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Comment Marketing 101

This guest post is by Slavko Desik of LifestyleUpdated.

Trying to understand the ways to get more traffic to your site, or even get some backlinks, you’ve probably stumbled across comment marketing.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but the first thing you probably hoped to get out of it was some links (even though most of them “nofollow”, hoping that it will still somehow boost your ranking), and also maybe get some traffic while making the blogger notice you.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but this is the wrong way to go.

So what are the basic benefits of comment marketing, and what should you aim to get out of it on the long term?

The benefits of comment marketing

Once you have a deep understanding of the benefits you can get from leaving comments on other blogs, you can learn the right approach to doing so. Let’s look at each of the benefits now.

Make yourself an authority in the field

The first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about how you can present yourself as someone who knows your niche, is to leave comments on other blogs that serve that same niche. The only way to make this happen is to leave good, structured comments that add value to the discussion.

Forget about writing “Great post”, or “I completely agree”. You are putting your name out there, so you’ll want to make every comment count. That way, you will grab the attention of those who are really interested in whatever goes in your niche. And those people are usually the key players now, or will be so in the future.

Grab the attention of the blogger

That’s probably one of your main goals here, right? I mean, you probably wouldn’t be leaving your opinion on another blog post if it wasn’t at all important to you. And leaving a comment that adds value to the discussion is the right way to do it.

You can either agree with what the blogger’s is saying, and offer some of your own similar views on the matter, or you can take a different side (something that is highly recommended if you want to grab the attention) with arguments that support your claims.

The word “arguments” is very important here. You can also grab the blogger’s attention by being offensive, or offering some highly subjective opinion—sure. But you probably won’t achieve any of the other benefits listed here if you take that approach. If you disagree with the points made in the post you’re commenting on, make sure to say that in a dignified, respectful way by offering strong objective facts that support your view on the matter.

In any case, if your comment’s strong, you will probably eventually spark a conversation between yourself and the blogger, so be sure to check back on the post after you submit a comment. Most of the comment systems nowadays have optional subscription for replies, but even if the blog doesn’t, you’ll want to return to the post to check out the replies and other new comments.

Making connections

It’s really a no-brainer when you understand the points above, but making those connections with the blogger, as well as the other readers, is so important that it must be mentioned separately.

Connect not only with the influential people in blogs’ comment sections, but also give your attention to those who are new, and not that experienced in the niche. Because note this: Your blogging peers now may one day grow to become A-list players in your niche.

Also, the “natural link building” which is so many times mentioned as the ideal way to gain backlinks, is not so “natural.” If you check the link profiles of some of the most authoritative sites in your niche, you will surely find that a large amount of links come from sites that are very well connected with the sites that they link to. By making connections with other bloggers, you’re passively attracting future links from them.

Just ask yourself who you would rather link to: a person you know pretty well, a person whose blog you love responding to and leaving comments at, or a person you don’t know anything about? The answer is pretty obvious!

Gain some search rank juice

This takes is such a small consideration in light of all the reasons why you should leave comments on sites, that I’m not sure if it’s worth mentioning. But here it is anyway.

If you’re thinking about boosting your site’s backlink count—and thereby search rank—by leaving comments on blogs, you’re probably hoping to find those blogs that allow “dofollow” links back to your site. So you go over there, write a sentence—or maybe two if you are in the mood, pack your name rich with keywords that you are hoping to rank for, and hope for the best.

Sound familiar? It’s all right—many, if not all, bloggers go through this stage at one point or another. However, the link value that’s passed even through those “dofollow” links is almost not worth mentioning at all compared to other methods of link building (and of course there’s none available through “nofollow” links).

On the other hand, if you leave blog comments under a name that’s rich with keywords, chances are that search algorithm updates like Penguin will make sure to greet you appropriately—that is, by penalizing your blog to some extent.

I should probably mention that there are still some sites in some niches that rank or ranked pretty well using this gray-hat SEO strategy in the short term, but it’s just not a viable long-term solution for your brand or your blog. Also by doing that, you’re just begging to be outed by someone out there.

Familiarize people with your brand and yourself

This point is similar to the first, except that this one deals with making a positive impression whenever someone sees you and recognizes your brand anywhere online. That’s why I strongly recommend having only one name, and one avatar associated with all comments you leave. Choose whether this will be your own name, some nickname you go by, your secret ‘net alias—whatever, as long as it’s something you feel comfortable with.

It’s widely accepted that the best option is to use your real name and your headshot, but you should probably decide for yourself. The thing is that this is how people will recognize you, so once you decide, it’s better to stick with the name and image you’ve chosen than to change these details.

For that reason, be sure to choose the picture carefully. You will be surprised how important this is—even at such a low resolution. Choose a professional-looking picture, and try to make a positive impression by smiling. Using Gravatar is a great way to make sure your picture is the same all over the web. This can go long way to build that trust and connection with people.

Get traffic from the other blogs, and expose yourself to a broader audience

Each time you leave a comment, make sure you include a working link back to your site. Remember, the better you fulfil the ideas we spoke about above, the greater the chance someone will click your name, and visit your blog.

I’ve heard that the commenters that get most clicks are those who leave the first few comments. You can also achieve higher CTR by leaving responses in which you (respectfully) disagree with the author—this will surely attract some attention, but you’ll have to make sure that the facts are on your side.

Guest posting opportunities

In some ways, this benefit is closely connected with the second one: grabbing the blogger’s attention. But the thing here is to consistently add value to the discussion over a longer period of time. That way, you’re sure that the connection you are building with the blogger is going in the right direction, and the chances of having a guest post offer accepted are bigger, and more real.

