get this wrong: they give their members no influence. Our need for efficacy is at work here. We like to be able to shape the environment around us. You can encourage this.

  • Create opportunities for members to be involved: proactively provide members with opportunities to influence the community. Frequently call for opinions and ideas, and solicit actions. Have a Be more involved tab, recruit volunteers to send in the latest news, interview popular people in your sector, and actively recruit new people to join the community. Mention the opinions of members by name in your content—let members contribute their own content, as opinion columns, advice pieces, interviews, and more.
  • Feature contributions from members: prominently feature the contributions of members on your community platform. If a member makes a great contribution, mention it in a news article and encourage other members to respond.
  • Write about your members: use your content to write what members are doing. Talk about their milestones—it might be a work achievement, a topic-related success, or even a lifestyle success. If a member is getting married or has a child, congratulate them. This individualises the community. It makes it about the people who are interested in the topic, rather than just the topic itself.

Integrate and fulfil members’ needs

What needs does your community satisfy? If your blog is just trying to satisfy someone’s informational needs, that’s fine. However, it puts you amongst a lot of tough competition with little loyalty. If instead you try to satisfy users’ social needs, you attract members for life.

There are three key elements to this:

  1. Ensure your community is a status symbol. To be a member of your community should be a status symbol. You need to raise the profile of your community outside of the community itself. Ensure it’s featured in other channels—especially channels your members are engaged with. Set goals that your community can achieve. If you can’t think of any, then make it a simple fundraising goal. It’s important to give the impression of momentum around your community. It might also help, if the community is exclusive, to have a badge/Twibbon that members can display elsewhere.
  2. Attract and promote great people. We all want to participate in the community that the most talented, knowledgeable, popular people participate in. So you need to attract these people. Appeal to their egos. Let them have weekly columns, interviews, and other opportunities to feature. Write about their latest contributions to the field. Document the best practices your community has shared and uncovered. Make these documents sharable—ebooks where members share their best advice work well here.
  3. Shared values: Write down a statement of what you believe in, or what your blog stands for. You should attract others who share your values. If you like, let members sign a pledge committing to those values if they join the community. Proactively seek out and invite people to join that share these values.

Foster a shared emotional connection

The final element is to develop a shared emotional connection amongst members. Strong communities oscillate at the same emotional frequency. They think and feel the same things at the same time. They feel a sense of connection through those shared emotions.

Developing a shared emotional connection is perhaps the hardest and most important element of the four listed here. It comprises of several elements.

  • Regular contact: to feel a shared connection, members must regularly interact with each other. You need to provide a tool for that to happen. You need to sustain and drive those interactions. Events, challenges, and highlighting popular discussions within your community are good ways to do this.
  • Increase the quality of interactions: it’s okay for members to share information, but you also want to encourage bonding and status-related discussions. Introduce and highlight discussions that encourage high levels of self-disclosure from members. For example “What was your best experience in {topic}?” might sound like a simple question, but it creates a terrific way for members to bond.
  • Create experiences your members can share: Shared experiences breeds a stronger community. Organize regular events and activities. This doesn’t have to be an offline meeting (although those are terrific)—it can be online live discussions, quizzes, challenges, campaigns to change something in your sector, and so on.
  • Write your epic shared history: Ensure that the community has an epic shared history, not just an About page. Document who founded the community, who were the early members, and what were the big and controversial discussions and events. Imagine this as a story to tell new members, then send it to them!

You will notice with many of these tactics that you’re narrowing your audience. You’re deciding not to reach everyone but to turn the audience you have into a strong community. That’s a good thing, as it’s the more closely knit communities that are the most enduring and successful.

Have you built a community around your blog? How did you do it? We’d love to hear what you did—and how it worked—in the comments.

Richard Millington is the Managing Director of FeverBee.com and author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities.

4 Simple Steps to Get Sponsorship from Media Agencies

This guest post is by John Kelly of www.company.com.au.

When bloggers think about monetising their content, most will turn to Google AdSense for advertising revenue, and some may think about releasing an ebook or enrolling in an affiliate program. 

While these channels work for a few blogs, most will realise that the returns are frustratingly small for the amount of effort they have invested in their content.

The real advertising money is spent by media agencies. According to the IAB, in Australia alone, over three billion dollars was spent last year on online advertising, with the vast majority traded through a handful of media agency groups.

This is a source of revenue most bloggers neglect. But, with a bit of research and persistence, you can start to capture a small part of this expenditure.

What does a media agency do?

The role of the media agency is to buy media space on behalf of advertisers.  They research the brand’s target audience and match this up with advertising placements.  At the same time, they will be trying to negotiate the best rates and positions for their clients.

Once the campaign is live, the agency will track results, and optimize creative and placements in order to achieve the campaign objectives.

