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How to Handle Guest Post Rejection

This guest post is by Tapha Ngum of MyAppTemplates.com.

So, you agreed on a topic to write about for a blog with the blog owner or editor, and you’ve just spent eight hours writing and editing it. You’ve done all the right things—read the submission guidelines, and double-checked your post for spelling mistakes, and you’re sure you’ve done a good job. You’re confident and excited, though a little apprehensive about sending it over. Because, after all, it could still get rejected, right?

But you send it out anyway.

Two days later you get an email back from the blog, and it tells you that the post has been rejected. Inevitably, you feel terribly deflated.

I know this feeling—and if you’ve been guest blogging for a while, then I’m sure you know it too. It’s really frustrating.

People don’t often talk about this aspect of guest blogging. But it’s a very real part of the equation. The fact is, you can spend hours working on a post and just like that, it can be rejected—deemed useless by the site you wrote it for. All that blood, sweat and tears for nothing. Even after you have discussed your post idea with the editor!

So what do you do?

Well, in most cases, that post that you wrote would probably end up locked away in some random folder on your computer. And with your confidence dented, you would probably not be too eager to write another guest post for a while, let alone make any revisions to the current one. But this, in my mind is the worst possible way to deal with guest post rejection.

The right way to deal with guest post rejection is to treat it as a stepping stone.

Guest post rejection, just like any other form of rejection, has within it the seeds of an equivalent benefit, if you know how to spot and effectively use those seeds. In each case of rejection, there will be some variability, and the benefits that you can take out of the situation will differ. But in the main, there are some key benefits that I have seen and used to good effect every time one of my guest posts has failed to be accepted.

I specifically mentioned the word “seeds” above, because the benefits that can be gained from guest post rejection are not always immediately apparent. A lot of the time you need to dig them up for yourself.

So, to help you along with that process, here are the three steps that I take when a post of mine has been rejected. You can use them to help you unearth the benefits for yourself and ultimately get more of your posts published.

Step 1. Get specific feedback from the person who rejected your post

Getting your guest post rejected is a brilliant opportunity to find out how you can improve your guest posting approach. Was it the way you wrote it? The lack of references in your article? In some cases you can even find that it was the way that you approached the person in the email that put them off and caused them to reject you.

Don’t be afraid to ask why your post was rejected. More often than not you’ll get useful feedback that will help you in your future guest posting endeavours. When you’re armed with this knowledge, your future attempts will only be more successful.

Quick tip: In your first email with the person who accepts the guest posts, let them know that you are willing to make revisions as necessary. This makes it easier to request a second submission later on if the post is rejected.

Also make sure that you do your research and find out how the blog that you’re dealing with likes to accept submissions. Often, you will find that your post has been rejected because you failed to discuss the ideas with them first. ProBlogger, for example, prefers bloggers to send their pitches over to them before you go ahead with your guest post.

Step 2. Try to resubmit the guest post

Once you have had a chance to analyze the feedback that you have been given and implement it into your post, send the guest post in again. Try your best to make sure that you have incorporated as much of the feedback as you can.

I’d also suggest you read the last ten guest posts that were accepted onto the site, to get a feel for what they like to publish.

Step 3. Try another blog

If you have really made an effort to make the post great, but are still not getting through with it, then maybe it is time to see if it can be placed on another site.

You should understand that every objectively well-written post is an asset, and even though it may not be valued by a particular site, it still has a lot of inherent value if it is used. So don’t let it end up on a folder, unused on your computer just because the rejection of it decreases your perception of its value. Not all posts are necessarily the right fit for all sites. So you have to accept that in some cases, your post will just not work for a particular site—and move onto another one.

A rejected post is not a useless post, although initially it can feel that way. In fact, if you have gone through the first two steps outlined above, and you’ve edited the post and submitted more than one revision, the chances are very likely that you will get accepted by another blog of similar standing.

Quick tip: Again, make sure that you know how the blog that you are dealing with likes to accept submissions. If you have to discuss the pre-written post with them before you send it in, make sure you do that. In the end, you want to make sure that you give yourself the best chance of having your guest post accepted and published. So complying with the host blog’s guidelines is a must.

Rejection can make your post better

A lot of people who have experienced rejection of their guest posts end up thinking that it’s just not worth the effort—it’s just too risky for them to put in the all that work for a chance that it may not even pay off.

But in my mind, that’s where the value in guest posting lies. If you learn to deal with this uneasy part of the guest posting process, then it will become an asset, not just to you, but to your business as well.

Have you ever had a guest post get rejected? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

This is a guest post from Tapha. Founder of MyAppTemplates.com, a site that provides custom iphone app templates to people who cannot afford to spend $1,000′s on their iphone app design.

Build Your List Before You Launch, Using Launchrock

This guest post is by John Doherty of Distilled NYC.

Are you a blogger, either part-time or full-time, who is seeking to launch a product? Or, are you a business owner who is looking to launch either a startup or a new product line?

If so, this post is for you. We all dream of going viral with a product launch, but what if you can get the promise of a new product to spread across the internet so that you can gather the people who might be interested in your product when it actually does launch?

Or, if you have an idea for a product, wouldn’t you like to test out if people will actually be interested in buying or using said product, without actually putting much (or any) work into the minimum viable product (MVP)?

This is why tools like Launchrock exist. Launchrock is a tool that helps you capture email addresses, and encourages virality for new product launches.

The company I work for, Distilled, launched our online marketing training platform DistilledU back in May, after a few months of content creation and development.

In January of 2012, however, we put up this page:

Our launch page

This page was built with Launchrock in about 30 minutes. Within 24 hours, we had collected over 1,000 email addresses of people eager to hear when we launched the product. While your mileage may vary by the size of your engaged audience and those willing to help you co-market your product, I believe that you as well can see success in getting pre-buy-in for your product launch using Launchrock.

In this post, we’ll walk through the steps that you can follow to set up your own Launchrock page, and start collecting interest in your product.

Introducing LaunchRock

We’re going to be talking about Launchrock’s free service. Let’s see how to get started.

When you go to the Launchrock site, you will see this:

Launchrock home

Enter your email address, and you will be signed up and taken to this page:

Project name

On this page, you can input your project’s name, a one-line description of your project, and a short description.