Using the same name and picture each time you comment should help here, because it increases your chances to be noticed by the author. That said, do should consider the number of comments on the page and the response rate of the author. If you’re commenting on a site that has a few hundred comments on every post, it’ll take eternity to get yourself noticed. By the same logic, a site on which there are a smaller number of comments, but where the author is not even willing to spend time responding to them is also a site in which you would have a hard time making yourself stand out from the crowd.

Comment marketing in practice

Building a brand and developing your persona as an expert in your field takes a lot of time, but knowing how to make the most out of the commenting opportunities on other blogs is going to help you a lot.

What are your practices when it comes to leaving comments, or better yet, have you had some experience from the other side of the fence, in the comment section of your own blog? Maybe you have some tips you want to share too. Be our guest, the comment section is right below!

Slavko Desik is writer and editor at LifestyleUpdated where he tries to blend together his passion for living full time with his knowledge and passion for blogging. Find Slavko on Google+ or the official Facebook Page.

Traffic Technique 2: Content Marketing

Content marketing is probably the most common traffic tactic these days. It lets us target specific audience segments, in some cases it allows us to get the benefit of some other brand’s or blogger’s authority with a market, and it doesn’t require that out target readers be using particular tools or networks the way social media does.

As I mentioned in a related post earlier this year, content marketing basically involves repackaging your message to meet the needs of different users and would-be users at specific moments in time, and in specific locations. You might repurpose content you’ve already written; you might not. But in all cases, you’re taking your blog’s key message and presenting it, via content, to a new, targeted audience.

Types of content marketing

How many types of content marketing are there? How long’s a piece of string?! There are as many variations of content marketing as there are bloggers, but here are the main types that we seem to be using:

  • Guest posting: creating posts for publication on other sites and blogs. Note here that “creating” doesn’t necessarily mean just writing. You could be creating other content assets, like videos, infographics, comics, photos, and so on.
  • Article marketing: writing posts for distribution through article “spinning” sites like Ezine Articles.
  • Packaged content: working some of your content into a whitepaper, or mini-ebook, or emailed “course” or series, or some other product that you can offer free in exchange for the reader’s email address, and then promoting that offer in various hand-picked offsite locations.
  • Syndication: disseminating your blog’s content to other locations, either through an open reuse policy (like Leo uses at Zenhabits), or offering select outlets reuse of a certain segment of your blog’s content.

Whatever the format, content marketing is really the process of taking your message—perhaps even taking content you’ve already produced and published on your site—and positioning it in a way that meets the needs of off-site audiences. It can be used to promote your blog as a whole, or a special product or offer that you’re running—really, it’s up to you.

The right kind of content marketing traffic

Obviously one of the great things about content marketing is that we can use it to target really specific sub-segments of our readership. So the traffic it brings us is usually primed for the other information we have on our blogs.

You’ll remember that last time, we talked about search engine optimization. Now, where searchers know they have a need, and it’s strong enough for them to search the web for a solution, the people who come into contact with your content marketing efforts may not realise they have a need for your material until they see it.

The purpose of your content marketing efforts is to show these new audiences that they have a need, that you can meet it, and to draw them through to your blog. For that reason, it’s important to shape the repackaging of the content itself to specific reader types, based on the profiles of readers on the outlets where you’ll be promoting or using that content.

So if you’re writing a guest post, you’ll want to make sure it casts your content as responding to the specific needs of the readers on the site where the post will be published. If you’re offering a special report or whitepaper, make sure that it meets a felt need of the audience of the location where it’ll be downloaded.

Obivously, it’s also important to choose your content marketing outlets carefully, to ensure that the readers who do come through to your blog are actually interested in what you have to offer on a broader scale.

Also, make sure it’s effortless for readers to move from the offsite content to your blog. Finally, the landing page may well make or break their response to, and engagement with, your blog, so pay special attention to that, to make sure readers get what they’re after, as preempted in your offsite content.

A content marketing case study

I think one of the keys to content marketing is being able to adapt your message to the needs of the readers in the locations where you’re doing the marketing. So, if you’re guest posting, the success of your post—not just in being accepted by the host blog, but in terms of drawing readers through to your own blog—depends largely on how well you shape your message to those readers.

The more content marketing you do, the easier it gets to adapt your message, but to make it clear I wanted to give you an example of content marketing we’ve done here at ProBlogger.

Earlier this year we launched Blog Wise, our ebook on blogging productivity. To help promote it, my editor Georgina wrote three guest articles for other blogs:  one for Copyblogger, another for Goinswriter, and a final one for Zenhabits (as well as publishing a small series here on ProBlogger).

We all know that ProBlogger’s about pro blogging, and the ebook is about being productive—professional-blogger productive, in fact. But as the table below shows, these other blogs have different purposes. Georgina had to reshape that key message to suit each one.

Content marketing article plan

How did she do that?

Leverage connection

Each blog’s owner had been interviewed for the ebook, so she decided to leverage those interviews in writing her guest posts. Each post was intended to reveal to the blog’s loyal readers something new about a blogger they already know and love.

Combine topics

For each post, Georgina combined the topics of the blog she was writing for with the key topic (productivity) we’d discussed in the ebook. We’ve listed those on the far-right of the table.

Make it relevant

The above two points helped to make sure the guest posts were relevant, but she had a final imperative, which was to make sure that each guest post stood up for itself on the blog where it was published: if readers of that blog saw her post and had no interest in learning more about productivity through the ebook, they would still get something valuable out of her guest post, and be glad that the host blogger had published it.

