Close
Close

How to Optimize Your Content for Authorship Success

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.35.19 amThis is a guest contribution from Jaclyn Freeman.

Who are you?

Don’t fret – this isn’t philosophy class and no, we’re not trying to steal your identity.

One of the most important things you can do in 2014 as a content creator, is identify who you are as a personal brand by monitoring how you come across online. As a writer, it is essential that you are taking advantage of every opportunity you have to turn yourself into a developed brand. 

Twitter, that always-on social network that is constantly abuzz, and Google+, a social network claimed to offer incredible SEO benefits, offer two incredible ways that complement each other to solidify your digital presence. But how, you ask?

Through digital authorship.

Introducing Your New Best Friend: Google Authorship

Everyone is talking Authorship, and with good reason. Google Authorship is a revolutionary function of Google that allows you to identify content you’ve produced, as well as the publishers you’ve produced content for.

The purpose of Google Authorship is to help segment out true quality content from the plethora of content living on the web. Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt wrote in “The New Digital Age” that the true cost of remaining anonymous may be detrimental one’s overall search position:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in the in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Google Authorship helps to further the notion that all content is not good content; rather, writers must have a) verified content and b) a solidified niche subject matter that they consistently produce original content about. Google Authorship helps to bridge the gap between the casual writer, and the professional content creator.

AuthorRank – Myth or Legend?

While AuthorRank is tough to concretely define, its origins can be traced back to 2005 (pre-historic in digital terms) and as Brian Clark puts it:

“Author Rank is the idea – supported by patents filed by Google – that who creates a page of content (and links out from that page), based on their historical reputation for creating content people actually like, would become one of the signals Google relies on when ranking relevant results of a particular topic.”

While AuthorRank hasn’t officially been implemented by Google as a ranking factor, the idea behind it has already been implemented across digital marketing platforms universally. How do we know? One such sign that has the digital world up in arms is the removable of the pictures next to bylines with Authorship correctly set-up. Some are foolishly associating this cosmetic tweak with the demise of Google Authorship – which couldn’t be farther than the truth. It actually represents the opposite! Google is continuing to acknowledge content produced with semantic markup as higher quality content than content without Authorship, pictures or not. Change isn’t always a bad thing.

Even if AuthorRank never officially occurs, it really doesn’t matter in terms of SEO. Why? Because quality content will continue to reign supreme, and those with their authorship set up, who continuously produce content in their particular field will become obvious authorities. We don’t need AuthorRank to tell us that.   

While Authorship may have lost that visual touch, this minor change was done in an effort to improve mobile search results. Your authorship markup still lives, even without a face, and still has a heavy role in distinguishing you as a credible author on the web, so take advantage.

Set Up Your Authorship

Setting up your authorship is relatively easy, and requires a few lines of code in the backend of your posts, as well as a link to the publication on your Google+ profile. Google provides a step-by-step guide to authenticating your authorship here and as outlined below:

You can link content you publish on a specific domain to your Google+ profile.

  1. Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognizable headshot.

  2. Make sure a byline containing your name appears on each page of your content

  3. Make sure your byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.

  4. Verify you have an email address on the same domain as your content. (Don’t have an email address on the same domain? Use this method to link your content to your Google+ profile)

  5. Submitting this form will add your email address to the Work section of your profile, which by default is viewable only by your circles. You can keep your email private if you wish. It will also add a public link to the domain of the email address to the Contributor to section of your profile.

  6. Sign up for Authorship.

Cross-Checking Your Google Authorship Code

Once you have your authorship set up, you’ll want to ensure:

  • Your content has true semantic Google authorship <a href=”https://plus.google.com/G+ID? rel=author”>Google</a>

  • Your content’s  @href contains a G+ profile link and @rel=”author” or @rel=”me”

  • Your content’s @href contains a G+ profile link with the [?&]rel=author query parameter and @rel DOES NOT contain nofollow.

  • Your readable author bio pages inlcude<a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”>Joe Smith</a>

While you’ve likely heard more than enough about how to optimize your Google+ profile, have you given any consideration to your Twitter account for personal branding and authorship success? If not, you should.

Twitter for Authorship? YES!

In the same way that Google+ and authorship serve as an indicator of your online brand, Twitter works as a constant source of credibility via conversations.

