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How Your Business Can Make the Most Out of Google Updates

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This is a guest contribution from Emma Henry of True Target Marketing.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), when executed well, can reap significant results for an online business.  It can boost search engine rankings and increase targeted website traffic, resulting in more sales leads and paying customers. If you have plans to implement an SEO campaign, it pays to be aware of the latest Google updates to ensure that you adapt your online business as required in order to boost your search engine rankings and avoid being penalised.

The Search Engine Landscape is Changing

The latest Google Algorithm update has had a substantial impact on the way the search engine is now ranking sites. This update has been one of the most significant in the last 2-3 years. 

We are seeing a trend away from keyword-based search into query-based search. Google is now delivering search results based on what people would ask or say in conversation rather than on specific keywords. So, for example, “Where can I find …?” Or “How to ….?” Or “What is the …”

Google is attempting to return better search results that provide a more direct answer to these query-based searches. Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the whole sentence in the search query is taken into account, rather than specific keywords. The result is that website pages matching the entire query will rank better than website pages matching just a few key terms in the query.

Does this mean SEO is dead?

No. In fact Google says the fundamentals remain the same, and it comes down to having original, high-quality content on your site. Signals that have been important in the past remain important. Hummingbird just allows Google to process webpages in new and more relevant ways. Gone are the days when it was all about choosing specific keywords and manipulating your content and onsite SEO around these. Content is king. This has always been the case and has never been as important as right now.

So what does this mean you need to do?

You need to create good quality, relevant and unique website content on a regular basis around search queries relating to your niche. 

Google will reward websites who display the most relevant answers to these types of queries. The more query-based content you create, the more likely that Google will boost your search engine rankings. Answering common industry questions will not only get you additional search engine traffic, but it will boost your rankings for your primary geo-target keywords.

Where to find query based content ideas

The originality of your content is very important. It’s about digging deep and creating good content around sub-topics within your niche. Here is a good trick to generate content ideas: type your seed keyword into Google (that is, one of the primary keywords you would normally try to rank for). If you scroll to the bottom of the search results page for this keyword in Google, you will see “searches related to your keyword”. You can then create an informative article relating to a query around those related search queries.

For more content ideas, continue clicking through each related search term and see what other related searches appear, and create more content based on the most relevant phrases. 

Another idea is to note down all of the common questions that your customers ask you.  Or even get friends or family who are not in the business to list out as many “typical” questions that would be asked in your industry. 

These types of questions provide excellent opportunities to create informative website content. It is the language that your customers speak. The best thing is that you are in control and can put a spin on all of your articles that position your company as the industry expert. 

There are many other places to find new content. You can look at industry forums and see what questions people are asking. You can go to Yahoo Answers to see what sort of questions people are asking there. Another idea is go to Wikipedia and have a look at the categories and sub-topics of major categories for inspiration. 

Is Onsite SEO still important?

Yes! Page titles and meta-descriptions are still very important to help you rank in the search engines. It is important to write your articles naturally around the long tail search queries. You can optimise images for your articles with the Alt tag, however do not do this for all images and all articles. Label some as generic names such as building-contractor l001.jpg. Google are on the lookout for sites where the SEO lines up too perfectly and that appear to be manipulating the system and they may just penalise your site for that. You want to get the balance right, by helping Google to understand what your content is about without lining everything up perfectly.  

What does this all mean? 

Educate your market and become a leader in your industry – in the eyes of your customers and in the eyes of Google. The informative articles based around real-life questions will drive traffic to your site for people who are genuinely interested in a specific topic. People really do type industry-specific questions into the search engines. Many of those searches could result in a lead or an inquiry or a sale for you. The traffic that you get from targeting longer query-based keywords probably won’t be as much as for primary broader keywords, however you might rank very, very quickly, and if you attract that right buyer, you are more likely to convert than someone who is just typing a broad term. 

A combination of good query-based content and a strategic offsite SEO strategy to target the prime keywords is the winning formula to reach the top of Google this year.

Emma Henry is an Online Marketing Specialist and the owner of True Target Marketing. Emma tailors bespoke online marketing strategies for her clients. She specialises in lead generation, customer conversions, increased website traffic and improved website responsiveness. 

Theme Week Roundup: Which Tip Will You Put into Practise?