4 simple steps to sell ad space to media agencies

How can the humble blogger sell his or her ad space to media agencies? Follow these four steps.

1. Do your homework

Life in an agency tends to pass at a frantic pace. Many agencies are understaffed and often, the detailed planning and buying work falls on a junior.  Getting through to the right person can be a challenge.

Firstly, you need to decide which brand you are targeting.  Determine which brands have products that they would like to sell to your audience.  Concentrate on brands that are actively advertising and have money to spend.

To work out which agency handles your target advertisers account, do some research online.  A search of the local ad industry trade sites will normally tell you which agency handles the account, and buying team members are often quoted in press releases. In Australia search the ad industry sites: www.mumbrella.com.au and www.adnews.com.au.

Call the agency reception and ask who manages the buying for the account.  While media planners are bombarded with cold calls and emails, if you have done your research and put together a compelling proposition, most planners will be willing to speak to you.  Don’t be discouraged if this takes a lot of calls. It’s not personal—that’s just the nature of the business.

2. Know the planning cycle

Each brand will have its own marketing calendar of activity, with the budgets normally planned two to three months before the live date. Seasonality is a good indication of planning times; many B2B advertisers will run tax time promotions, while consumer goods businesses typically spend heavily before major holidays and avoid the summer months.

You are far more likely to get on the schedule if you pitch your ideas during the times when the media is being planned.

If you are interested in the details of the planning and buying cycle, Ad School has excellent, detailed content available for free on their website.

3. Play to your strengths

Most blogs can’t compete on reach, and shouldn’t be competing on price with mainstream publishers.  Your strength lies in the engaged and passionate nature of your audience.  Emphasise that you are offering depth over breadth—and a depth that can’t be found elsewhere.

Put this together in a short proposal, clearly highlighting your audience, readership numbers and a breakdown of costs.  Keep it simple and compelling.

Also, be reassuringly expensive.

One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is pricing their content and audience too low.  Media agencies typically deal with three kinds of digital buying models for advertising:

  • Performance-based: This is where they pay for each action taken, such as a click or a sale.
  • CPM: Cost per thousand impressions served.
  • Sponsorships: A fixed price is charged for integrating a brand into a website.

Unless you have a blog with very high traffic numbers, the first two buying models should be avoided. At a $15 CPM, 100,000 impressions would only generate $1,500. While that’s nice to have, it’s not enough if you’re to become a pro blogger. And the returns on performance-based agreements are typically a fraction of a CPM buy.

Brands will buy on a sponsorships basis when it allows them to use engaging ad units and to integrate their message into your content.  With major advertisers dealing with budgets in the millions, media planners often think any buy below $10k is not worth the effort.

You may be asked make some changes to your blog template to accommodate the creative.  Your answer should always be “yes.”  If you are not technically minded, you can hire a freelancer to do this for a nominal fee on one of the many outsourcing sites (such as www.freelancer.com).

Then, expect to be asked to aggressively discount your pricing.  Media agencies are evaluated by their clients on the savings they achieved.  Your initial price should be higher than the price you’re comfortable selling at.

4. Remember the three Ps

  1. Be professional. As a blogger, you own valuable content and access to an engaged audience that many brands will want to tap into.  Treat your site as a product and market it professionally.  Any hint that you run your site as a hobby will lead to failure.
  2. Be prepared: You need to be prepared to demonstrate why dealing with a relatively small site is worth the effort when media planners are used to six-figure buys with the likes of Google and Yahoo.  Know your key selling points at all times.
  3. Be persistent: Many bloggers quickly become frustrated with dealing with media agencies.  Phone calls go unanswered, emails are unreturned and initial interest often goes cold.  These are issues major publishers also face.  Resolve yourself to spending one hour a day researching agencies and contacting buyers.  The hard work will pay off over time and can lead to significant revenues.

Check out how professional blog sites market themselves. Kidspot is a great example of a once-small site that’s gone on to be acquired by News Corp. 

The blog Mendel.me also has some more tips on how to write a sales proposal for bloggers.

Have you sold ad space on your blog to a media agency? Tell us how you handled it in the comments.

John Kelly is the editor of www.company.com.au a blog that provides small business news, advice and resources.

5 Fatal Mistakes Your Paid Content Marketers *Are* Making (and How Much it’s Costing You)

Businesses wanting to reach users in more subtle ways are jumping on the blogging bandwagon. Well and truly.

In a recent Australian study, 62% of respondents said “blogs are the most appealing medium for business to promote a brand.”

If you’re in a business that’s paying an agency to create content on your behalf and place it on niche- and audience-appropriate sites around the web, you might be surprised to learn how far short your chosen agency is falling.

As Content manager at Problogger.net, I see agency pitches all the time, from marketing shops large and small. Just this week, I turned down content submitted by a global digital marketing agency. Why? Because it managed to achieve four of these five fatal mistakes.