Appearance: Twitter recently unveiled a new design that is big on content and visuals. Much like the Facebook design, the new Twitter profile boosts a larger header image and profile photo. In order to have a uniform appearance across the Internet, make sure you choose a profile photo that displays your face clearly, looks professional, and is used across your various personal social properties.

The new Twitter layout also highlights your tweets that get the most engagement, which brings me to our next point…

Verbiage:First, create a Twitter bio that is filled with your subject matter expertise — and hashtag them to create added virality in your profile. Next, add your website, LinkedIn profile, personal blog, and tag any publications that you frequently contribute to.

Beyond the content you post, your website is the only direct lead-generation tool that exists on Twitter profiles. Leave that field blank, and those viewing your page will not have an easy way to learn more about you and your content.

Another great new feature is the ability to pin tweets to the top of your page. Choose a pin that not only received a good amount of engagement, but that personifies you as a brand. Keep it fresh by switching up your pinned tweets every few days!

Sharing is Caring

Who you follow is almost as important as what you post. Find people that are influential to your particular field, as well as publications or companies that you admire, to follow. Engage with the people you follow by commenting and retweeting, in addition to posting relevant, new information.

Convince and Convert suggests that the sweet spot of curation (non self-promotional) vs. self-promotional linking to your site 25-50% of the time generates the best results. Always socialize the content you produce, but make sure to include a healthy mix of re-Tweets of informative, inspiring, and relevant content.

Metadata on Twitter

Twitter Cards enable you to attach media to Tweets that link your content: It’s social’s all-important metadata. Whether that be a summary, a summary with a photo, gallery card, app card, player card, a product card, lead generation card, or website card – Twitter cards enhance the appearance of your Tweets and add to your overall prominence on social.

To set up your Twitter card, add a few lines of HTML to the backend of your site, and voila! Popular content management systems like Hubspot and WordPress offer social plugins, making this step even easier.

Users who share your content will have a “card” automatically added to said Tweet, that will be visible to all of their followers.

Twitter offers more information on how to set up your very own Twitter card here:

  1. Review the documentation for the type of card you want to implement.

  2. Add the pertinent meta tags to your page.

  3. Run your URLs against the validator tool to be approved.

  4. After approval, tweet the URL and see the Card appear below your tweet.

  5. Use Twitter Card analytics to measure your results.

Content Attribution

Lastly, you’ll want to look for the following metadata on each piece of content you produce to make sure it’s properly attributed to you:

  • Authorship is valid if: meta[@name='twitter:creator'] tag (@content is a valid twitter handle [0-9A-Za-z_]{1,15}).

  • Authorship is valid if: <a> tag @href is a Twitter profile URL and @rel is “author” or @rel is “me”.

  • Your readable author bio page on Twitter includes an on-site rel=”author” link in your author bio.

Why Social Optimization Matters for Writers

So, why am I yelling at you about everything from your philosophical identity to coding? Well, because, as a writer, this stuff matters.

Establishing credibility as a content curator in an aggressively digital age is tough, and while you may have your authorship and Twitter perfectly optimized, there is no sure-fire way to know that you are an influential writer to your particular niche… Or, is there?

Recently launched, ClearVoice is a new metric for your voice. It acts as a representative of your content’s authority and showcases your publication’s power. By using a first-of-its-kind algorithm, Clearvoice generates a score for writers based on:

  • Your Twitter and Google authorship markup

  • Where your content lives

  • How many articles you’ve published

  • How many domains you’ve contributed to

  • The social virality of your content

Beyond the funky look and ease of use, ClearVoice offers the ability for writers to claim their profile. Once claimed, writers will have a unique URL that will act as a constantly updating portfolio, chronicling not only all the content you’ve produced, but how well it performed socially. In addition, authors can cross-check proper authorship implementation and troubleshoot with engineers if there are any issues.

ClearVoice can also organically help you score jobs, as publishers can search the platform to discover writer’s who are qualified in a particular field.The ClearVoice score offers an unique view into individual writers influence, as well as offers an unprecedented way for writers to be discovered.

Jaclyn Freedman is the Community Manager for ClearVoice. She promotes and market brands by identifying and representing their unique voices across digital platforms.