FINDING READERSLast week we delved in deep to the things you can do with your post once you hit “publish”. Some people feel as though that’s the end of the road, and others feel as though it’s only the beginning!

There are plenty of things you can do to keep your post current on social media, ensuring it is optimised for SEO, how to repurpose it for different channels, how to keep readers on your blog once your post is published, and how to extend your ideas for the future. It was a week packed with information, and plenty of takeaways for you at home. Let’s have a look at what we covered, and we’d love to hear your feedback on the ones you think you might like to try (or ones you feel as though didn’t quite work in your situation).

How to Socialize Your Posts For Maximum Effect:

Darren wrote extensively about where you can post your posts on social media to be in the right information stream for your readers. He broke down the choice of social media to what kind of time you have to spend, where the majority of your readers are, what suits your content best, and where your competitors might be. He explained how a rhythm to sharing is important, and outlined how to do this for maximum return. He gave great tips for sharing on Twitter and G+, and the kinds of resharing he does after the initial push. Which tip resonated with you?

Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Readers Will Be Forever Lost:

Rand Fishkin reminded us all that content can stay current after its inital social media push by optimizing it for search. He explained how fast your post can die if not supported in the first instance with good SEO, by paying attention to keyword research, the best way to go about finding a title and what kind of information to include in body content, and the best ways of reaching out to your network to get your content seen by the right people. I loved the presentation he included called “How To Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul” – something to think about if you feel as though optimising and keywords take away from the beauty of writing from the heart to connect with your readers. Did it have an impact on your thoughts about it?

How To Repurpose Your Content and Why You Should Do It:

Repurposing content isn’t just re-promoting your posts on social media, as Darren explains. It’s about changing up your content for different media streams, and for the different interests for your readers. It heightens your search result rankings, and readers can also connect with your work more deeply. Of course, there are risks present, and Darren outlines those, and he also gives his best advice for how to repurpose your content for the best results. There are some solid tips and concrete examples – which ones do you think you’ll try?

You’ve Got Readers To Your Blog: This is How You Keep Them There:

Day four was all about keeping readers excited and wanting to engage after you’ve optimised your post for SEO, published it to all the right channels, and even repurposed it for different reader needs. I broke it down into site design, reader comments and how to interact with them for the best results, and what you can do off your blog to drive traffic back to your posts. Everything from responding to as many of your readers as you can, being useful, sparking conversations between readers, to having a clear design, making commenting a breeze, and returning the favour of a comment on someone else’s blog. I’m sure at least one of those tips would be successful if you used them today – which one will it be?

Extend Your Ideas With Future Blog Posts:

Darren explains the problem he is seeing with current sites focusing on curated content, and how sensationalist headlines will only get you so far. He outlines the best tips to make you stand out from the crowd – how to go deeper with information, and how to provide genuine, interesting, useful content. He tells us how to find future post ideas in the post you’re currently writing, and how to extend previous posts you’ve written for a new readership. What is something you can adopt in your daily writing practise to help your information go further?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Theme Week: You’ve Got Readers To Your Blog – This is How You Keep Them There

Studying at laptop

There’s no denying that driving traffic to your posts is usually at the top of every blogger’s list once they hit “publish”. And while we’ve chatted this week about sharing your posts on social media for the best effect, and how to repurpose your content so even more eyes see it – it’s time now to talk about keeping those visitors on your blog once they get there, interacting with your content, and engaging with you.

Reader comments

Reward your readers

Replying to the comments you do get is one of the best things you can do – not only to encourage that person to be a repeat reader, but also to show other readers that you’re interested in the stories they might like to share. When you put the effort in to have conversations with the people who make an effort to speak to you, it fosters more of a community environment.

Email your thanks

Darren talks about taking the time to email your readers to either thank them for their comment, or to follow up on something they’ve talked about. It is taking the extra step that will make them feel appreciated and more inclined to spend their time on your blog, where they know they will be heard, appreciated, and made to feel welcome.

Ask a question in your reply

If your reader tells you a story or shares an anecdote with you, ask them further questions about it in your reply. It’s likely they’ll come back again and answer you, and you’ve created the beginning of a conversation, not just been hit by a “drop and run” commenter.

Invite future comments

If a reader tells you they’re going to put your advice into action, or make your recipe, or in some other way take your blog into their real life, ask them to let you know how that turns out for them. When they do come back, you can then ask them even more questions: What was easy? What did they find difficult or confusing? Did they enjoy the end result?