Choosing a project name

Your project’s name is probably the most important part of this whole setup. Just like blog titles, which you want to be clickworthy and viral, your project’s name needs to be:

  • memorable
  • succinct
  • descriptive

You will want to avoid the typical blog-title trap of “5 Things That…” because this is a project that is long-term, not a one-hit wonder. While you want people to click through, they also need to get excited about the project.

Since viral marketing tactics are only one piece of the puzzle, though, you should take into account keyword research while crafting your title as well.

If I was to launch my ebook announcement again, I would have included “Blog Marketing Ebook” in the title and written a blog post about it, to try to rank for “Blog Marketing Ebook” to gain even more interest. I didn’t include something like “Online Marketing School” with the DistilledU launch because of existing brand recognition. If you’re a small blogger, though, this tip could help your chances of success.

One-line description

This tweet-length line of text is almost as valuable as your project title, since it is the next place your readers will look.

This is your project’s “elevator pitch”, which is what startups are often told to have should they meet a potential investor in an elevator and have five seconds to tell them about their company/idea.
Once again, this should be memorable, succinct, and descriptive.

“The last ebook about toy design you will ever need.”

“Why stressing yourself out at work does not have negative lifestyle repercussions.”

Short description

Your project’s short description is the meat and potatoes of your project. How much is it going to cost? When are you expecting to release it? There is no word limit to your short description, but anything longer than two paragraphs is probably too long in today’s internet reading-length environment.

Even though longform content can do well in some online niches, you have a very brief amount of time to grab your reader’s attention and convert them through the email box on Launchrock.

Choosing social networks

After your headline, description, and short description are made, you need to figure out which social networks you should enable your audience to share your project on. While allowing readers the option of which network to share it on is great, you shouldn’t necessarily allow every network.

The best way to make the decision about which social networks to prioritize is to make a data-driven decision.

Take your ten most recent blog posts and throw them into SharedCount. Using the multiple-URL option, you can see the trends and where your posts are most popular. Check out the most recent SEOmoz posts, shown in the image below. If they were going to launch a new product using Launchrock, they should prioritize Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn is not as high of a priority:

Sharedcount results

Custom messages

For each social sharing option, you also have the power to dictate what the message that’ll be shared says. This is a great power and one to be leveraged. Click on the social network option and a box will appear for you to input your message. Here’s the Twitter sharing options box:

Twitter sharing options

Remember that each social network has different triggers that work to incentivize people to share. Twitter updates are shorter and therefore require a short call to action, like “Join me!” Facebook users have more personal connections than Twitter, so the message must appeal to a friend and establish trust.

Here’s the call to action we leveraged on Twitter for DistilledU:

I just registered early for DistilledU on http://t.co/uOyRONjw. Come be my classmate! via @distilled.

This generated hundreds of retweets, resulting in over 500 signups in a six-hour period:

Tweets

Storing email addresses

When people sign up to your project by giving you their email address, they are sent a confirmation email by Launchrock, so that your email list is kept as pure as possible.

Now, however, we are faced with the challenge of storing and using the email addresses collected, which leads us to one of the major drawbacks of Launchrock.

One of the downsides of Launchrock is its lack of integration with email management platforms. If you do any email marketing and are building a contact list, you know that a good email marketing management platform is a must-have for segmenting lists and campaigns.

This lack of integration is troubling to me, but fortunately Launchrock makes it easy for you to export your data in a .csv format that is then easily imported into a system like Mailchimp, through Launchrock Insights.

Launchrock Insights

Pro tip: Insights shows you how many referrals have been sent to you by those who have signed up to your list. Take these and sort them from high to low by referrals. This will let you identify your power users, who can become your most powerful project advocates if you make them feel special.

Photo considerations

One often-overlooked consideration when building a Launchrock page is design. Launchrock allows you to upload your own background photo to customize your design. What image should you use?

Think about the psychology of your user at this point. Do they need to have trust built with them in order to sign up? Do they need motivation?

When we launched DistilledU, we launched with a photo of one of our cofounders, Will, because he is a trusted voice in the industry. We used the photo of him onstage speaking because we wanted to show that we are a trustworthy source for learning online marketing.

Minimum viable design

I understand that many bloggers and marketers are not designers. I have seen more badly designed blogs than I could ever wipe from my memory. But design is imperative to your project’s success. A well-designed page builds trust with your user.

I recommend using the rule of thirds, which is a well-known photography framing technique but also applies to design. If I’m announcing a new product or event, I could do a design like this. However, it looks somewhat messy and not as clear as I’d like it:

Page design

Yet, with a slight tweak to the background graphic and moving the signup form to the left of the page, I get a much cleaner look:

Revised page design

Launchrock allows you to change your background image as I’ve said above, but they also provide eight different page theme boxes to choose from. Once you have settled on your background, choose the right box design for your background:

Choosing the box design

Hosted or widget?

Launchrock provides you with the option of either creating a hosted page for your site, or using a widget.

Hosted page or widget

If you have access to your hosting provider, you can create a new CNAME with them and point the Launchrock-hosted page to a subdomain on your website (i.e. http://awesome.domain.com).

Now you won’t have to worry about whether or not your hosting will be able to stand the load of new visitors coming to your page once you launch. But the drawback is that you now have a subdomain that is gathering links, and that subdomain is not inheriting the domain authority of your main site, so even if you launch your product on that same subdomain, you will have a hard time ranking in the search engines for your targeted terms. For more information about how to set up a new CNAME, Launchrock provides a great resource for most hosting providers.

If you are not able to create a new CNAME (which can be an issue on platforms like Blogger), you can use the widget option instead. You will not have the full-page layout, but Launchrock provides you with code that you are able to copy into a post on your blog. Note that you will still need access to your site’s <head> section to copy over the Facebook OpenGraph tags so that your users are able to share your project on Facebook.

Launch time!

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Of course, you have already reached out to the influencers to let them know of the launch so that it will reach more people, and you have set up content to go live on related sites to promote your project, right?

Now go, launch, and enjoy the ride!

John Doherty is the head of Distilled NYC, a search marketing firm based in London with offices in New York and Seattle. In his day job he works with clients of all sizes to help them earn more traffic from the search engines and other organic online channels. In his free time, aside from being adrenaline-seeking adventurer, he works on his own websites and is currently writing an ebook about blog marketing.

5 Email Engagement Lessons from the Big Social Networks

This guest post is by Lior Levin.