10 Vital WordPress Security Tips

This is a guest contribution from John Philips.

security_pic_header

10 Vital WordPress Security Tips

Security should be of paramount concern to any blogger or website owner. It may seem like a tedious task, but it could protect your website from becoming a hacker’s playground. If your site has a revenue stream, then some time invested into security could also protect your livelihood. This article overviews a few key security tips for WordPress blogs. There’s an ever growing collection of useful plugins, but it’s dangerous to think that there is a single solution to website security. It’s important to maintain an ongoing interest in security to provide a reliable defence against hackers.

1. Secure Hosting

If you unknowingly opt for a provider which is infamous for its hosting vulnerabilities, you’ll be cursing your decision at a later date. Research is the key, so allocate some time to find a reputable company with a strong security strategy. Price is likely to be the main comparison point between providers, but sometimes paying slightly more can prove to be a sensible long-term decision. 

2. Work on a Secure Network with a Clean PC

One of the joys of web-based software is ease of access. It might be seriously tempting to amend a blog post when you’re enjoying a coffee in your local café, but accessing WordPress on an unsecure network could seriously compromise your security. At home, where you probably have a more robust network, you should also be sure that your machine is free of malware, spyware and viruses. A sneaky key logger could undo all of your other security measures.

3. Keep Updated

Ensure that your themes, plugins and WordPress itself are all updated regularly. There are developers out there working to protect your site, so don’t miss out on crucial updates that patch the latest security vulnerabilities.

wordpress_updates_pic1

4. Strong Passwords

Passwords consisting of mainly names and correctly spelt words are extremely susceptible to brute-force attacks. Use characters, randomly mix up your capitalisation and avoid names and words. If ‘petname1’ is memorable for you, why not use ‘P@naMe01!’ – it might seem silly, but having some kind of association in your mind will enable you to remember it. Alternatively there are software solutions that store and encrypt your passwords; Roboform and LastPass are both great options.

5. Enable Secure SSL Login Pages

Logging into WordPress through an encrypted channel will provide another layer of protection. Be sure to check with your hosting provider to see if you have an SSL certificate, or are utilising Shared SSL. Then add this line of code to your wp-config.php file:

define(’FORCE_SSL_ADMIN’, true);

If you want an easier option, then there is a plugin that allows SSL control of your site: WordPress HTTPS (SSL)

6. Don’t Use ‘Admin’ as a Username

From version 3.0 onwards you have been able to update your WordPress username, so you’re no longer limited to using the default of ‘admin’. There have been widespread attacks in the past, which have exploited the fact that millions of users still have ‘admin’ as their username. The easiest way to do this is to create a new user account in WordPress and give it admin access, you can then simply delete the old account.

wp_admin_pic2

7. Hide Your Login from the Author Archive

It’s possible to find out a WordPress user’s login, simply by viewing the author archive page’s permalink – i.e. http://www.example.com/author/username/

However, it’s fairly straightforward to remove this. The simple solution is to use the WP Author Slug plugin. 

8. Limit Login Attempts

Limiting the number of login attempts from a single IP address can thwart some hackers, especially if your site has been targeted by a brute-force attack. Thankfully there’s a handy plugin – Limit Login Attempts.

9. Disable File Editing

It can be really useful to edit your theme’s files within the dashboard. However, once you’re happy that you no longer need to edit these files, then it’s sensible to remove this functionality. This will prevent hackers from changing these files. All you need to do is access your wp-config.php file and add the following line of code:

define( ‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, true );

wordpress_file_editing_pic3

10. Create Regular Backups

It’s a mundane task, and one that is often neglected. Backing up could potentially save your site from the website graveyard, it’s a vital step even if you’ve taken all the appropriate security measures. Thankfully, there’s a fantastic plugin that automates the task and removes the mundaneness – BackUpWordPress. It’s a very popular plugin that’s famed amongst the WordPress community for its simplicity and ease of use.

Summary & Other Security Plugins

No single plugin will completely protect your site, therefore the above steps shouldn’t be ignored. It’s also important not to have plugins installed that you don’t use. Feel free to try out some of the plugins below, but if you’re not using them it’s best to uninstall them. Some of the multi-purpose plugins are fantastic, but they might aim to correct certain things you may have already fixed, so assess their features to decide if it’s worth installing.

Login Lockdown – blocks IP addresses for a given time after repeated failed login attempts.

Lockdown WP Admin – hides WordPress Admin (/wp-admin/) when a user isn’t logged in.