Foster conversations between readers

When replying to people who have commented on your blog, you can tag other people in your comments, or highlight where someone’s said something similar, or answered the question they’re asking. You can put the call out for other readers to share their experience, or answer the commenter’s question in your reply to them. By making the environment on the blog conducive to conversation and then letting your readers exchange with each other, you’re only going to see a rise in engagement. This is one of Mrs Woog’s secrets to a highly-engaged community of readers.

“It is the facilitation of these conversations that will give you a really great insight into who your readers actually are. It is this information that will help you to work out what sort of content to deliver to them. What will work, and what will sink.”

Give considered responses

In today’s fast-paced, bite-sized world, a comment is an absolute gift. That someone took the time to read your post, form an opinion, sign in, and leave a comment? and/or perhaps even share your post? that deserves more than a “thanks” or some other brief nod of the head, when you can spare it. Sure, if you don’t have time to reply to every single comment you ever get, then this is better than nothing. But if you can give a chatty reply back, then you are more likely to entice others that it’s worth their time and effort to get involved.

Provide further information

Be useful to your readers not only in the body of your posts, but in your replies to them too. If there’s more information you can point them to, then do so. If there’s someone else’s blog post you can highlight – even better. They might even come back and thank you.

Link your content

If you’re talking about things you’ve covered in posts elsewhere, then highlight that in your text. If the reader doesn’t find anything in this post to respond to, they might be interested enough in something you’ve linked to and feel encouraged to leave a comment there.

Ask questions in your posts

A useful strategy to encourage readers to comment is to not only ask them a question at the end of your post, but also to weave in open-ended questions throughout your text. Create many jumping-off points to start conversations, and let people choose which ones they want. By asking for advice or reader experiences, you’re providing a forum for people to share.

Start a debate

Everybody knows that controversy is one way of getting eyeballs and engagement. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but even smaller-scale contentious points can entice people to comment on which side of the debate they are on. It could be as innocuous as asking readers whether they prefer peanut butter or honey on their morning toast, but it still inspires a desire to answer.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 2.11.18 pm

Use a poll

Further to the debate idea, asking readers to answer a question about where they stand on a subject can be a quick and easy way for people to engage. You can create a post around it, or even have them permanently in the sidebar like the ones on Digital Photography School.

Reader projects

If you and your readers are participating in a blogging challenge, or another type of community project, it can foster a great environment for people to come together to chat about it. It might be something as big as 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, or it could be a fun creative exercise, like blogging every day for a month. When everyone’s in it together, there’s more of a chance they’ll stick around for the conversation.

Hold back a bit

If you say everything that’s needed to be said in a post, then there’s not much for the reader to contribute. While expert, informative posts are incredibly useful, it’s also a much better outcome if the readers are participating in a conversation around it, rather than just writing “great post!”. Leave them something to add.

How-to-recover-a-document-saved-to-office-2011-Autorecovery-2

Be a mini-expert in something specific

There’s lots of posts on the internet solving common problems. Where you might have more luck with engagement is solving a rare problem that isn’t often covered. I have a post about recovering documents that are saved to Office 2011 Autorecovery. I pieced it together after a very stressful lost-file incident, from advice spread throughout many pages and forums. It is so specific I wasn’t sure if it would be useful to many people, but it consistently gets not only regular views, but regular comments from truly relieved and grateful readers who found it at their wit’s end. Even if you think only a handful of interested people will read the post, you might be the only person writing that particular solution to that particular problem.

Site setup

User-friendliness

If your site is clear, easy-to-read, and gives the viewer a pleasing visual experience (like Dustin talked about here in our last theme week on creating community), it’s more likely they will stay. The longer they stay, the more likely they are to want to engage with you. Dustin says:

“When someone lands on your webpage you have five seconds or less to prove that your site and its content is worth their precious time. So if your web design is cluttered, hard-to-read and visually unattractive, you’re content may not have the chance it deserves.”

Make it easy

There’s nothing more off-putting than a hidden comment section, a cluttered comment section, a hard-to-sign-into comment section, or a comment section that requires you to fill in the captcha code. I’ve heard readers say time and time again that they just give up when they can’t get the captcha right. Others go so far as to not even bother trying.