Email remains one of the best ways to increase the reach of your blog and to increase engagement with your readers, since it requires a choice to opt in and is delivered directly to inboxes.

But if you abuse or misuse email while trying to reach your blog readers, it could become a liability, hurting your business in the process.

Increasing the effectiveness of your blog using email demands the development of time-tested strategies. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter send a significant amount of email to their users, and by examining their strategies and formats, you can learn a great deal about using email to reach your blog readers.

Twitter’s email strategy

Twitter’s “digest” email is a relatively recent innovation that provides a list of the most important tweets from your followers. This digest focuses on helping users find the content that is most popular, but that might have been missed given the immediacy of Twitter.

Twitter email

Bloggers can use their email lists in a similar way to highlight the best content on their sites, recognizing that even their most loyal fans can’t catch every single post.

From the posts that are shared the most, to the posts with the most comments, keep track of what visitors to your blog find most intriguing. Then, use your email list to keep the conversation going and build stronger reader relationships.

Facebook’s email strategy

If you don’t manage your emails from Facebook, your inbox will soon be overtaken by them. However, there is quite a bit that bloggers can learn from this network’s strategy.

For instance, Facebook’s email messages are short and to the point, only giving the most important information, which is usually a link to click on. If you want to maximize the impact of your blog marketing, do the same with your emails.

facebook-email

Either provide a few key links to your blog that can be clicked or, better yet, provide one simple action item as the focus of your email message. The more simple and focused your emails, the more likely recipients will visit your blog.

Facebook users can also customize their emails by selecting the exact events and updates they want to be alerted to, and will only receive related emails. This ability to customize what you receive and when is an important lesson for promoting a blog through email marketing.

Email marketing tools like Mailchimp can be integrated into a blog and blog visitors can both sign up to receive email updates and customize how often they’ll receive updates from your site. For example, some visitors will want daily updates so they can be the first to comment or to jump on your limited-time offers. Others will only want a weekly digest of your blog posts.

Either way, you’ll keep your subscribers happy and engaged by providing customized ways for them to stay informed about your blog.

For bloggers hoping to increase engagement, Facebook showcases the importance of letting users choose what they want and finding important information on their own timetable.

Similarly, providing your blog’s subscribers with the ability to customize emails makes it easy to take advantage of market segmentation and ensures your visitors stay happy and engaged without becoming inundated with email.

Google+’s email strategy

Google email

Much like Twitter, Google+ sends a weekly digest email. However, it goes one step further by recommending new users to follow and, most importantly, offers the ability to add them to your circles within the email.

In other words, Google+ uses the email itself to drive user engagement rather than relying on a clickthrough to the network itself.

In short, there’s no reason to force subscribers to click through to your site to engage with your blog, since much of what they do at your blog can be just as easily done in the email itself. You can:

    • provide full blog posts in your emails
    • offer social media sharing buttons
    • reuse the content from your landing pages.

This ensures that recipients have one simple action step rather than being forced to click through to your blog every time they want to do something.

LinkedIn’s email strategy

LinkedIn is another social networking site that sends a large number of emails, and allows users to customize the messages they receive. One of the specialties of LinkedIn, however, is giving customers information beyond what they specify in their settings.

LinkedIn update

LinkedIn emails show users new suggested contacts, job opportunities, and other connections that may be worth making. However, users can always change their email settings to a weekly digest or disable the emails completely if they like.

This is a service that almost any blogger can provide if they properly segment their audience and know what their subscribers want to receive each week.

For example, a blogger who writes about creativity may have writers, graphic designers, and musicians reading her site. Her email list should be broken into those three segments so that she can more effectively reach those interest groups with special offers, content, and new products.

LinkedIn teaches bloggers that they need to know their audience well, and proactively reach out to them based on their interests.

Pinterest’s email strategy

Lastly, Pinterest’s emails are profoundly visual in nature, and presented more like a large sign than a block of text.

While the visual benefits of Pinterest are nothing new, it is a good reminder for bloggers that increasing engagement through email requires using visual tools in addition to text. If Pinterest is growing through image-based content, bloggers should explore that strategy as well.

Pinterest email

Pinteret’s emails are a good example of tying email marketing in with other elements of your online presence, in particular the images on your blog. As you prepare your blog posts, scan them for brief, valuable insights that can be adapted to fit in an image.

Images in blog posts are incredibly useful for SEO and social media sharing, but they can also be integrated with posts in your email updates. An image will break up an email and draw readers into your post’s content. In addition, the image itself is something that can be pinned on Pinterest, increasing your blog’s social reach through email itself.

What can you learn from social media email strategies?

There’s no reason why your email marketing plans for your blog can’t gain some lessons from social networks that have long specialized in effectively using email. It’s just a matter of forming a good plan and then finding the time and energy to get it done.

Here are the five key lessons from each social network for bloggers using email:

      • Twitter: Use email to highlight the best content on your website.
      • Facebook: Keep email messages short and to the point, and focused one one single action.
      • Google+: Drive user engagement in the text of your email, and let users take actions in the email itself.
      • LinkedIn: Proactively use email to reach out to your audience based on their interests, and provide more value than they expect.
      • Pinterest: Use images to break up an email and draw readers into your post’s content—and make them shareable from the email itself.

After all, there’s no real secret to good email marketing. It’s all about investing the resources needed to make it happen, and that comes from watching what others are doing and making email a priority.

What have you learned about email marketing from social media websites—or others in your niche? Share your tips with us in the comments.

This guest post was sent to us by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a shopping cart abandonment company and who also advises Producteev, a to do list Start-Up.

Are You Wasting Time Guest Posting?

This guest post is by Dan Norris of Web Control Room.

Guest posting is up near the top of every list of ways to grow your blog. The problem is, if you don’t do it correctly, you are more or less wasting your time.

I’ve been writing guest posts for a long time as a way to build interest in my blogs. But until recently I’d never really looked specifically at the results. I’d been assuming, like a lot of bloggers, that I could just get published on some big blogs, and readers would come my way.

My new business, Web Control Room, is a free web app that allows tech savvy business owners to track all their important metrics in the one place. So part of my launch strategy is guest posting on popular blogs for small business owners and bloggers.

In the first few weeks of running my beta I was lucky enough to get published on three well-known industry blogs.

But after analyzing the results, I was shocked. The stats are shown below, “conversions” being the number of people who signed up to use the app in its beta stage.