Georgina repurposed content from the Blog Wise interviews and ebook to make the series she published here on ProBlogger. That was fine, since the ebook, like this blog, is written with our readers in mind! But for the other blogs, she wrote specially prepared content that met the needs outlined above.

The results for these posts were good—and that’s despite the minimalist bio she published alongside them! Each post attracted new users at a strong rate—between 50% and 90%—and each traffic source had lower bounce rates, higher on-site times, and more average pageviews per visit than most other sources for the same time periods, including social media.

The post on Zenhabits, for example, referred more traffic than any other referral source on the day it was published (including social media, Google, and so on), and remained in the top 5 referrers for a few days afterward. That traffic contained more first-time visitors than traffic from the other posts (around 86%). Bounce rates for that traffic were lower than any of the other traffic sources in the top 5—and about 10% lower than the site-wide average—for those few days.

That’s not bad for content marketing on a blog that’s not, at first glance, even closely aligned with the purpose of this one.

Of course, the added benefit of this kind of content marketing is the opportunity to engage with the readers at these other online locations and build your brand’s profile—something that you can do with search traffic. Have a look at the comments each of those posts generated and you’ll see intriguing discussion and more than a few ideas for follow-up guest pieces. If we continued to guest post at these locations, there’d be a strong chance that we’d be able to draw a larger percentage of readers through to problogger.net over time.

How does your content marketing perform?

As you can see, successful content marketing isn’t simply a matter of “spinning” your topic to suit a new audience. To work well, it needs to be done with care and, above all, consideration for the location at which your content will be published or shared.

This can be a particularly challenge when you’re doing things like article marketing, because with those options, you simply can’t get the level of audience insight required to target the content as heavily as this. Syndication can work better, so long as you know the blog where your content will appear, and can get to know its readers, too.

This is just one example of content marketing at work—and the kinds of results you can achieve with it. But let’s face it: guest posting isn’t the most innovative form of content marketing. What are you doing with content marketing at the moment? Share your secrets—and your tips!—in the comments.

Get to Know Your Sub-niches Through Targeted Events

This weekend, I’ll be spending some time getting ready for the Melbourne Food and Wine Blogging Event I’m hosting on Tuesday. I’m really looking forward to this event—and not just because of the great food and wine we’ll get to enjoy!

This event targets a sub-niche of my main target audience—it’s aimed at food bloggers who are located in or around Melbourne, or are near enough to participate in the event.

At first glance, that event might seem odd to some readers who see ProBlogger as a blog primarily about making money blogging. Even with the range of topics we cover here, it might seem strange for a blog whose primary audience is based in the States to go to the trouble of running a small, local event like this—and then to focus it on a specific blogging niche like food.

Targeting a sub-niche

Professional blogging is a pretty big niche—and it’s growing all the time. It’s also a reasonably mature niche.

While that means there are more opportunities popping up each day, it also means that those opportunities are becoming more and more fragmented—or targeted—over time. Building authority in a niche like this isn’t just a matter of talking about generic pro-blogging techniques any more. It’s about digging deep into the specific needs of the topic’s many sub-niches.

The food blogging niche is flourishing, particularly here in Melbourne. But many food blogs are global brands now, and I want to know what makes pro- and would-be-pro-food bloggers tick.

So why not host an event for this sub-niche? The idea wasn’t exactly out of left-field for me, since my friend Shane is a restauranteur and a fantastic chef. The event will help to build his profile, but of course it also helps me build my profile at a grass-roots level, with a target segment I want to know better and help out. It’s a win-win-win!

Are there connections in your network who could help put you in touch with a sub-segement of your target audience? Perhaps it’s time you started asking around…

One of many

These days, more and more of my time is spent engaging with sub-segments of my main target audience. Recently, I’ve engaged through online and offline events and discussions in the DIY niche, the mommy bloggers niche, the social media niche, and the travel blogging niche, among others.

Each of those opportunities has let me connect deeply with a sub-niche of the blogosphere, and individuals who operate in that space. And each one has been informative and fun. I know that it’s easy for digitally focused people like bloggers to ignore offline promotional tactics like the Food and Wine Event, but I find them invaluable for actually getting to know readers from important sub-niches.

It’s commonly accepted that bloggers should write with a particular reader in mind. What better way to do that when you’re writing for a sub-niche than to think of someone you’ve met personally, who blogs in that space?

If you’ve talked with them face to face, you’ll know how they feel about key issues, the language they used, what interested them, and so on. That’s a great foundation for writing relevant content, and creating relevant products and services once you feel your authority with that sub-niche is strong enough.

I’ll keep getting involved in small- and medium-scale events and gatherings in the sub-niches within blogging, so that I can get to know as well as possible how those bloggers operate, what they hope for, and what they need.

Have you ever held and event—online or off—to target a sub-niche of your blog’s main topic? What was it, and what did you learn? We’d love to hear you stories in the comments.

5 Things Online Dating Can Teach You About Networking for Blogging Success

This guest post is by Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind.

That’s right folks—I use an online dating service.

It’s no longer a taboo. The vast majority of you at the least know someone who has dipped their toes in the online dating scene. You may have even tried it yourself!

With that said, you may be wondering what on earth online dating has to do with blogging. The answer is actually rather a lot. Networking is one of the most powerful blog promotion tools in your arsenal, but like anything else, there are right and wrong ways of going about it—just as there are when it comes to dating.

If you take the following advice on board and apply it to your own networking efforts, I am confident that you will see a genuinely beneficial return.

1. Be genuinely interesting

Having spoken to some of my female friends, I know for a fact that they get a ton of emails from potential suitors when using online dating services. We’re talking literally hundreds of messages. When you’re dealing with those sorts of numbers, some natural filtering comes into play.