Point people to newsletters

You’re full of useful information, so ensure you’re letting readers know that you’ve got even more of it that isn’t always on the blog. Keep eyeballs on your site by making it easy for them to click over. If they’ve signed up to receive your newsletter, it might be the incentive they need to visit your blog when it arrives in their inbox. Make your newsletter visible and easy to sign up for. Also include it at the end of your popular posts, or in the body of your posts (when logical to do so, of course).

Call to action

It’s obvious, but still not everyone does it – asking outright for comments. Maybe you feel weird about asking readers directly to comment or share (I know I do!), but it appears to be very effective. Whether it’s a casual “I’d love to hear your thoughts” or even a “please comment”, it might be just the push the reader needs to reply.

Think about the kind of reader you are

What entices you to spend time on someone else’s blog and join in their conversation? Think about the kinds of things you like to see and enjoy elsewhere and see if you can’t replicate similar things on your site. There’s a good chance that if you like it on other blogs, your readers will like it on yours.

Make sure they’re notified when you reply

The best way of keeping engagements high is ensuring your commenters know when you’ve continued the conversation. Not everyone checks back to see if they’ve been replied to, but if they have an email notification (such as a Disqus reply) or similar, then it’s more likely they will come back to chat.

Off your blog

Keep an eye on your pingbacks/trackbacks

When you see that someone has mentioned you on their site, it takes two seconds to pop over and thank them for it. By showing you’re grateful and interested in what they have to say means it’s more likely that reader will keep being engaged in your blog and your work.

Return the favour

Being an active participant in the blog community does wonders for the kinds of engagement you can create in your own space. Reciprocity is a perpetuating cycle that’s beneficial for all involved. Comment often. Comment freely. Comment without expectation, but just enjoying the process. Comments beget comments, and while not everyone will return the favour to you, many will. Be one of the people who do.

Reply on social media

While ultimately it is beneficial to have people solely comment on your blog, it is good practice (and a lot of fun!) to reply to their comments on Facebook or Twitter about your post. Some people prefer to have conversations there, and some people are new to you. They might be more incentivised to click over and read if you’re taking the time to care about what they say on their social media of choice.

What about you? What have you found to be a useful way of keeping people engaged on your blog posts, and not just skipping off to the next distraction?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

publish-button
(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


spike-of-hope

There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:

google-search-box

Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:

adwords-kw-planner1

I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:

adwords-kw-planner2

A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

blog-seo-autosuggest
Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”

———–

A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

Get Your Tickets to the ProBlogger Academy in Portland Oregon: Thursday 10 July

I’m really excited today to announce that alongside Chris Garrett (who co-authored the ProBlogger hard cover book and who now works as the Chief Digital Officer at CopyBlogger) I’ll be running a ProBlogger day of training in Portland Oregon on Thursday 10 July.

Darren rowse chris garrett

The day will be called the ProBlogger Academy and it’s being run as part of Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit.

This will be the only US based teaching that I’ll be doing in 2014 and a rare chance to get Chris and I in the same room at the same time!

Tickets are limited and given their price they could go quickly. If you’re a WDS attendee they are just $29 USD and if you’re not a WDS ticket holder they’re still a bargain at $49 USD!

I know I’ll get asked about the low pricing on this. No it’s not so that we can get you in the door to sell you something – the price is low for two reasons:

  1. we wanted to make this as accessible for as many people as possible
  2. we’re doing this as a part of the larger WDS event and they’re a not for profit organisation

Chris and I are involved simply because we love what WDS does and we want to give a little something back. PLUS we also get asked to do events in the US a lot so this seemed like a pretty good time/place to do it as we know a lot of ProBlogger readers will be at WDS.

Grab your tickets here

The day runs from 9am-4pm (although we’ll stop for breaks along the way) and we hope to have a couple of special guests along to be involved in the teaching.

We’ll cover our main 4 ‘pillars’ of blogging:

  • Creating Killer Content
  • Finding Readers
  • Building Community
  • Monetization

We’ll cover the above with lots of practical teaching and if previous times Chris and I have gotten together are anything to go by you’ll come home with a head full of ideas. There will be plenty of time to explore other topics as we always include opportunity for Q&A.

Tickets are limited so please don’t delay if you’re thinking of coming and head to this Eventbrite page to grab yours.