  • Total visitors to my site: 67
  • Conversions: 2 (2.9%)

Those figures are for all three guest posts combined—about nine hours work for me!

As you can see, these results fall a long way short of what most people expect when writing guest posts. Not only is the traffic minuscule, the conversion rate was well below that from other sources (some were closer to 10%).

Two problems with guest posting

There are two things that are often forgotten by bloggers publishing guest posts.

  1. It’s hard to understand an audience when they aren’t your audience. This is a problem when you’re writing your first post on a blog—you really don’t know what is going to appeal to the audience.
  2. People don’t want to leave their favourite blogs to go back to yours—unless they have a really good reason to.

So if you don’t understand what the readers want, and they don’t want to leave the host blog to come back to yours anyway, what do you do?

In this post I’m going to give you five techniques you can use to directly address these problems, and stop wasting time guest posting.

1. Mention your blog or business

The first thing you absolutely must do in a guest post is mention your blog or business, ideally with a link back to your site. A lot of people forget this. I’ve read some exceptional posts in the past and arrived at the end of the article having no idea who wrote it or what they do. You’ve got to work this into the post, ideally near the start (like I did above).

Some blogs don’t like linking off to your site during the body of the post, but most will allow you to talk about your business if it’s used as an example in your post. If you aren’t talking about your business then you are probably writing generic, boring content anyway, so most good blogs will understand the need for you to do this.

If you mention your blog or business at the start, it will be at the back of the readers’ minds when they get to the end of the post, where there definitely should be a bio and link back to your site with a compelling pitch targeted to the readers of the host blog.

2. Take a case study approach

To take the first point a step further, why not write a post specifically about what you are doing in your business—a case study? Notice how in the intro above I mentioned specific results I got for guest posts I have written. That’s a small example. An even better one would be to make the entire post about work you have done in your business.

I recently wrote a guest post for Think Traffic, called Which traffic strategy converts best? This post was all about the traffic strategies I was implementing as part of my new business. Because it was about my business, people were naturally interested in checking out my site after they read the post. In fact, I suspect a lot of people going back to the site were simply doing so to see how the site was set up for conversions.

This particular guest post brought in over three times the number of visitors than all three posts I mentioned above combined, not to mention 40+ email subscribers it generated.

Most of the time, the main thing that’s unique about you is that you are the one running your business or blog. Anyone can write general stuff, but only you can write truly unique content with meaningful insights from the work you’ve done—and this is much more interesting than a generic top-ten list.

3. Be nice to the gatekeeper

Most large blogs have someone who manages the content, but who isn’t necessarily the face behind the blog. This person is used to seeing the same spammy guest post email day in, day out, and guest posters following the same standard approach of sending off their article and never returning to the host blog once it’s accepted.

As I mentioned before, it’s hard to get everything right with your first guest post. If you are just doing it for a backlink, there are quicker and easier ways to get the same result.

If you are doing it to legitimately provide value and engage with the audience, then you should do what the others don’t do, because your goal should be to write more articles for the site in the future—and better articles, too.

When I approach a host blog, I always do the following:

  1. In the back-and-forth emails prior to a post going live, I make sure I take the editor’s ideas on board. They will always know the audience better than you will. Ask them how they think the post will go or if there are any tweaks you can make to make it more appealing to the audience.
  2. When the post goes live, I do my best to promote it. Add your post’s link to blog directory sites, promote it relentlessly on social media, ask your friends to comment on it, promote it on forums, and more. Getting your first post is sometimes difficult, but blog owners will be more than happy to have you back if you prove you can drive traffic to their site.
  3. I send a follow-up email after the dust settles. Say you thought the post went well judging by the social shares and comments, but you’d love to hear from the editor what they thought, and how they think the post was received. Most people don’t do this, so it helps you stand out from the crowd. But it also helps you understand the audience better and do a better job with your next post.

4. Encourage comments and reply to each and every one

Towards the end of your post, ask a specific question of the reader and encourage them to reply with their answer. Then, after the post goes live, respond to each and every comment made on your post.

Quite often a lot of the best content comes out of the discussion at the end of a post, so blog owners like to see an active comment thread. If you don’t have anything to say in response to a comment, just say thanks!

There will also be more opportunities to discuss your business or blog with the readers in the comments, and that discussion will drive up the comment count on the post, to make your work stand out from others’. In some cases, the number of comments will impact on the popular post links on the site, so having more discussion could get you even more eyeballs if it gets you into that list. Needless to say, you’ll also certainly get the attention of the blog owner this way.

The comments will also teach you a lot about the audience. What level are they at in relation to the content? What sites do they run (check out a few as you reply to comments)? What did they like and dislike about your post? This will help you do a better job on your next post, because you’ll know the readers and have a better idea of what they will respond well to. Regular readers will also remember you and be much more likely to read and engage with your future posts.

5. Make it controversial (if you can)

This one is always a bit tricky. It’s hard to fabricate controversy, and I’m not suggesting you go out and offend people. But often, you can inject a little hint of controversy into your writing and if it’s done well, it’s sure to result in more shares and more comments.

On my last blog, my two most popular posts were:

  • one that outlined a five-step process for ridding yourself of Microsoft products
  • another that told business owners to stop focusing and used examples from some big companies like Apple and Google to support the idea—an suggestion that’s against most of what you read about business these days.

These posts expressed an opinion and were in some way a bit controversial, and that, no doubt, is why they were the most popular.

You can even use the title to drip in a bit of controversy. “Are you wasting time guest posting?” suggests that guest posting can be a waste of time, which is controversial. “5 guest posting tips” wouldn’t have the same appeal.

My post on Think Traffic explained 12 traffic strategies, and the one that converted the best for me was a Twitter auto-follow strategy that some readers weren’t too keen on. But you have to go back 11 posts on Think Traffic to find one that was shared more than mine, and the comments thread was also very active.

If you can be just a little bit controversial, your post becomes interesting, and content needs to be interesting to have an impact.

So are you wasting time guest posting?

I’ve talked about some of my best and worst guest posts in this article, and now I’d love to hear from you. Have you wasted time on unsuccessful guest posts? And if so, what did you learn to turn it around for future posts?

Dan Norris is the founder of Web Control Room a free tool that gives bloggers a simple report on the performance of their site. The app talks to popular services used by bloggers (Feedburner, Aweber, PayPal, Analytics etc) and simplifies the information into a 1 page live report available via the web or mobile.

