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.


  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, 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:


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; 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.

Stand Out in the Popular Pet Blogging Niche

This guest post is by Kimberly Gauthier of Keep the Tail Wagging.

When I was planning the launch of Keep the Tail Wagging, I heard the question “Do you know how many pet blogs are out there?” As John pointed out yesterday, this is a big niche, with a lot of competition.

But when I was asked this question, I would simply smile politely, while thinking, “Who cares?!” I’m not one to run away from a challenge; I’d been blogging since 2009 and planned to put everything I’d learned into practice on my new site.

Keep the Tail Wagging launched January 1, 2012.  In less than six months, I had a page rank of 2 (I’m convinced I deserve a 3 or 4), over 5,000 likes on Facebook and over 5,000 followers on Twitter.

Succeeding as a small fish in a big pond

To anyone looking to start a blog in a popular niche, don’t let the crowds discourage you.  It is possible to carve out your own section of the pond.  I get emails daily asking how I’ve managed to build Keep the Tail Wagging’s following and it was actually pretty easy. I’ve boiled my success down to five things that I do consistently.

1. Keyword research

Before Keep the Tail Wagging was launched, I downloaded a free version of Market Samurai to help me find an opening within the niche that could be monetized. I didn’t find the opening I was looking for.

But, using the free Google Keyword tool, I did find keywords with the right combination of competition and searches, and I apply these to each blog post I wrtie.

Keyword research

It’s a thrill to know, for example, that a dog owner researching her dog food options found my site through a Google search; this let me know that I was choosing the correct keywords for my audience.

2. Simple SEO

I remember the “Of course” moment that struck when I realized that I could put keywords in the captions and meta-tags of my images.  I’m not an expert in search engine optimization, but I do comprehend the basics and use the plugin WordPress SEO, and I invested in an SEO-friendly, premium WordPress theme.

SEO doesn’t have to stop on our sites; I send those keywords to every site that uses my content—Flickr (as in the image below), Pinterest, and Stumble Upon to name a few.  Any content or site that’s going to be indexed by the search engines is another opportunity for someone to find my site.

Not only is this great for Keep the Tail Wagging; properly tagging on social networks also benefits the pet companies that send me products to review.

Flickr Walk in Sync Image for ProBlogger

3. Promote like hell

I spent the first two months after launch on a PR campaign to make my site stand out.  To start, I told friends and family, handing out business cards, hung flyers, wrote press releases, and added links to my email and forum signatures.

I paid for a Facebook advertising campaign during the first month my site was live. It asked people to click Like if they’re tired of long commercials showing abused animals.  My first few hundred likes came from that campaign—and those clicks led to more referrals.

Facebook Ad

Then I discovered Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which I used along with Reporter Connection as unexpected PR sources. People became curious about Keep the Tail Wagging after seeing my regular inquiries and began to check the blog out.  During my second month, a PR professional was promoting my site to friends for free.

I landed several interviews and, most recently, a monthly feature on a local podcast about pets through these sources.

4. Interact with fans

I focus most of my time on the fans that liked my Facebook page, encouraging interaction, and getting feedback and article ideas.  Word of mouth is big on social networking sites and each week, friends of fans stop by to like my page.

Creating that back-and-forth made people feel comfortable to email me with questions about their dogs, which inspired articles I wrote for Keep the Tail Wagging.  We’re told to become authorities in our niche. Well, what better way to do that than to answer questions asked by our fans?

Leave Dog At Home

Over time, I got over my shyness and started asking people to tell their friends about my blog, share a post, and comment on an article or status update.

What makes a blog stand out is the blogger

I chose to be more personable with Keep the Tail Wagging followers by sharing my daily life with them (pictures, stories, frustrations).  My followers came with me when we fostered our first dog, when we lost our puppy to Canine Parvovirus, and when Blue joined our family.