Looking to Outsource Your Design Needs? You Need to Read This

This is a guest contribution from our very own Shayne Tilley.

Late last year Darren looked at some of the DIY image and graphics tools we use here on ProBlogger — many of which I frequent daily. However with design, whilst I can resize and format an image and cover some the basics, the idea of approaching more complex design tasks very quickly exceeds my skills – and bad design can be worse than no visuals at all!

So today I wanted to share with you how a marketing guy with no design skills and no time to waste gets through a pile of design jobs every month without spending a fortune.

The quick stuff:

I’m finding more and more there’s a ‘real-time’ element to design.  Posts need more supporting (and complex) visuals to improve the quality and iterations are needed for more shareability. On top of that, when doing A/B testing you need to be creating visual variations in batches as much as copy.

Personally I appreciate, and am often amazed by, high-end visual work (just spend an hour with this guy and you’ll know what I mean), I just can’t bring myself to pay $100 an hour to create five versions of a button, or create a collage to share on Facebook.

So for this work I use:

swiftly

I was first introduced to Swiftly through my history with 99designs. After running a few trials in the initial days I was impressed by not only the quality but the speed of delivery. So excited was I about by what they were doing, I’ve offered my help to the team with their plans for world domination.

Price: $19 flat rate

fiverr

To be honest, I’ve used fiverr more for fun than serious work.  For example, if I need to play a gag on a mate for his birthday. But there has been the odd occasion where work and fun meet with my graphical requirements and that’s where I’ve headed.

Cost: $5 + upgrades

microlancer

Microlancer is a bit of copy/paste of fiverr, but brought to you by the Envato network that I use a lot for stock WordPress themes and plugins. It’s perhaps a little more serious/businesslike than fiverr, and I’ve used them for slightly bigger design jobs.  It’s newish and time will tell but I’m impressed with my experiences to date.

Cost: $5-$500

Why I like swiftly over the others…  (with a disclosure)

Being totally upfront here, I’m helping the swiftly team at the time of writing this post. But I’m very selective about who I work with and I’m helping because I believe in what they are doing…

I believe they are destined to be the Google of quick design services.  What I mean by that is I can spend 30 minutes browsing for the right freelancer on fiverr or microlancer for my task. In the same time I can have my designs already done with Swiftly.

They have built some behind-the-scenes magic to play matchmaker. I just tell them what I want, they find me the best person for the job, and it’s done.

There’s a reason we use search engines not directories to find stuff these days, and they’re doing the same for great design talent.

The big stuff:

When it comes to major overhauls like full site re-designs, full landing pages there’s likely to be much more at stake. So more thought goes into deciding who I’ll use. My decision marketing process goes a little like this …

My network:

I’ve worked directly in the past with some great designers across the globe so often my first port of call is to tap into the design network I’ve built over time. The requirements and style of the design jobs I need can be very diverse, so I’ll never limit myself to just one resource.

With an idea of time, a feel for the budget and the style required, out will go the expressions of interest to a bunch of people I’ve got a history with.

I realise that not everyone with have these connections to begin with, so it’s important to start building your own.

A big part of finding great talent is to go to where they are.

Freelancer.com & 99designs.com

Both these sites have great designers in their thousands. You might run a 99designs contest or a freelancer project initially and then work 1:1 with designers who you click with in the future.  You need to commit some time up front to find the talent in the crowd, but if you are thinking in the long term it’s worth it.

But also don’t forget to look locally.

Whilst sites like the above tap you into the global market of designers, chances are good there’s a great designer just around the corner. Do some searching, send some emails, make some phone calls and you might be surprised. If you can find a great design partner locally and develop a relationship over time, you’re in good shape.  You can talk about your requirements face to face. The challenge of time-zones don’t matter. It’s a great place to be in.

The visual web is an every growing thing and getting stuff designed well is more important than ever.  There’s no one size fits all solution to all your design needs, but if you make some smart choices and grow your network you can take the hassle and expense our of making your blog and the web more beautiful place to be.

Even if you can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, like me!

Shayne Tilley is the marketing guy for ProBlogger.net and Digital Photography School.  The author of the PB Guide to Online Marketing and a long time contributor to the blog.  When he’s not thinking of new and interesting ways to grow the ProBlogger sites, he’s either bashing up developers or hanging out with the swiftly.com team.