The Blogger’s Dilemma: When Is it Time to Start Paying for Exposure?

This guest post is by Amanda DiSilvestro of Highervisibility.

When you’re a blogger, you want to gain as much visibility and authority as you can, and featuring your content on more established websites is one way to make this happen.

Guest posting is becoming more popular, and it works well for all parties involved: the editor gets a great piece of content and someone new promoting the site, and the writer gets to put his/her content in front of a well-established audience and reaps many SEO benefits.

So what’s the issue?

More and more blogs are beginning to ask writers to pay to post content on their pages. This typically occurs for a few different reasons:

  • The site is usually very authoritative, meaning it has a high PR and a good readership. This means that any link the owners put on their website is providing the guest poster with significantly better SEO and visibility benefits than links from lesser-known sites.
  • Sites that ask a writer to pay to post an article likely have a large influx of articles every day. Everyone wants a piece of the exposure, so asking writers to pay will weed out those who aren’t serious.
  • Asking writers to pay means more income for the website.

Being that there are still many websites across the Internet that are thrilled to meet with a guest contributor, a blogger has to stop and ask whether or not paying to publish a guest post on a particular site is worthwhile.

How to make sure paying for the spotlight is worth it

In some instances, paying to put your content on a very authoritative site is going to be worth it in the long run. Sites that ask you to pay to feature your content typically will promote your content to thousands, which will help you establish a name for your brand.

There are a few things you should do to make sure that payment is worth it in these situations:

  1. Ask the site owners what they can do for you: If a site is asking you to pay, make sure its owners are willing to help promote your article. Ask them if they will be sending your article to their subscribers, how and where they’ll share your article on social media, and if they are willing to continue to help you grow your brand in the future.
  2. Analyze the site on your own: Even if a site tells you they are going to do all of these great things, check up on them yourself. Make sure the site has a great PR, check to see the average number of tweets and comments that an article on the site receives, and talk with others who have contributed there.
  3. Decide whether or not you really need a quick fix: Getting your content on an authoritative site should, in theory, speed up your brand management process. However, it’s important to consider whether or not you really need this quick fix. There are many websites that have grown successful without paying to contribute their content, although it may have taken them longer (and in some cases, taken more work).

It’s also important to realize that, in Google’s eyes, paying to guest post isn’t quite the taboo that paying for other backlinks is. Google looks down upon sites that pay for links because the search engine likes to see backlinks generated organically. In the case of a paid guest post placement, the links are organic and they work in the same way that links in any other guest post would.

When to just say “No” to paying for exposure

Naturally, you should decide against paying to place your guest content if you find negative responses to any of the points discussed above.

However, the biggest thing to keep in mind is whether or not you have the power and resources to really get the same traction without paying for placement.

It is entirely possible to post your content on very authoritative websites that don’t charge you to submit, but it will take a lot of time and effort. Several bigwig sites have declined my writing, but eventually I got it right and was able to get a link back to my blog from those sites.

In my opinion, you should never have to pay to place your content on a blog if you have the time to really work hard to find other alternatives.

Have you ever paid to place your content on a blog? Did you feel the benefits were worth the money? Let us know your story in the comments below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger at Highervisibility, nationally recognized as one of the best seo firms in the country. Connect with HigherVisibility on Twitter to learn more!

Five Newsworthy Stories for Your Next Press Release

This guest post is by Frank Strong of Vocus.

Most bloggers understand that online press releases can drive traffic. Press releases are powerful ways to reach people through search. As Lee Odden wrote in his book Optimize, “search is an explicit expression of need or want” and online press releases provide the means to reach people at the precise time they are expressing that need. This of course can result in one thing many bloggers desire the most: traffic.

ProBlogger has offered reasons to use press releases to promote a blog, and very sound editorial guidance on how to turn a press release into a blog post. However, there’s one piece of insight that’s missing: idea.

In other words, what are we going to write a press release about?

This is especially important for the better press release distribution services. They must enforce editorial guidelines or risk having their content rejected by distribution partners.

The biggest catch?  We’ve got to have a news angle—that is, there’s got to be something new in our announcements.  I’ve seen bloggers struggle with this concept the most, and so here’s a few ideas that I’ve found make great press releases that are effective and simple to produce.

1. More reads for the most read

As bloggers, we know that to build a community, we’ve got to blog consistently.  The same is true for online releases: we need to develop a regular cadence for our announcements. 

One very easy way is to announce our most read blog posts every quarter. 

Take a look at your analytics and determine which posts earned the most unique visitors and then write a press release about it.  Is the media going to call us?  Probably not, but we’ll definitely earn some traffic and hopefully repeat visitors.  This works best if we can find a trending angle—as you can see my company follows our own advice and earned 1,000 new visitors with this release.

2. Themes emerge in blogs

Sometimes bloggers like to experiment with an idea—we get a hunch and the float the idea on our blog to gauge the reaction. One idea leads to another and the next thing we know, we’ve got a whole series of blog posts.

As they say in the news business, three is a trend, so look for a trend that emerges from all time we’ve invested in blogging and find those emergent themes. Then, write a press release that illustrates the trend just like a hard news story you might read on a major news site. In this case, your press release is the story.

3. Research is newsworthy

Matt Landau is like any other entrepreneur trying to make a living. To promote his business, he does what good marketers all do well: he’s active on social media, publishes a blog, and contributes content elsewhere. He’s got a niche in vacation rental marketing and over the years has accrued wisdom that he’s turned into products, like reports, guidebooks and research he sells on his blog. 

For one of his latest products he spent $199 on a press release and earned $3,850 in bookings.  However, he is cautionary against suggesting such success can come overnight.  During a phone conversation, Matt noted that content marketing is a “slow, long hard process that requires a commitment, but if you are confident and persistent, that persistence pays off.”  The lesson?  Consistency matters.

4.  The news before the news

Starting a review site?  Want products to review on a blog?  We’ve got to tell someone about it if want them to come—building it isn’t enough.

Marie Howard was tired of lousy beauty products and started a blog, Howard House Reviews, to review beauty products for women.  And she announced it to the world.  Ah, but that’s only a one-time announcement, right?  No. The consumer industry has sales seasons and so too should review blogs. 