Boring, unimaginative, or generic emails are not going to get any attention. If you spot a girl that you like, you need to make an effort to engage with her in a meaningful fashion.

The same goes for your blog networking efforts. The first step is actually to send an email that’s worth reading. Don’t dare ever use template emails to reach out to other bloggers. Doing is so is essentially broadcasting the fact that you have no interest in that specific person—that you are casting a wide net in the hope of making a catch.

So if you want to reach out to a blogger, take some time to get to know them first, then send them an email which will actually capture their interest. If you don’t know them, you may want to reevaluate why you are emailing them in the first place.

2. Be genuinely interested

When it comes to picking a potential partner, you should be genuinely interested in your prospective date and want to know more about him or her. You should be coming at the situation with the intention of actually bringing positive energy into his or her life. Your focus should not be on what you can get—such an attitude will be spotted from a mile off.

The exact same rule applies when reaching out to other bloggers. If you want something for nothing, you won’t get very far. But if you actually stop for a moment and consider how you might benefit them, rather than just seeking to fulfill your own ambitions, you will get a far more positive response.

If you don’t actually have anything of worth to offer another blogger, perhaps you might consider if you really should be asking them for something.

3. Don’t chase false dreams

Let’s be honest—people can be really shallow. Those who are new to the online dating scene are likely to go straight for the hotties. In time, such people learn that a fulfilling long-term relationship is about far more than just looks. It is then that they start looking for the right attributes in their potential dates—shared interests, a similar sense of humor, and so on.

New bloggers are often obsessed with reaching out to “A-list” bloggers, in the hope that they will be rewarded with an avalanche of traffic. The A-list bloggers are the aforementioned hotties—the unlikely dream.

However, most experienced bloggers will tell you that the relationships they established with bloggers at or around their level have been far more beneficial and productive than any attempt to engage with the A-list.

This goes back to the idea that you should be able to offer something of worth in order to receive a benefit in kind. Bloggers who are around your level will for the most part be delighted to engage with you, and a number of direct and indirect benefits can arise out of such relationships.

4. Don’t tell them your life story

Have you ever been on one of those awkward dates where someone has shared far more than you ever wanted to know at such a formative stage? It’s a big turn-off, isn’t it? And yet bloggers persist in telling their life stories to people they have never met in emails that are so long, they will never get read.

Here’s the deal: if you are reaching out to a blogger with an audience of any considerable size, they will probably be receiving emails on a daily basis. They’re far more likely to read and respond to the emails that are concise and to the point.

I am not saying that you should be cold and calculating in your emails, but you should be mindful of the blogger’s time, and suitably brief. If someone wants to read your life story, they’ll ask for it.

5. Don’t expect anything

When it comes to online dating, expectation is your worst enemy. You can be paralyzed into inaction by the fear of rejection or failure. Once you let that go, and reach out to people without expectation of what may or may not happen, the whole process becomes far more enjoyable.

The same can be said of your networking efforts. You may have in the past considered contacting bloggers, but decided not to, for fear of being ignored or irritating them. But really, what’s the worst that can happen? If you are contacting them with a genuine wish to establish a mutually beneficial relationship, any outcome is favorable:

  1. If they respond positively, great.
  2. If they ignore you, clearly the time isn’t right.
  3. If they respond negatively, it is now clear that they are not worth your time.

Bloggers need to have thick skin. You’ll be shunned. People will sometimes react negatively to you. It’s the same deal in the dating world. The sooner you learn to accept the inevitable and roll with the punches, the more successful you will be in your efforts.

Value in, value out

Without wanting to get too deep and meaningful, all of the above advice comes down to one key understanding: if you treat others as you would like to be treated, you will ultimately benefit.

Do you agree with my natural, “organic” form of networking, or do you have a different approach? Please voice your opinions in the comments section—I’d love to hear from you!

Tom Ewer is the owner of Leaving Work Behind, a blog for anyone interested in quitting their job and building a better life for themselves. Join Tom on Facebook here!

How I Got 1,000 People to My Blog in its First Ten Days

This guest post is by Heather Baker of the B2B PR Blog.

When I launched my first blog, the B2B Guide to Social Media, in 2010, my strategy for building its readership relied heavily on blind faith.

I must admit, it was difficult to maintain my enthusiasm for researching and drafting interesting blog posts, day after day, while I watched my Google Analytics figures hover in the single digits, and the only consistent Facebook likes I got were from my mum.

However, I pressed on, slowly gaining traction, and eventually building a solid monthly readership of 5,000 and a close-knit community of great guest bloggers. It was a slow process, but provided an excellent opportunity to learn what it takes to build a blog’s followers.

Fast-forward almost two years: I’ve been able to apply all this learning to help my latest blog, The B2B PR Blog, gain over 1,000 readers in its first ten days. Here’s how I did it.