Top Tips from the SEO for Bloggers Webinar on ProBlogger.com

Recently over at ProBlogger.com, we held a webinar with Kristen Holden of MarketingPartners.com, and Jim Stewart from StewartMedia.biz. They covered:

  • The top three tips every blogger should know about SEO
  • How to rank well in searches
  • How to tag images to boost SEO
  • Keyword optimisation
  • What to expect when you are a new blogger
  • Strategies for getting more traffic
  • The most important things to consider when setting up a blog on WordPress
  • Google Authorship Plugin
  • The best SEO plugin for your blog
  • The role of social media and where to spend your time
  • Whether Google + is useful
  • Guest posting

And much more. You can see a snippet in this five-minute clip, and ProBlogger.com members can see the entire webinar as part of their membership. You can join the club here – and meet with like-minded bloggers, exclusive access to Darren’s tips and tricks, and a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips to make you the best blogger you can be.

How To Double Your Revenue By Giving Your Work Away For Free

Image via Flickr user FutUndBeidl

Image via Flickr user FutUndBeidl

This is a guest contribution from author Tom Morkes.

I know what you’re thinking: what’s the catch?

If you’re like me, you’ve read dozens (okay, thousands) of blog headlines that pique your interest, only to find out the headline comes with an asterisk:

Quandruple Your Opt-in Rate!*

*you just need to be featured on a massive blog, first.

Make 6 Figures in 6 Months*

*you just need 5 figures and a subscriber list of thousands to start.

I could go on, but you get the point.

So let me assuage your concerns: there’s no asterisk here.

No need to hustle affiliates, join an MLM, or pepper your site with Google Ads.

When I say you can double your blog revenue by not charging, I mean it.  I’ve done it.  And I’ve seen dozens of others do it too.

But before I get to the details, I want to tell you the story of a guy who stopped charging clients altogether (and his surprising results)…

The Generous Designer

Meet Adrian Hoppel.

Adrian is a Philidelphia-based web designer.  He’s been doing professional web design for years.  And while Adrian is incredibly talented and creates amazing websites, what’s truly remarkable about him has less to do with what he does rather than how he does it.

You see, Adrian doesn’t charge for his web design services.  He never has and he probably never will.

Instead, he offers everything as a gift to his clients.

If you want to work with Adrian and you both agree it’s a good fit, Adrian will design your website and give it to you.  No deposits.  No contracts.  No strings.

Just a simple gift – here you go.

Remarkable, no?

How Adrian Makes More Money Giving Away his Gifts than He Did by Charging a Fixed-Rate:

Okay, so you might be wondering: how in the world does that work?

How can he make a living if he just gives his work away for free?!

The answer is simple (although certainly not conventional):

While Adrian gives his work away freely as a gift, it doesn’t mean he works for free, nor does it mean his work is valueless.

Adrian built his business on a foundation of trust.  You trust him to build you a great website.  He trusts you that you will support his gifts and his giving.

In Adrian’s words:

“Working in the gift does not mean that I work for free, or that I give my work away without care. It means that people trust me to build them a website, and I trust them to support my work as they believe fair.”

A beautiful premise, but does it work?

Again, from Adrian himself:

“I ended up doing 22 websites in 2012, all by myself, all in the gift…every single client has supported me in whole.  

Every. Single. One.

Most clients gifted me with payment, and the payment is more than I ever received in the traditional model…” (source)

In other words, by removing a fixed-rate price from the equation, and giving away his talents, skills, and work as a gift, Adrian has made more per client than he ever did before.

I Want More Examples!

Adrian isn’t the only person letting people choose their price and finding incredible success.

Here are just a few examples (of hundreds that I’ve researched) of people using the gift-economy and Pay What You Want pricing to make a killing:

The Vennare brothers of TheHybridAthlete.com have been running a PWYW store for over a year now, and in an interview I did with them last year, they explained that they make hundreds per DAY using this strategy (do the math: we’re talking 6 figures from no set price).