Journalist Beeb Ashcroft announced her Holiday Gift Guide for 2012 which will help drive traffic, but also attract new products to review, and in turn, drive more traffic. There’s an announcement for every season.

5. Announce what’s new

Satyam Kumar is a yoga teacher that knows how to promote his business. He blogs, he has a newsletter, and he creates audio podcasts and video tracks for practicing the various yoga techniques he teaches and he hosts them on his blog. 

When he uploads a newest yoga podcast, he puts out an announcement about it and is careful to point out to readers they can subscribe on iTunes, so he gains not just visitors, but subscribers. 

This tactic can work well for any sort of new content we produce on our social outposts and embed on our blogs: the latest YouTube video you embedded on demonstrating your software, or the latest speaking presentation just posted to SlideShare.  If this works well, double down and post the five most views SlideShare presentations to the blog and announce that too.

Get tactical—and practical—with your next release

These ideas are not strategic—they are tactical and intended to be practical ways to promote a blog with press releases.  There’s a quotation often attributed to Hinduism that might well apply: “An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”

Frank Strong is the director for Vocus, which also owns PRWeb, Help a Reporter out (HARO), iContact and North Social.  Follow @PRWeb on Twitter for more tips on press releases.

The Problem with Almost All Blogs—and An Easy Solution

This guest post is by John Trayhorn of the ECHO Affiliate Blog.

This post describes a problem that affects almost all bloggers, and almost certainly affects you. Implement these changes, and you should see page views, revenues and social sharing soar.

How it begins

You start off a great blog.

To start with almost nobody reads it. Hey, it takes time to build up an audience. (If you’ve just started, don’t give up—longevity is one of the keys to a successful blog!)

As time passes, you slowly gain an audience. When you publish a new blog post, you get a surge of readers.

But:

  1. Most of those readers will never see your old blog posts.
  2. Despite your increasing popularity, many people who do visit your blog and like it will miss many of your new blog posts.
  3. The readers never see your blog organised into a logical and coherent sequence.

There’s a solution.

What’s more, it’s easy to implement, has huge benefits and doesn’t take a lot of your time.

The solution to the problem

I first found the solution when I ran an Adsense website.

I noticed that most of the revenue came from our articles about jobs. We were already using an autoresponder website to send out our newsletters. But to maximise revenue, we needed to do something more.

Email blogging, done right

You may well have heard of autoresponders, or use one yourself, but hang on in with me—there’s more to it than sending out a few emails when you write a new blog post, or have something to sell.

Instead, you send out an email about every post you have ever written.

Not at the same time, of course. If you have an old blog with a lot of posts, the process could be spread out over years! And don’t include the post in the email—the aim is to get the reader back to your blog.

Instead, explain how each blog post will create value to your reader, and then include a link with a call to action back to the post. Remember to use a fantastic headline and to test these over time, so you get more and more opens—and more and more clickthroughs.

In my case, I took all our jobs articles, organised them into a logical sequence, emailed users about them over a couple of months, and watched our Adsense revenue explode from a few few hundred dollars to a peak of just under $3000.

You can see an example of one of our autoresponder emails here:

Autoresponder example

As I found out later, this approach works even better if you have a high-value product to sell.

Benefits for you, benefits for your readers

Think of this:

  1. Everyone you sign up gets to see every great post you have ever written (if any have bombed, you should cut them out of the email sequence—if not your blog).
  2. A one-off visitor can be turned into a person who visits your blog multiple times over the years using this technique.

What’s more, an increase in regular visitors leads into other benefits, such as:

  • more social sharing
  • more links
  • more comments
  • more revenue
  • and the much greater relationship you get with long-term readers.

This approach does require a change of emphasis on your blog. If you use this technique, your primary goal should be to get readers to sign up, not just to read.

You will also need to create a clear benefit to signing up, such as a free guide, an email course or, if you are selling a product, discount codes. (An email course can be as simple as your existing blog posts organised into a more logical sequence.)

Don’t think you are being selfish, either. There are clear benefits to the reader, who gets an organized sequence of free blog posts about a topic they’re interested in.

Have you used autoresponders to get traffic to your old posts? Tell us how it worked in the comments.

You can read more tips like this on the ECHO Affiliate Blog. And, of course, make sure you sign up so you get all of our fantastic tips via auto-responder!

Seven Traffic Techniques for Bloggers—and Metrics to Measure Them

Over the last couple of months here at Problogger.net, we’ve taken a tour of the traffic techniques that are essential to bloggers. While not all bloggers use or focus on all techniques, the ones we’ve covered probably make up the core traffic tools used by bloggers today:

Traffic

Image courtesy stock.xchng user angel_ruiz

I’ve used all of these methods myself, and I daresay that the longer you’ve been online, the more of them you’ve tried. The thing with traffic, though, is that it’s easy to focus just on our total traffic figure, rather than considering whether the traffic we’re attracting is right for our blog, or how it affects our other metrics.

So today what I’d like to do is point out a few alternative ways to consider your traffic levels. Taking a more holistic perspective of how your traffic is reaching your blog can open our eyes to new possibilities not just for promotion, but for reader retention. Let’s see how that can work.

Search engine optimization metrics

Most of us spend a little time each week looking at the content that’s attracting the most search traffic to our sites. we might analyse that content, to try to work out what we’ve done right, or the keyphrases searched on, to see which ones we’re ranking well for. But here’s a slightly different take, that looks at the keyphrases that generated the lowest bouncerates, as a way to get to know your readers better.

  1. Open Google Analytics, and go to Traffic Sources.
  2. Select Search, then Organic.
  3. In this list, you’ll see some of your older posts, but you might also find some more recent ones that have attracted a large amount of search traffic. I think that looking at these posts can give us a good idea of the information our target audience is currently searching for—the problems they’re having right now. To find that out, click on the newest post that’s in the list.
  4. Analytics show you a page dedicated to search traffic for that post. Select Traffic Sources from the Secondary Dimension dropdown, and choose Keyword in the list that appears.
  5. You’ll see a list of all the keywords searchers used to come to your site, along with other information (visits, pages per visit, etc.) for each one.

This is where things get interesting. We know that these days, fewer and fewer visitors land on our sites’ homepages—most are entering our blogs through deeper pages (check your stats to see how this works on your blog). And we also know that many people who come to our sites through the search engines may not be in our target audiences.