  1. I chose my subject carefully: there are two elements of the new blog that have helped it appeal to followers. Firstly, it covers a niche (B2B PR rather than PR in general). Secondly, its core topic has not been covered in detail elsewhere on the web.
  2. I used a web designer: my blog is targeted at professionals, and therefore needed to look professional. I was not able to create a blog of this standard myself, so I brought on a designer who could (and I was fortunate enough to be able to pay him).
  3. I wrote my first ten posts before launching: I run a communications business and can never be sure when I will be able to find the time to blog. But I wanted to demonstrate to readers that the blog would be regularly updated with quality content. So I stockpiled my first ten posts, ready to upload daily for ten days.
  4. I asked a professional to do the on-site optimisation: I knew that if I were to rely on Google to drive searchers to my blog, I would have to make my site Google-friendly. Unfortunately, I am no technical expert in this area, so I got a professional to do it for me.
  5. I did keyword research: Using the Google Keyword Tool, I was able to identify what people in the industry were searching for, and insert these terms and phrases into my posts. The result was that in the first ten days, 108 people found my blog on Google.
  6. I used my social networks: I made a point of tweeting every post and sharing it on Facebook. I also joined the relevant LinkedIn groups and posted a link to every post with a relevant question on at least three discussion boards. This alone led to 561 visits in ten days.
  7. I used my contacts: On the day the blog launched, I sent an email to my friends, business associates, and family, telling them about the new blog and asking them for honest feedback.
  8. I added the link to the blog to the website of my PR company and email signature: to give more people the opportunity to find it. This drove 32 visitors to the blog in ten days.
  9. I commented on other blogs and articles: I found people who were writing about similar subjects and commented with a link back to my blog. This got an additional 46 visitors.
  10. I used social sharing: Between digg and StumbleUpon, the blog got over 26 visitors in ten days.
  11. I started guest blogging: I created a list of blogs covering similar areas of interest to mine (such as the CIPR or the PRCA’s blog) and pitched them with ideas for posts. Because I was offering unique content that I had researched and tailored to their audiences, these were accepted, and I was able to insert links to my blog into these posts. My first three guest posts referred 28 visitors to the blog.
  12. I kept the content unique, valuable, and relevant: because I had chosen to blog about a subject I knew well, I was able to identify the gaps in content on the web, and try to fill them. For example, while many B2B PR programs require research, no one had ever before produced a price comparison table for the major research houses. I knew that would be useful to the industry (because I had needed it myself at one stage), so I put the time into producing one (you can check it out here).
  13. I was happy to be controversial: Without being downright mean, I decided to highlight examples of poor B2B PR practice in my Steaming barrel, a section dedicated to the worst of B2B PR. While I would never be deliberately nasty about someone, I feel strongly that our industry gets away with too much. I therefore decided to be the one to put my head above the parapet and highlight shoddy practice.
  14. I remembered my manners: When someone did share my posts on Twitter or LinkedIn, I made a point of thanking them. And when people got in touch with ideas for guest posts, I responded even if they weren’t relevant.
  15. I monitored my analytics: Every morning I would log on to my Google Analytics account to see what was working and what was not. Then I would tailor my blog promotion activity for that day accordingly.

While building your blog’s following is by no means difficult, it is time consuming and labour intensive. It’s also frustrating as you never know in advance which marketing activity will turn into that big-ticket-audience-generator.

For the B2B PR Blog, so far it’s been a combination of actions. But what has been your big reader magnet? I’d be delighted if readers would share their experiences of their most successful blog marketing tools in the comments below.

Heather Baker is managing director of London B2B communications consultancy, TopLine Communications and the editor of two popular marketing blogs: The B2B Guide to Social Media and The B2B PR Blog. She is also currently an Executive MBA student at the London Business School.

Stop Being a Lazy Guest Blogger in 3 Steps

This guest post is by Kelsey Meyer of Digital Talent Agents.

You’ve finally made it big! The Washington Post or SocialTimes has picked up your well-crafted, thought-provoking article, and you see your name in shining lights (or at least in the author byline).

Is your job done? No way.

Now is the time for you to stop gloating and get to work. Getting a great article published in a reputable publication is only half the battle; if you stop there, you are not only being disrespectful to your readers, you are doing yourself and your brand a disservice.

Here are three ways to follow through on an article that has been published.

1. Promote conversation

If you’ve written an interesting piece and had it published on a site with a decent readership, your article will likely attract a few comments. Some of these comments will be positive, and you should spend time and real effort reading these and thanking the people who wrote them. Don’t just thank them, but comment on what they liked within the article and expand on it—if they liked what you gave them to start, give them more!

You’ll also run into people who don’t care for your article. They may even hate it. Address these people as well, no matter how much you may want to ignore them. Don’t tell them they’re stupid for disagreeing with your article or that you hate them. Instead, a more mature tactic is to welcome their viewpoints and try to address anything they may have misunderstood about your article.

Addressing comments, both good and bad, promotes conversation and engages your readers on a deeper level. Guest bloggers who can take it just as well as they can dish it out are golden. A great example of this is an article one of my company’s clients, which was published on Under 30 CEO. My client had readers who agreed and others who disagreed, but he responded to every comment and it sparked great conversation.

2. Thank your sharers

It’s a great ego boost when you see that your article has drawn over 100 tweets. You get all warm and fuzzy inside, and you may even mention it to your co-workers.

Now it’s time to make those who shared your article feel just as special. There’s a great tool at your disposal, called Who ReTweeted Me, which you can use to see exactly who tweeted your article and easily thank them.

This way, you’ll make new friends on Twitter and encourage people to continue sharing your content. Everyone likes to feel acknowledged—you’re living proof!

3. Make sure the link ranks for your name

If you’re the author of a great article, you should be credited. Most publications will insert a link back to your website or your social media accounts in the author byline so readers can find out more about you.

Go one better: sign up for BrandYourself.com and include the link to the article in your optimized links. That one small move will help the article rank higher in Google search results for your name. BrandYourself.com is a free service, so there’s no excuse not to sign up and start making the most of your posts.

Get more exposure for each post

Take these three steps after each of your articles is published, and you will gain more exposure with each one. You’ll also engage your community and up your attractiveness to publications looking for guest contributors. And what’s more appealing to a guest blogger than another opportunity to blog?