Sometimes it’s the person, their writing style, or their short and sweet posts that makes a blog sing. There’s a reason why we choose to read some social media or photography blogs instead of others.

I’m not the most popular pet blogger.  I need to work on my bounce rate and I’m on the lookout for regular guest contributors.  But as to my success in the first six months of blogging in this niche, I’d have to say “Not bad.”

That said, we’re all learning every day. Do you spend any time on pet blogs? Do you operate in a similar niche? Share your tips for success with us in the comments.

Kimberly Gauthier is the Editor in Chief of Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers.  She’s also featured on Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom and the podcast Your Pets, My Dogs.

My Secret Strategy to Send Surges of Traffic to Your Blog

This guest post is by Diggy of

As a blogger or website owner you know how important traffic is—and how difficult it can be to obtain.

Traffic is especially difficult to obtain when you are a small fish in the pond, when your site is relatively new and not many people know about you. And waiting for one or two or three years to build your blog before you can get substantial traffic is something that I’m sure you’re way too impatient for. So how do you get more traffic to your website, fast? And without spending money on PPC or solo ads?

Besides SEO, blog commenting, guest posting, Youtube and social media, there is another way.

I recently launched a new blog about how to be confident and my traffic was hovering under 100 visitors per day. Then I implemented my secret strategy for a single post, and traffic surged to over 1000 visits in a matter of hours. It continued into the high hundreds of visits for the next day too!

Traffic spike

I’m about to share with you my secret strategy to send surges of traffic to your website, pretty much whenever you want. It’s a strategy that I haven’t seen many people use, but I think that will start to change soon. The few people who I have shared this strategy with love it and have started implementing it already.

Content is king

You’ve probably read that phrase a million times. Bloggers always tell you that content is king, and to a large extent that is true. But in addition to having engaging, unique and fantastic content, you need to have people who are going to read your content and share it with others. If you have no traffic, you can have the best content on the web, but nobody is going to read it and share it, and it’s not going to bring you any benefit.

However, a big part of this secret strategy to send surges of traffic to your website is to create really killer content. Just one post will do, but it has to be something unique. Something that people really want to read. Like a super-long list post, or a very in-depth analysis, or a very heated debatable topic. Something that grabs people’s attention.

The post that I’m using as an example is titled 100 Ways How To Build Confidence. It’s about exactly what the title states: 100 different ways to build confidence. It’s a very long list post of just over 10,000 words and it took about eight hours to write, edit and format.

There are multiple reasons why an article like this is very effective is drawing mass traffic to your site. Not only is the title something that makes people want to click through to it, when the visitor reads the article he or she can see that it contains useful information and that someone took a long time to create it. That reader is much more likely to leave positive feedback and share the post with friends, which in turn creates even more traffic for your site.

I also used two other articles to test this strategy on separate occasions. The result was the same: mass traffic spikes to my blog within hours.

The other articles I used were Going out alone—here’s how to do it and
10 Things to say to girls.

The secret strategy

Here it is: the actual secret strategy I used to drive over 1000 visits to my blog within hours, with a single post, all while my blog was only averaging around 100 unique visits per day. And the strategy worked again and again on the two other posts I mentioned.

That strategy involves forums. A very simple promotion of a good article on a popular forum will send you boat-loads of traffic. The more related the forum is to the topic of your article, the more traffic you will get, and the better that traffic will convert.

Forum links

Every day, there are hundreds of thousands of people all around the world who are super-bored and have no desire to work, and who spend hours on their favorite forums. These people are all eager to be entertained, learn something, or to discover something new. They are ready to click on new links to new sites, and spend a lot of time if they like what they see.

To go back to the importance of a catchy title and unique, useful content, you can see why this is so important for this secret strategy. The catchier your title, the more people will view and click your thread and through to your link. If your article is unique, members will leave feedback in the forum. This feedback does two things:

  1. In most forums, when a user comments on a thread, that thread is “bumped” to the top of the forum thread topics. This means that everybody logging on to the forum at that point will see your thread first and click on it.
  2. In forums, people love to look at popular threads that have lots of views or comments or high star-ratings. This is because it is assumed that when a thread in a forum has many views, comments, or ratings, that thread is valuable and needs to be clicked on.