As an example, this post attracts a lot of search traffic to ProBlogger, but since he material’s of interest to such a wide range of users, we can immediately guess that only a small portion of those readers are going to stick around. The bounce stats on that piece reflect this.

That doesn’t mean the piece doesn’t target my desired readers, though. In among the high bounce rates are some lower ones, and by looking at the language that those people used to find the post, I can get some valuable insights about how the people who stick around phrase their searches on this topic. If I take a look at a few other high-traffic posts, I can start to form a clear picture of how these users search.

For example, that post I mentioned above, on setting up an email account that uses your domain name, got the lowest bounce rate by people searching with the phrase, “how to set up personal email on gmail.” When I compare this with some of the higher-bounce rate search phrases, like “use gmail with my domain,” I can start to get a hint about the types of people that that content satisfies. When I look at the other low-bounce rate phrases that were used to find other high-search-traffic posts, that picture really starts to take shape.

I could use this information to:

  • see if I can lower bounce rates for similarly formed search phrases on other posts by including key phrases that are written more like these ones
  • review the success of this topic with my current readership as a way to work out if these searchers fit with the larger audience I’m trying to attract, and…
  • …if so, consider dropping in some more content around this topic, using the low-bounce rate key phrase, to better meet the needs of current and potential users
  • see if I can use this kind of language to target more engaged traffic with other techniques, like search or social media advertising.

If nothing else, by reviewing low-bounce rate organic search phrases that searchers use to reach my blog, I can get a feel for the kinds of keyphrases—or, more broadly, topic-specific language, that might attract people who are more likely to be satisfied by the site as a whole. I wonder how this could work on your blog?

Content marketing metrics

Most bloggers are well versed in the process of reviewing their stats after a guest post publication on another site, to see how the post performed, and get ideas about what works, and what doesn’t, and how we can make our content marketing more effective over time.

But if we look at referred traffic levels only, we may not get the full picture of how effective our content marketing effort was. What about social shares and the quality and quantity of comments? Compiling a collection of relevant metrics for each guest post into a tracking sheet that contains information on all your guest posts can help you build up an understanding over time of:

  • which types of content work where
  • how (e.g. they’re readily shared, or the host site has a massive audience that always generates a spike on your site), and
  • why (are your headlines particularly great, is it that you always choose the right format, that your information stands out from the crowd, or something else?).

Taking your subscription levels and bounce rates into account as part of that ongoing analysis can help you get a hold on the other side of the equation: how well you’re managing the traffic that your content marketing generates, and where you can improve.

Looking at pure traffic levels can really limit your understanding—and the efficacy—of your content marketing efforts.

Online advertising metrics

At their most basic, online ad metrics are something we look at to assess the impact of our campaigns. If you use advertising as a traffic generator, it’s pretty easy to assess whether it’s working: just look at your ad service interface.

Once you know what’s working for you to generate traffic through ad networks, why not look to apply that knowledge in buying ad space directly on other sites in your niche? Invest the time honing your visuals and ad CTAs to suit the ad networks, and you’ll have a head start when it comes to creating ads specifically for the readers of peer sites in your market.

Those successes might also play into other traffic generation techniques—keyword selection, for example, which can play into strategies for SEO and content generation. But perhaps you’ll also start looking at tying advertising to some of the other traffic generation tactics you use. Advertising on a site as your guest post is published there is one example. Advertising your subscription offering or downlaodable, free whitepaper is another.

Subscription metrics

It’s easy to look at a rising subscription level and think “great!” but to get a clear picture of what’s going on, I like to consider it in light of overall traffic levels—and the proportion of that traffic that’s new and returning.

A typical increase in my subscriptions is good … unless traffic increased by more than usual over the month. On the other hand, a disproportionate rise in subscriptions when traffic growth has remained normal presents other questions. In both cases, I’ll want to investigate further—to see where subscriptions are or aren’t coming from, and work out if there’s something I should tweak to try to improve the figures.

These questions work well in conjunction with some of the other traffic stats we’ve been looking at. If my review of low-bounce rate search traffic suggests certain language or key phrases could catch new visitors’ attention, I might try a different call to action on my subscription page. If they’re coming from a certain other sites—perhaps as a result of content marketing efforts or backlinks—then I might offer a relevant free download for new subscribers next month, and see if that helps boost conversions.

Ultimately, reviewing the ratio of subscriptions to new traffic often prompts us into some kind of action, and in a way that looking at conversions alone may not.

Social media metrics

Analytics’ Referrals screen gives you access to a good deal of information about all referrers—including social networks. Again, looking at these stats alone is okay for finding out which of your posts is getting a lot of clickthroughs, but there are a lot of variables that can affect click in social media, including how the information is resented by those who share it. So I prefer not to take that information on its own.

Instead, I might compare the clicks Analytics has recorded on individual links through a given social network (e.g. Twitter) with the shares I’ve tracked for that article, to get an idea of a shares-to-clicks ratio. For those that got the most clicks, I’ll also compare those stats with overall traffic to the article for the month. This is a good way to get an idea of which kinds of content perform well in social media, perhaps even over a longer time.

As an example, a post that generated a lot of clicks through Twitter in the last month was Neil Patel’s Guide to Writing Popular Blog Posts, which is nearly a year old. A deeper investigation shows that the post was reshared at the start of the month, causing a traffic spike that lasted for a period of days as that initial retweet was re-shared.

So social media metrics aren’t just about what’s trending—they can also be a good indicator of posts that could provide you with strong traffic opportunities over the longer term, and perhaps provide material for use in other formats too.

Backlink metrics

Their SEO potential aside, organic backlinks offer a real opportunity for the blogger who wants to give their content marketing efforts more punch. For example, looking at your referring sites for the last month can alert you to sites and sub-niches that are relevant to yours, or of growing importance. It can also show that content that’s hiding in your archives is getting attention from others—and may be worthy of more attention from you, too.

This month, I found that this very old post, RSS vs. Atom: What’s the Big Deal? had been linked to from a tutorial on making an RSS feed of your Facebook updates. Although that tute was publish more than a year ago, it’s obviously had some traffic in the last little while—and some of that has flowed through to my blog!

How can I use this information to boost traffic?