Kelsey Meyer is the VP of Digital Talent Agents, an online PR firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, authors, consultants, corporate leaders and experts establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry.

How to Create Contests that Increase Engagement

This guest post is by Jeremy Statton of JeremyStatton.com.

Contests are an effective way to increase activity. Most websites run one of some type. If you haven’t, you should. Nothing attracts a crowd like the possibility of winning something for free.

But the standard contest that provides a free “prize” for those who enter may not be the best way to get your readers more involved.

That approach reminds me of credit card companies that throng college campuses in the fall hoping to get students to sign up by offering them a free T-shirt. Initially enthusiasm is high, but over time, your readers will get used to it. A T-shirt will never be more than a T-shirt, free or not.

What’s your goal?

The primary goal of our websites is to build an online community. A tribe. A group of people who share common interests and then interact with each other.

Increased traffic might be fun to see, but increased engagement is better. I would trade ten new readers who participate on regular basis than 100 people who have only signed up for a chance at free stuff.

These engaged readers are the ones who can help you find others who will benefit from your community. They are the ones who will keep showing up even after your content suffers from a bad day. They are the ones who will remained subscribed even after they receive their free gift.

A way to develop this type of reader involvement is to design a contest that reflects this goal. Instead of just giving stuff away, we need a contest that gets our readers more involved.

A new type of contest

My site is about living better stories. My readers and I encourage each other to step away from what most would call a normal life and step into a life full of risk, obstacles, and personal transformation. Instead of choosing comfort and ease, we have decided to make a difference.

As I interacted with my community, I discovered that many of them were already doing just that. I started asking questions, and the answers I heard were amazing.

So the “Secretly Incredible You” contest was born.

I asked my readers to submit the stories of people who are living these secretly incredible lives. It could be themselves or someone they know. The winners are featured in a blog post each Friday. At the end of 20 stories, I will collect them to make a book which will be printed and distributed to each winner.

The best part of this contest is that everybody wins. I get an incredible post and reach new readers each week. The winner is featured on my blog and has their story told.

How to create your own contest of engagement

If you want to create a similar contest for your site, here are four things to consider.

1. Reveal hidden treasure

The key to this type of contest is to discover what your readers are already doing that everybody else would be interested in. Find the place where your theme and their awesomeness intersect. My site encourages stories. A tech site might feature a best widget contest. A photography site could hold a contest with a different theme each week.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Find the hidden treasure and then give people a chance to show off.

2. Display the work

For traditional contests to work, you give out free stuff. But with this type of contest, instead of giving people stuff, give your readers the opportunity to show off their work on your platform. Since it feels and looks like a contest, they will do their best work with the hope of winning. And then they will give that work to you to display to the world.

By giving others a chance to show off their work, you can develop even better content then what you already have.

3. Make it regular

Your body suffers when certain necessities are not met with regularity. The contest is no different. Your tribe needs that same schedule. Instead of making the contest a one time event, consider doing it weekly or monthly. And then keep it running.

By declaring winners on a regular basis, you will create a sense of anticipation that keeps others coming back for more.

4. Reward winners even more

Go beyond featuring the winners on a blog post. Include them in something bigger as well. For my contest, I will put each post in a book and then have the book printed. I plan on sending the book out to each winner.

Give the winners something more than an opportunity to display their work.

Create contests that add value

The type of contest is a chance to not only bring new members to your tribe, but to also add value to your currents readers experience and increase user engagement.

Have you run a contest that increased engagement? Tell us about it in the comments.

Jeremy Statton is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. When not ridding the world of pain he helps others live a better story. You can follow him on his blog or Twitter.

The Barnum & Bailey Guide to Internet Marketing

This guest post is by Steven A. Lowe of Innovator Consulting and Custom Software Development.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”—P. T. Barnum *Note.

“They apparently all have Internet access.”—S. A. Lowe

Rubix D. Newby—Rube to his friends—left the family farm to strike it rich in the Big City. On the road he happened upon a garish collection of tents and lights.

A circus!

But not just any old circus, this was the famous Internet Marketing Circus. He scurried towards the gate. Fishing in his pocket, he wondered if he had enough money to get inside.

An old man by the gate whispered “No money required to get in, son, but best keep a hand in your pocket anyway.” The T-shirt he was wearing was faded and barely legible. “The Secret is Free,” it said.

The barker in front of the gate was wearing a black tuxedo with tails and a top hat. The top hat jiggled back and forth as the barker shouted into a megaphone.

“Step right up folks, and be amazed!” he cried. “Ladies, and gentlemen, young and old, draw near and listen as the story unfolds! Opportunities for riches beyond your wildest dreams await you online through Internet Marketing schemes! So step inside, where gurus and ninjas await! With secrets and contraptions that will never abate! With these treasures and tricks you can build a fortune online! No effort! No labor! All in your spare time!”

The barker pointed his megaphone right at Rube. “The sky’s the limit on how much money you earn, but what is the limit on the time you can burn? So step right up, and go on in, it’s not MLM so you don’t even need to bring a friend!”

Rube flowed with the crowd through the gate, mesmerized by the bouquet of booths, tents, rides, barkers, hawkers, carnies, signs, lights, sounds, smells, and promises inside. “Where to begin!?” he thought.

While Rube was gawking at the spectacle, a furtive young man dressed all in black and wearing a strange sword caught his attention. “Psst!” said the young man, “Have I got a deal for you!”

“Oh?” said Rube. “What is it?”

“Why, it’s a push-button cash machine niche site generator!” he said.