So, with a catchy title and useful content, you’ll get people to click through to your site, leave feedback, bump the thread, and allow more users to do the same.

If you’re wondering what kind of message you need to post in your forum thread to get the ball rolling, it’s very simple. All I posted was this:

Forum post

Finding popular forums

Now that you know the secret strategy, you’ll want to know how to find popular forums worth posting on. Fortunately this is very easy because all you really need to do is head over to Google and type in “[YOUR NICHE] forum”. You’ll end up with many results for forums in your niche.

A quick way to tell if a forum is popular is to check the amount of registered users and the amount of users currently online. This is usually displayed on the home page of any forum, towards the bottom of the page. The screenshot below is an example of what a popular forum’s membership would be—this is one worth promoting your post on!

Forum stats

Secret no more!

Let me just sum up the secret strategy in a few simple-to-follow points:

  1. Create a high quality post with a catchy title.
  2. Find forums related to your niche.
  3. Make a simple thread with a catchy title and link to your post.

Note that there is such a thing as forum etiquette or proper conduct. You may need to post regularly in certain forums and build up a bit of a reputation before you are allowed to post links or start threads or begin self-promoting. Even then, don’t do it too often, or you’ll risk being banned.

Be sure to reply and respond to any comments or feedback that you receive in your threads, and participate in the forum generally—after all, if it’s a focal point for your niche, it’ll be a great place to engage with potential readers, build authority, make new connections, and more.

Diggy is a confident, successful young man who is his own boss, travels the world and has fantastic friends and relationships. He enjoys teaching people how to be confident and even has a section with confidence tips for women. If you want to become more confident,happier or successful, it’s highly recommended to subscribe to Diggy’s Flawless Confidence newsletter.

A Guest Posting Strategy for Bloggers Who Really Want Results

This guest post is by Alexis Grant blogs of The Traveling Writer.

Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of guest posting and know how to create content editors want, it’s time to ask yourself: am I really getting as much as possible out of my guest posting efforts?

Most of us guest post as an after-thought, making time to pitch a post here or there when we can scrounge up a few free minutes in our schedule.

But you wouldn’t approach your blog without a plan, would you? And you wouldn’t approach your job without a plan either! Since most of us are aiming to make money from blogging, why be lackadaisical about your guest posting strategy?

When I first began guest posting, I was in that same boat, brainstorming guest posts whenever I could squeeze an extra few minutes out of my day. But once I realized just how much guest posting was helping me sell my eguides and gain new subscribers, I decided to take it more seriously. I decided to actively take my guest posting to the next level.

Rather than submitting guest posts in a once-I-finish-all-my-other-work fashion, I created a plan that would help me keep better track of my ideas, pitch more editors and bring more eyes to my site.

The master doc

How’d I go about creating this strategy? With the king of all planning tools, Google Docs.

Using a spreadsheet, I created a column for each one of these phrases:

  • Publication
  • Editor at publication
  • Contact info for editor
  • Topic of post
  • Date I pitched the editor
  • Editor’s response (whether the pitch was accepted)
  • When I submitted the post
  • When the post was published
  • Outcomes (like traffic peak, new subscribers, sales of products).

Not only will organizing your guest posting efforts in this way help you keep track of where you’ve pitched, the response you’ve gotten from each editor, and which pieces you need to write, it will also help you zero in on what’s working.

By tracking outcomes from these posts—even if they’re somewhat anecdotal or vague (example: you gained ten subscribers when a certain post went live, even if you’re not certain all those subscribers came from that post)—you’ll be able to recognize which blogs are helping you reach your goals.