  • I could do some interlinking and updating to try to reduce bounce rates from the new traffic coming to that post, and encourage more of these new users to look at other content I have on related topics.
  • At the very least, I could include a link to my own RSS feed in the article, since these users are obviously interested in the kinds of tips that we talk about here on ProBlogger, and are comfortable with RSS.
  • I could compile a Facebook marketing guide using evergreen content from my blog and use it as an incentive to encourage these visitors to subscribe, so I can try to increase their repeat visits to the blog.
  • I could create more content on that topic, specific to that audience need, and send it to other sites in that niche as guest posts (containing more backlinks of course).
  • I could ask the post’s author if he’d like to revamp and “republish” the post on my site as a means to attract even more attention to it.
  • I could offer the site that linked to the piece a sponsorship package for that article, and others like it on my site.

These are just a few ideas‚ but the options are almost endless for each niche and topic area. While bloggers may feel that they’ve lost control over backlinks following the last Google update, backlinks are obviously still worth paying attention to as an indicator of what your audience—and those in related niches, feel is valuable about your blog. And as we know, value is the way to build strong recurring traffic over the longer term.

Networking and collaboration metrics

Of all the traffic sources we discussed, this one’s probably the most difficult to track in aggregate. While you can count traffic generated through a guest-posting collaboration or a shared effort like a cross-blog competition or carnival, it can be difficult to gauge the full traffic benefits of these efforts even in the short term—let alone over longer timeframes.

It’s true that for some of the collaborative opportunities I mentioned last week—writing book, for example, or running a highly localised event—you can do some forms of analysis. You can track the time it takes to organize and run the event, and compare that with the income and subscriptions you generate from it, and traffic levels immediately following that effort.

But I think that often, the number don’t tell the full story here. These kinds of collaborative efforts can have far-reaching effects over the longer term, and often that impact can be subtle, or difficult to attribute directly to the event you ran eight—or eighteen—months ago.

So one of the ways I “measure” the impacts of these efforts is to think about how energised I feel by doing them. If you’re engaged with your blog’s audience, you should get a good feel for their response to these events and ideas. Are they excited? Are they telling others about it? Are they asking you questions about it and engaging with the products of your collaboration wherever they can? How does their response make you feel? Are you as excited as they are? How does your collaborator feel?

Answering these questions should give you at the very least a rough idea of the long-term potential of a joint effort with your blog’s readership.

What traffic metrics are you keeping an eye on?

The world of traffic generation involves a galaxy of metrics. But in truth, with all the other things bloggers have to do, few of us pay very focused attention to the details of our metrics all the time. For most, a general overview, supplemented by a few key metrics, may be all we go on most of the time.

I’d love to hear which metrics you’re paying the most attention to at the moment, and why. Are you looking at your referrers to gauge the impact of your social media efforts, or a guest post you’ve just had published? Are you working hard on SEO, and keeping an eye on your organic (or paid!) search traffic levels? Tell us what you’re watching in the comments.

Traffic Technique 7: Networking and Collaboration

Two minds are better than one—especially when it comes to blogging.

For bloggers trying to grow their traffic, working with others can give you a real advantage. The most obvious example is, of course, guest posting on someone else’s blog, but there are as many opportunities for creative collaboration as there are players in your niche—and all of them are different.

I often report on the ways social media has helped me generate traffic for dPS—and connect with new photographers whose content, in turn, attracts more traffic. But today I want to look at some other, more creative networking techniques that you can use to attract attention—and hopefully lasting, loyal visitors—for your blog.

The comment connection: networking with other commenters

I think a great place to seek opportunities for collaboration is in blog comments. Often, when we’re commenting on blog posts, we focus on the post, the author, and making a response that’s intelligent and presents us in an authoritative light.

But there’s a missed opportunity here: the chance to forge connections with other commenters. We all know how easy it is to see who knows their stuff in blog comments. We can usually follow a link to commenters’ blogs or sites and find out more about them and what they’re doing—which may give us ideas that we’d never have had on our own, perhaps for joint projects.

Responding to the comments on a blog post, rather than simply to the post’s author, can be a good way to get a feel for how responsive peers in your niche may be to your ideas, and to get on their radars. If you want to get in touch after that, it should be pretty easy. And who knows? Perhaps together you’ll be able to do far more to build your audiences—and traffic levels—than you’d ever have managed alone.

Connecting with your local audience offline

Recently I ran a small blogging event here in Melbourne, for a sub-niche of bloggers in town (food bloggers). It wasn’t a speech given at a business conference, or a presentation at a blogging event: it was held at the restaurant of a friend of mine, and benefitted him, the event speakers, and the bloggers who came along.

This event was a collaboration between myself, a friend, some of Melbourne’s best bloggers (who spoke at the event) and some of the city’s up-and-coming and established names in the niche (the attendees). Some of these people were familiar with Problogger.net; others weren’t. In all cases, the opportunity to connect in person with people from your target audience was, for me, unmissable.

When it comes to traffic, it’s all too easy to focus on overnight traffic success tactics—like guest posting, which can spike our traffic for the day. But strategies like networking plant seeds that can bear fruit over months or years—you may not see the benefits of that work for some time. But these longer term traffic strategies are essential if you’re to keep growing your audience and your blog sustainably.

Connecting with other experts

This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s just as important as the more direct traffic methods, and shows how valuable collaboration can be.

By networking on and offline, and collaborating with those I’ve met, I’ve built relationships that have directly influenced my blog’s traffic levels.

  • I’ve met the Web Marketing Ninja, as well as Naomi, my designer, who’s helped me optimize my product offerings and the way we present them, and attract more quality traffic to each launch—as well as to my blogs overall.
  • I met Jasmine and Georgina, plus a range of authors, who help me produce content and products that continuously meet the needs of my readers, and which are a basic necessity in attracting and retaining new readers. They’ve also made it easier for me to form more relationships with larger numbers of players in the markets where I operate, which is a big boost to my efforts to find readers.
  • I’ve also formed relationships with other bloggers, like Brian Clark and Chris Garrett. The print book I wrote with Chris is yet another example of a collaboration that sowed seeds for future traffic. We’ve been reaping the benefits of that work ever since.
  • Your traffic network

    Networking and collaboration are excellent ways to grow your traffic in the long term, as well as more immediately. Have a think about your traffic network—in terms of the people you know or you’re working with. Could that network use a little extra attention? Are there opportunities for collaboration that you’re overlooking?

    I’d love to hear how you’re using networking and collaboration to build your blog traffic. Let us hear your tips in the comments.