“Oh?” said Rube. “What good is that?”

“What good is it?” asked the man. “Why, it’s my own secret ninja guru formula and system guaranteed to bring you unlimited cash flow, practically overnight!”

“How interesting,” said Rube. “What do I have to do to make it work?”

“That’s the beauty of it!” said the man. “You just pick a niche by following my simple yet comprehensive formula, using a few tools that I conveniently provide for a small fee, then just push a button to automagically generate a web site that starts making you money instantly! And for a limited time, I am willing to sell this to you and only you for $97!”

Rube knew he didn’t have $97. “Not interested,” he said, and started to walk away.

“Wait!” the man said. “Just because I like you and don’t want you to miss out on this spectacular opportunity, you can have it for $7!”

Rube stepped in something. “Must be elephants around here,” he thought.

Rube laughed. “Mister, if I had a magic cash machine I wouldn’t sell it for any price, I’d just push that button over and over and over!”

The man suddenly vanished into the crowd. Rube had a sneaking suspicion and reached into his pocket. One of his dollars had gone missing.

“What a strange fellow,” thought Rube, wiping off his shoes in the straw.

Rube noticed a crowd gathering around a man wearing a suit covered in neon dollar signs, gesturing at a large circular device. He shook the straw off of his feet and shuffled over to the back of the crowd.

Article marketing is the true secret sauce for building authority!” the man shouted through a megaphone. “A thousand articles on ten thousand sites and you’ll be an authority practically overnight!”

“That sounds like a lot of work,” Rube yelled over everyone’s heads.

“Ah, my friend,” replied the man, pushing through the crowd, “ordinarily it would be!” He draped one arm around Rube’s shoulders, and steered him towards the strange device. “But not if you have this magical Spinner! Care to give it a try? Five spins for a dollar! Lifetime use for only $97! Step up and speak a few words into the magic funnel.”

“Well, okay, I’ll try it,” said Rube. He gave the man a dollar, and considered what to say. “The effect is amazing!” he said.

The machine whirred and spun and spouted great gouts of flame and billows of smoke, then intoned “The outcome is astounding!” “The consequence is impressive!” “Extraordinary is the result!” “Amazed by the effect, you will be!” “Become awestruck by substantial ramifications!”

The spinning and the smoke made Rube a bit nauseous. He was glad he only paid for five spins, as they were starting to sound rather silly.

Rube thanked the man and wandered away. Soon he noticed another barker in front of a dark tent. The man was dressed up like a spider.

“Master the web! Feel important! Instant authority!” hollered the spider-barker. “Superstar rankings! Fully automated mega backlink generation!” he continued.

Rube still felt a bit ill from the spinning, and was becoming somewhat disenchanted with the circus. But, he still had one dollar. “Surely one of these things has got to work,” he thought.

“I could use some instant authority,” said Rube, and handed the spider-barker his last dollar.

“Excellent choice, son,” said the barker. “Nothing builds authority faster than a thousand carefully-chosen backlinks! Just take the lighted path to the center of the tent, and prepare to be amazed!”

Rube stepped through the entry way and followed a dimly-lit path to the center of the tent. A spotlight snapped on as he stepped up on a small pedestal.

“Speak your mind, and let your authority be recognized!” intoned a disembodied voice.

Rube thought for a moment, and then said, “Farming is hard work!”

A fanfare of music swelled, and the lights started to rise. Rube saw that he was surrounded by bleachers, but they were empty.

As the illumination increased, Rube heard the screech of rusty gears, and noticed an odd bellows-like machine at the top of the tent. “Commencing generation of massive authority-building backlinks!” shouted the voice. The machine sprayed something onto the bleachers with a loud Hroof! and a Hurrrm!

Now the bleachers were no longer empty, but were covered in …ants! There were thousands of them, arrayed around him in neat concentric circles.

As the lights reached full glare, the screeching stopped and all was quiet. Suddenly, all of the ants pointed at him and whispered, “Farming is hard work!”

This did make Rube feel important—for a moment. “But they are just ants,” he thought. “And they seem to be dead.” He was very disappointed, and headed directly for the exit. He crunched over a few hundred ants on the way out.

“This circus is not fun,” Rube thought. “And now I’m broke. Might as well go back to the farm.” He dejectedly shuffled back towards the gate.

“I guess I’m not cut out for this Internet Marketing thing,’ he ruminated. “It’s too complicated, and costs too much money—and seems to be run by some very strange people!”

Lost in thought, he stumbled into a sign that had only two words: “Simple Truth.” The sign was in front of a plain table with two chairs. Sitting in one of the chairs was the old man from the gate, except now his T-shirt read: “There is no ninja sauce”. The old man gestured at Rube to take a seat.

“I got no more dollars,” Rube told the old man.

“Don’t need ‘em,” he replied.

“Then what do you want?” asked Rube.

“I want you to succeed,” he said. “Have a seat.”

Rube sat. The old man continued, “So, your money’s gone, is it? Went broke fast trying to get rich quick, eh?”

“Yeah. I guess I don’t understand this stuff; best give up,” Rube said.

“There is another way,” the old man said. “It’s not flashy, it’s not sexy, it’s not overnight, and it’s not a fully-automated push-button solution guaranteed to bring you loads of cash on autopilot while you sleep for only $97 per month. But it always works, and it costs nothing but time—and motivation. Oh sure, you can accelerate the process some if you spend wisely, but the knowledge and tools are essentially free.”

“What is it?” asked Rube.