Disconnect.me is a new tech startup that just raised over $3 million in funding and they run their entire operation using Pay What You Want pricing (and have no intentions to change)

Humblebundle.com makes millions for video game producers and charity by releasing limited-time PWYW videogame bundles every few weeks

Joost Van Dongen, a videogame developer I had the opportunity to interview several months ago, released a hobby project (Proun) and let his customers choose their price – and made over $20,000 from it

Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Amanda Palmer all have made millions from their PWYW album offers (in the case of Radiohead, they made more on their PWYW album than all their previous online album releases combined)

Weinerei Perlin is a Berlin-based winery that sells all their wine using PWYW pricing (and has for over 10 years)

Matt Homan is a consultant that offers blank invoices – and has doubled his income in the process

And this is just a small sample.

There are literally hundreds of other people and companies using this pricing technique and finding great success with it…

But there are also a few people I’ve interviewed who tried and failed.

The question is: what is it that separates successful PWYW offers from those that don’t work out?

Let’s get to it:

How to Remove Fixed-Prices from Your Blog and Increase Your Income

Before you go removing prices from everything on your site, you still need to understand a couple things:

#1. This ‘pricing model’ (or lack thereof) doesn’t work for everything.

Adrian is selling a premium service with a credible range of prices.  He’s not selling gasoline or In-N-Out Double-Doubles.

Commodities* don’t work in the gift-economy.

*if you find a gas station that lets me choose my price, please let me know.

#2. Letting people choose their price only works if you pitch it the right way.

Just because you slap a ‘Pay What You Want’ sticker onto your recycled beer coasters or set the price for your ‘Rapid Pet Grooming’ eCourse at $0+ doesn’t mean people will be generous.

You need to give them a REASON to contribute.

That’s why I created a simple-to-follow framework for anyone looking to apply the gift-economy (and in particular: Pay What You Want pricing) to their products or services (a framework I’ve used to make thousands in book sales and consulting in the past few months).

So consider this your personal crash course in Pay What You Want pricing:

How to get People to Contribute Generously to Your Work: The 6 Step Perfect Pitch Framework

Okay, I know the name is corny, but, as you’ll see, it works.

Here goes:

Step #1. Clarify the Offer

Common sense, but not common practice.  How can people be generous if they don’t know what you’re offering?

In reality – this same rule is just as important when selling a fixed-price product or service.

For more information on how to present a clear offer, listen to Brian Clark.

Step #2. Show the Customer You’re Human

People don’t give to machines (or corporations).

We give to people.

If you want the gift-economy to work for you, you need to connect with your readers, customers, clients, and guests.  You need to show them there’s a person behind the product or service whose blood, sweat and tears have gone into creating it.

Online – that means including pictures and videos of yourself, and writing in an authentic, passionate, and sincere voice.  For more practical tools, The Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers will help get your writing on track so you come across like you (and not a robot).

Step #3. Appeal to Idealism

When it comes to Pay What You Want and the gift-economy, we still need to give people a good reason to contribute.

Appealing to idealism creates the spark people need to reflect on why they’re contributing.  When we make references to generosity, karma, good-will, etc. we are more able to activate the generosity of others (and yes, people are generous – we just need to give them the opportunity).

Step #4. Anchor the Price

Price anchoring is important for anything you’re selling, but it’s especially important for Pay What You Want offers.

When we price-anchor, we get people in the proper frame of mind for contributing larger than usual sums (or at least, larger than they would have had the price anchor not been present).

Two powerful ways to price anchor a PWYW product is by showing:

  • the itemized costs of materials or resources, or what equivalent amounts would look like on the high-end (e.g. “similar custom designed websites go for $7,000”)
  • the top-tier price points of competing products or services (e.g. “company X charges $20,000 for a new website)

Step #5. Steer the Customer to the Right Choice

Alright, so people have a reason to give (you’ve clarified the offer), they are comfortable with giving something (thanks to price-anchoring), and they want to give (because you appealed to their idealism)…now what?

PWYW and gift-economy is confusing stuff for the majority of the population since they’ve never experienced it.  A lot of people are immediately turned off by it because it confuses them.

You need to remove these fears by being very clear and helping people to the right choice.  You can do this by showing any or all of the above:

1. Total number of contributors (this a form of social proof)

2. Top-tier contributor prices (what did the top 10 people pay for this product?  This can be another form of price-anchoring)

3. Average contribution price (although this may lead to more ‘average price’ purchases of your PWYW offer)

Any (or all) of these will help people recognize what’s a fair offer and give them ample opportunity to be generous (if the average is ‘x’ then I will give ‘x+1’)

Step #6. (Bonus Step) Add Charity to the Mix

This is a game changer.