This is important because you might expect the blog with the most readers to give you the most results, and then find out that a different blog—one that focuses on your niche, for example—is actually better at helping you bring in sales.

It will also help you see weaknesses you didn’t know you had. Once I set up this doc, for example, I realized I needed to better track where sales of my eguides were coming from. That prompted me to finally learn how to add tracking codes to my links, which is helping me become even more effective in my blogging efforts.

And here’s one more plus: know all those random ideas for topics and target blogs that hit you while you’re driving or in the shower? Now you can add them to your strategy doc, so those brilliant ideas don’t disappear.

One more way to optimize

Now that you’re on board with taking a strategic approach to guest posting, here’s one more idea for getting the most out of your guest posting strategy.

Once I decided to make this a priority—because growing traffic to my blog and increasing sales is my ultimate goal—I assigned one of my part-time business team members to the project. “Hold me accountable!” I told her.

Having an employee (or intern, or writing buddy, or someone you found on oDesk) oversee this process could help you keep on track, so you’re sure to hit your goal of submitting however many guest posts you’ve decided to write each month.

But even if you don’t have someone to hold you accountable, this strategy doc will hold you accountable to yourself. You’ll easily be able to see who you’ve pitched, which ideas have worked and which haven’t, and whether certain posts have brought the results—traffic, product sales, subscriptions, and more—you hoped for.

Could this system work for you? Could you approach guest posting in a more strategic, more organized, more effective way? Share your ideas in the comments.

Alexis Grant is an entrepreneurial writer, digital strategist and author of How to Create a Freakin’ Fabulous Social Media Strategy.

3 Strategies that Brought Me 11,710 Subscribers in Six Months [Case Study]

This guest post is by Mary Jaksch of Write to Done.

Imagine boosting your subscriber count by more than 50.7% in under six months.

You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Okay, so if your blog has only about 200 subscribers, growing by more than 50% in under six months isn’t a big deal. However, it’s harder to achieve neck-snapping growth on an established blog.

Yet a combination of three booster strategies lifted Write to Done from 23,120 to 34,830 subscribers in under six months.

I’m not talking of becoming a guest-posting machine, like Danny Iny, who fired off 119 guest posts in the last nine months, or of becoming a heroic blogger like Leo Babauta. He kickstarted Zen Habits by writing five posts a week, plus five guest posts (whilst holding down a full-time job and raising a family of six kids). You wonder when these guys found time to sleep…

The number one challenge

Ask any blogger, and they’ll tell you that gaining more subscribers is their number one challenge.

My first blog, Goodlife ZEN, had an initial growth rate of … well, near zero. At the end of the second month I was so desperate, I subscribed my cat Sweetie. That made three subscribers: my son, by best friend, and my cat.

Like many newbie bloggers I asked myself: how can I gain more subscribers?

The root of the problem is that in order to grow your blog, you need traffic. But not just any traffic.

You need resonant traffic. You need the people who visit your blog to resonate with your content.

When I decided to rejuvenate Write to Done—the writers’ blog originally started by Leo Babauta—the challenge I faced was to lift this established blog into a new orbit. A combination of  three booster strategies did the trick.

How to put a rocket under your blog

The booster strategies I’m talking about are simple to implement, don’t take much time and effort, and they work—no matter how big or small your blog may be.

Strategy #1: Run an event on your blog

Running an event on your blog can create a buzz and draw resonant traffic—especially if you involve other bloggers.

I experimented with this strategy early on, when I launched the “Blog with Heart” competition on Goodlife ZEN a couple of years ago. The idea behind this competition was to get other blogs to participate in creating competing lending teams for the microlending charity Kiva.

The blog that raised the most money (relative to its subscriber numbers) was declared the winner. We raised over $16,000 during this campaign and subscriber numbers on Goodlife ZEN rose dramatically.

Later on, I created From Fab to Fit: the Great Fitness Challenge, an event that created a host of new followers.