The old man chuckled. “It’s called ‘Getting Educated’. Learn the fundamentals. Internet marketing is not about tricks and gimmicks, it’s about serving people. It’s about relating to prospects and customers online the same way you would relate to them in person. That means finding them, listening to them, and caring about them. That means creating the most valuable content or product that you can, tracking and refining your methods, and never stopping learning. It’s about real marketing, not trickery. And it works every time.”

“Where do I go to do that?” asked Rube.

“Well, there are a few good places, and in time you should visit them all,” he said. “I suggest learning about blogging, especially content marketing, then perhaps social media, how search engines work, and copywriting, for starters.”

“But wouldn’t these whizz-bang doohickeys be faster and easier?” asked Rube.

“If they actually worked, they might be,” the old man said. “If they added value instead of noise, they might be. If they solved problems for people instead of gaming the system, they might be. If they provided lasting value instead of temporary gimmicks, they might be. Now, suppose you bought one, and that it worked for a while and then stopped; how would you fix it?”

“I don’t know,” replied Rube.

“That’s right. You wouldn’t know how to fix it. And if it didn’t work to start with, you wouldn’t know why. So you would be depending entirely on something you don’t understand, that may be of dubious construction and quality. Does that sound like a good business model?”

“Well, no,” said Rube, “of course not.”

“Right,” said the old man. “You’ve got to learn to earn. You got to give to get. That’s the way of the world. The Internet is no different.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a try!” said Rube.

“You do that,” the old man said. “And remember what you learned on the farm—prepare the soil, plant the seeds, tend the crops, and be patient. You can only reap what you sow, you know.”

Rube stood up to leave. “Thank you. Anything else I should keep in mind?” he asked.

“Yes,” the old man said, and handed Rube a tattered card. It read:

Rube put the card in his pocket, and found he was once again alone on the road to the Big City. But now he walked on with a confident smile.

Steven A. Lowe knows 101 Ways to Land More Business Using Landing Pages. When he’s not studying marketing and copywriting or reading problogger.net, he runs Innovator LLC, which specializes in innovative consulting and custom software development.

Book Review: Marketing In the Round

Not long ago we published the post 5 Ways Blogging Supports a Multichannel Marketing Strategy by Geoff Livingston. Geoff’s one of the authors of Marketing in the Round, How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era.

Written with Gini Dietrich, Marketing in the Round is a marketing strategy book, designed primarily for large organisations that have multiple roles within the marketing and communications functions.

So as I began reading, I wondered: what would this book offer to solo or small-team bloggers like us?

Structure and contents

The book’s set out in three parts:

  • Understand the marketing round and develop your strategy
  • Four marketing round approaches
  • Measurement, refinement, and improvement.
  • Each chapter in part two is laced with examples of integrated strategies used by real organisations, online and off, all with mulitmillion-dollar turnovers. Presenting actual case information to exemplify the points that have been made in the first section of the book, and to really show how integrated marketing works, and what impacts it in the real world, is an excellent way to get readers’ heads around the information.

    Each chapter of the book finishes with an “Exercises” section that gives the reader practical starting points to act on the advice that’s presented in that chapter. The exercises can, at times, seem a bit simplistic but they are an excellent way to help readers take the high-level conceptual advice from each chapter and make it truly workable.

    The book does assume some knowledge, too—that readers have some understanding of pure marketing concepts, but also that they have some idea of how marketing teams function in large organizations, and the different disciplines represented by team members can work together. If you lack this understanding, Marketing in the Round may be a bit bewildering at first.

    That said, the case examples in the second part of the book should still prove useful and informative regardless of your level of experience with in the field.

    What’s in it for you?

    Despite the book’s targeting, bloggers can get a lot out of this title—if they’re prepared to read, digest, and consider.

    The book shows us:

    • what integrated marketing is in concept and practice
    • how it can be used to build a brand
    • what elements can impact on the strategy’s success
    • how to create an integrated marketing strategy
    • how to execute, measure, and refine that strategy.

    The benefit of the book’s focus on multidisciplinary teams is, I think, something of an advantage for solopreneur readers.

    Firstly, it addresses the issues of integration that arise when different people do different tasks. As a solo or small team blogger, you have to wear multiple hats on any given day—or indeed in any given moment.

    Stepping back and considering those roles (within the marketing and promotions effort) individually can help you to get perspective on what it is you’re doing. If you can understand how a team might use the marketing round to create an integrated campaign, you’ll be in a strong position to successfuly be your own marketing round.

    Secondly, the challenges of creating integrated campaigns using multiple tactics, executions, media and people over an extended period is probably the trickiest scenario in which to create an integrated campaign. At least if, as a blogger, you need to do everything (or most things) yourself, you’ll have a good feel for where the different components of your integrated marketing effort are at.

    I tend to think that learning from the most-difficult-case archetype is a good way to get your head around detailed technical concepts. If you can master the most difficult case, you’ll be one (or more) steps ahead when it comes to easier ones. Also, a book that discussed integrated marketing for bloggers would most certainly not cover the depth or breadth of information that this book presents.

    Yes, you’ll have to think about the material and discern what might or might not work for you—what’s applicable and what’s not. But the fact that it’s all there means you get to make those calls based on your skills, blog, audience, market, and personality. You’re not relying on the author to make those choices for you, and hope that their selection matches your needs.

    Finally, by understanding the biggest possible integrated marketing picture, you’ll be fully informed when it comes to critically assessing the work of those in your niche, whether they’re big brands or small, and to formulating your own integrated strategy for your brand.

    If you want to get smarter about your marketing, and think strategically about how you can get more out of the tactics you’re using, Marketing in the Round is a great place to start. For more information on the book, visit marketingintheround.com.