Want to skyrocket your PWYW income?  Add charity to the mix.

People don’t pay money for a product or service, they pay money for the story.  When we integrate a congruent charity into the mix (something that makes sense in the context of what we’re selling, like teaming up with Kiva.org for The Creative Entrepreneur journal) we multiply the effect of appealing to idealism.

A quick warning: assigning a random charity to support won’t work.  You’ve got to make sure it’s consistent with your message and the intent of your product or service.

The beauty of including charity?  It’s win-win. You make more income, a worthwhile charity gets a cut, and the customer is happy to contribute.

Call me biased, but this is a strategy I’d like to see every business adopt.

Putting the Gift Economy to Work

This is a basic framework for incorporating the gift-economy (specifically Pay What You Want pricing) into your work.

By no means does it mean you must offer EVERYTHING as a gift, nor as Pay What You Want.  I’m also not saying that fixed-pricing doesn’t work better in some cases (it does).

But, as you can tell from the examples above, this stuff works incredibly well when implemented the right way.

I hope you enjoyed the article and if you have any questions – leave them in the comments below!  I’d be happy to answer any and all questions.  This is an important topic and deserves a good conversation going forward.

Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the gift-economy…

Tom Morkes is an author, publisher, and pricing consultant, and you can get inside his brain at www.tommorkes.com/problogger where he applies what he learned leading troops in combat to entrepreneurship, art and writing.

Top Three Takeaways from Finding Readers Week: What Can You Do Today to Create Community?

FINDING READERS

 

In the first week of May, you heard from several bloggers with unique perspectives on how they grew their readership into a force to be reckoned with. It was the fourth Theme Week we’ve held here on ProBlogger this year, and it was an interesting one. We had discussions about introducing forums, how to get people to read your personal blog, how to drive traffic to a startup blog, and how to create a beautiful blog that people can’t help but share with their friends. And while everyone had different advice, they all agreed on these three tips:

Top Three Takeaways from Finding Readers Week

1. Relationships

The universal sentiment was honour your reader. Give them great content and be approachable. DJ from SteamFeed says to “nurture them”. Talk to real people in real ways.

Mrs Woog agrees, saying she writes like she speaks, and that resonates with her readers. She likes to interact with her readers both on the blog and on her Facebook page. She says that she’ll start the conversations, and watch them develop – even seeing readers chat with each other. She advises being available to respond to your readers, and carve out time especially to do so.

Corinne took interacting with her readers to a whole new level when she shared her number-one tip for finding readers – to comment on other people’s blogs. She dedicated hours to doing this, and in turn, was rewarded with a highly-engaged readership who have a real sense of community. She then took it one step further and added forums for her readers to interact.

In addition to having great content delivered on a great platform that inspires sharing, Dustin recommends “writing for real people”, and said having a voice that people can relate to is crucial in growing your readership. He also advises having a reader profile so you know to whom you are talking.

2. Consistency

Whether it’s honing your voice and practising your writing often like Mrs Woog, or posting consistently so your readers know what to expect, like DJ, keeping a rhythm was important across the board. Be reliable. Be dependable. Make blogging and writing a priority. Keep at it. Sound the same in every post. Be recognizable everywhere. Corinne was consistent in commenting on others’ blogs, and that was a successful strategy. Dustin was consistent with the visual experience his readers would receive every time they clicked over to his site. When readers know what to expect (and they know they’ll get an honest, authentic voice), they’ll come back for more.

3. Be Where Your Readers Are

It can be an uphill battle throwing your blog to the internet and hoping it gets seen. A strategy that works better is to hang out online in the places your readers hang out. Or where your potential readers hang out. For some of you, that might be Instagram. For a majority, it will be Facebook. Your cohort might be the people who keep G+ rolling. Wherever they are, that’s where you can be. Mrs Woog is active on Facebook, using it as a tool to converse with her readership as well as a place to promote her new posts. DJ recommends syndicating your blog to other sites, and marketing it well. Corinne thinks Twitter is pretty useless for her blog, so went elsewhere for readers. And Dustin believes the right social media channels make all the difference. He advises to ignore the people saying you should be on all of them, and instead focus on cultivating a couple that really drive results. Above all, though, it has to be a platform you enjoy using.

I know I learned a few new things from such different perspectives – did something resonate with you, too?