How much do I think this probably cost their client? Between pitching, concepting and writing the posts (let’s say a total of four hours), keyword research (an hour?), and client and legal approvals (two hours), at $300 an hour (global agency rates!) we’re looking at $2,100, at a minimum. That’s without any back-and-forth revisions. I really hope that client had these guys on retainer…

If you pay an agency to create and post content to promote your business, now’s the time to ask yourself: how many of these mistakes are they making?

1. They hit sites with spam pitches

ProBlogger has a pretty unambiguous name, and if you’ve ever visited the blog, you’ll see immediately that it has a clear mandate.

Yet every day I receive pitches for “relevant”, “unique” posts on topics like:

  • insurance
  • furniture
  • mattresses and bedding
  • home decorating
  • mortgages
  • and so on.

Sure, this is a complete waste of my time, and bad news for your brand in the relationship-focused blogosphere.

But if you’re paying your agency to make these pitches, automated or not, you’re throwing money out the window.

2. They don’t read the submission guidelines

If your well-paid content marketing “expert” is pitching a post on bedding to ProBlogger, they obviously haven’t read the guidelines. But that’s not the only way their wasting their time and your money, nor the only way they’re swiftly undermining blog-industry respect for your brand.

Many agencies pitch us topics that appear relevant to our readership, then send us vaguely relevant articles containing backlinks to businesses that are completely unrelated to either the topic or our readers.

Our guidelines clearly state that we only include relevant links in posts. So if you’ve paid an agency to carefully research your keywords, and craft the posts, and maybe even had your lawyer approve the posts themselves (which many businesses do), and the host blog has rejected those posts, you’ve wasted some serious money.

If only your agency took a more thorough approach to targeting content. Oh wait, that’s what you’re paying them for, isn’t it?

3. They target host sites on the basis of PageRank, not audience or topic

Of course, most of these mistargeting issues arise because content agencies assess potential host sites primarily on the basis of PageRank, traffic levels, and similar factors.

What should they assess host sites on? Their appropriateness to your product, and relevance to your audience.

If your content marketing strategy is positioned as an SEO tool, you’re doing it wrong.

4. They’re unwilling, or unable, to make editorial changes

Let’s be honest. There are plenty of people in the world who can string a few sentences together and call it a guest blog post. Only a small (or, looking at the agency submission we receive, I’d say miniscule) percentage of them have ever written to a brief, or know how to work with an editor.

Writing to a brief—even one you’ve set yourself—is an art.

So is taking in feedback on that draft to make it better suit the readers of the site you’ve pitched it to.

To say that not all people who present themselves as pro writers can do this is an understatement of gargantuan proportions. This stuff is hard. It takes practice.

And if your paid content marketer can’t do it, you’ve blown your dough.

5. They’re unable to write for the medium

I know: blogging looks so easy. Most people in this industry haven’t had professional training in either writing or marketing. The people in your shiny marketing agency have been to grad school, for crying out loud! They know how to put a pen to paper! And really, how hard can it be anyway, right?

Well, pretty darn hard, judging by the paid-agency drafts I receive every day of the live-long week. An ability to write a media release, radio script, print ad, ebook, whitepaper, or essay does not naturally translate to skill in writing for blogs.

For example, your agency might be submitting “blog posts” that look like this:

"Blog post"

What’s wrong here? Ask your content marketing agency. If they can’t tell you, find one that can.

Finding good help

How can you find a good agency? First up, I’d say: stop looking for an agency.

You know who wouldn’t make any of these fatal mistakes? Any actual blogger worth his or her salt. If you want to make an impact using blogs as a medium, it seems that right now, you should hire a blogger.

It’ll be interesting to see how this situation evolves as the industry matures—I have a feeling agencies are eventually going to have to hire actual bloggers before too long, but from what I’m seeing, that’s not happening yet.

That’s the whole problem.

Whoever you’re considering, ask to see these things:

  1. Their blog. If they don’t have a current, engaging one, run.
  2. Five guest posts they’ve had published on other relevant blogs, as well as:
    • the comments and sharing stats for those posts on the host sites
    • evidence of the impact of the guest post publications on the blogger’s own traffic levels
    • the search positioning of those posts for the relevant topic keywords.
  3. The details of, say, three independent bloggers or blog editors they’ve worked with, so you can contact these people and find out how well the blogger’s writing is received by “peers.” Blogging is a relationship-based industry. The better your blogger’s relationship-building skills, the more successful your content marketing efforts are likely to be.

Your chosen blogger doesn’t need to be a big name with a massive following. Far from it. All they need to be able to do is write blog posts that have an impact on the target readers, and work effectively within this rather unique industry.

Too few agencies can manage that.