There are many different kinds of events you can run on a blog. For example, you can run charity drives, competitions, challenges, or projects on your blog.

Another great example is Courtney Carver’s Minimalist Fashion Project 303. When Courtney casually mentioned the idea of a minimalist fashion challenge to me over a late-night cup of coffee in San Francisco,  I got so excited I jumped up and swept my cup off the table! Now Courtney’s blog Be More With Less is booming and the movement has spawned a Facebook page with over  3,300 Likes.

On Write to Done, I was able to utilize a ready-made event: our annual contest, the Top 10 Blogs for Writers. As part of the booster combo, we decided to run the Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest in November and December of 2011, integrating it with the two other booster strategies. We received 2,174 nominations, and traffic came pouring in.

But traffic isn’t enough to grow a subscriber base.

Reader habits have changed on the Net. Subscribing used to be a slow courtship where readers returned to a blog repeatedly before deciding to subscribe.

These days it’s more like speed-dating: you only have a few moments to turn an interested glance into a lasting relationship.

Great content, arresting headlines, and an attractive design used to be enough to grow your blog. But now you need something else to turn a first-time visitor into a subscriber.

Which brings me to the next strategy.

Strategy 2: Offer a subscription reward

If you want to turn visitors into subscribers as soon as they visit your blog, offer them a subscription reward. This could be a report, an ebook, a couple of videos, a short course, an app, or anything else that your readers would find extremely useful.

An easy solution is to compile an ebook from your best posts. This is what we did on Write to Done: we created The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing.

You can also create a bundle of free ebooks, videos and podcasts. An example is The Blogger’s Toolbox. Another nifty way to create a subscriber reward is to invite other bloggers to contribute to an ebook.

The delivery method depends on how your subscriptions are set up. If you use an email responder service, like Aweber or Mailchimp, the delivery is pretty straightforward: create a follow-up email that goes out automatically as soon as someone confirms their subscription. The follow-up email should contain a link to a delivery page.

If you use Feedburner for subscriptions, use a plugin called RSS Footer. The plugin will put a link to your delivery page at the bottom of every post delivered by Feedburner, whether it’s by email or by RSS. You’ll need to tell your readers that the link to their freebie will be at the bottom of the next post they receive by email or in their RSS reader.

Strategy 3: Launch a product

Whenever you launch a product on your blog, you generate excitement. The excitement is generated in the run-up to the launch. The key is to foreshadow the arrival of the new product so that your readers look forward to it.

I recently asked Jon Morrow when you should start telling readers about a new product. He said, “Tell them about it as soon as you have the idea!”

Here’s an example of how a launch boosted subscriber numbers: Scott Dinsmore used a product launch to revitalize his blog,  Live Your Legend, with great results. Watch the video of an interview with Corbett Barr where Scott explains how he doubled his readership during the launch.

On Write to Done, we decided to create a launch for our ebook, The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing in order to drive traffic to the blog.

How the strategy combo works

We combined three booster strategies: creating an ebook as a subscriber reward, launching the ebook, and running an event. This gave Write to Done the momentum to grow by 50.7% in under six months.

If you want to grow your subscriber numbers dramatically, create a booster campaign in five steps:

  1. Produce the product you want to offer as a subscriber reward.
  2. Plan your event and invite other bloggers to join in.
  3. Get your subscriber reward in place with signup forms and delivery page.
  4. Launch your product.
  5. Run your event.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to take advantage of the traffic surge created by your event and the product launch.

Just make sure that your event is in tune with your blog topic so that you generate resonant traffic. This means that  people who swing by your blog will be more likely to turn into subscribers—especially if you offer them a useful product in return for subscribing.

What growth strategies have you tried on your blog? Did they work? Please share them with us in the comments.

Want to improve your writing? Check out Write to Done and enjoy more posts by Mary Jaksch. You’ll also find The Blogger’s Toolbox insanely useful.