Sucuri Security – checks your site for malware, spam, blacklisting and other security issues.

Acunetix WP Security – checks your WordPress website/blog for security vulnerabilities and suggests corrective actions.

iThemes Security – Formerly Better WP Security, this plugin offers over 30 ways to secure and protect your WordPress site. 

Still want to know more about WordPress security? If so then check out: http://codex.wordpress.org/Hardening_WordPress 

John Philips is from SSLs.com. SLLs.com resells SSL certificates from the likes of Comodo, GeoTrust, and VeriSign. 

Why You Have a Better Chance of Landing a Guest Post Than You Think (and How to Do It)

Image via Flickr user Freddie Peña.

Image via Flickr user Freddie Peña.

This is a guest contribution from writer Ali Luke.

Do you ever think about guest posting but worry you’re not ready?

You probably already know that guest posting is one of the most effective ways to build relationships in the blogging world, get writing credits, and grow your audience … 

… yet you might worry that no-one will take your posts, because you’re too new to blogging, your own audience is too small, or you’re not (yet) a great writer.

Maybe you’ve heard bloggers say that they get dozens, even hundreds, of guest post pitches each week, and you feel certain that the numbers will be against you. 

It’s true that a lot of people are pitching guest posts: as Editor of DailyBlogTips (Sept 2013 – July2014), I got a huge number of pitches.

The truth is, though, that many of these pitches are just awful. And you could easily do much, much better.

Here’s an all-too-representative sample:

Hi 

I am [name removed]. I wanted to guest blog on your esteemed site under SEO section. Here by i  am sending doc conatining article named ” Secrets to improve your page rank” .

Kindly do the needful action

Thanks & Regards

Dear Webmaster,

I have come across your website and found it very informative.

I am currently the webmaster of (a specialist Email Marketing Company). We are interested in writing a “guest blog” for your website.

Please kindly let me know if this is of interest to you, with any terms/conditions of posts. I will then send over some fresh and inspiring content for you to review.

On another note, please could you also give details of any link exchange opportunities?

Looking forward to your positive response.

Yes, in that second example, they really did write “(a specialist Email Marketing Company)”.

Drowning in emails, I soon started deleting pitches straight away if the would-be guest poster didn’t even bother using my name.

I sent brief “no thanks” emails to anyone who pitched something clearly off-topic, or whose email suggested they had a poor grasp of spelling and grammar.

(Yes, that might seem a little elitist, but when I’m offered one nearly-perfect guest post and one that’s going to take hours of my time, it’s an easy choice to make.)

Even the slightly better pitches made some annoying mistakes, like:

  • Telling me they wanted to write a guest post, but not suggesting topics.
  • Acting as though their post was sure to be accepted (e.g. “Tell me when it will be live on the blog.”)
  • Getting my name wrong and starting “Dear Luke”. (Ali is my first name, short for Alison; Luke’s my surname. I know it’s weird!)

I agreed with Daniel (who owns DailyBlogTips) that I’d publish one guest post every two weeks – we wanted the blog to be mainly our own content – and I rarely had much difficulty deciding who to accept. It was rare that I got more than one decent pitch in a two week period.

So you probably have a far higher chance of success than you think. You don’t need to be the world’s greatest writer, and you definitely don’t need a big audience. In fact, I gladly published guest posts from people who were just starting out. All that mattered to me was that they could deliver useful content.

Here’s how to maximise the chances of your guest post being accepted:

Read plenty of posts on the blog before you begin: at least five. You need a clear sense of what’s on topic, and what the audience is like. One of my biggest reasons for rejecting reasonably good pitches was because they weren’t on topic enough (e.g. pitches about running an “ecommerce website” when DBT focuses on beginner bloggers).

Offer a topic or perspective that the host blogger can’t easily provide. I’m definitely no expert on SEO or blog security, for instance, and I was always particularly interested in posts on those subjects. I’d also have been interested to hear from bloggers at a very different stage of life from me (e.g. teen bloggers, people in their 70s, or bloggers with six kids…)

Plan out your post before you start writing. Some of the posts I saw had decent information, but they rambled all over the place. I did accept one or two that needed quite extensive editing, but there’s no guarantee an editor will do this. Having a good plan, and thinking through your post structure, makes it much easier to create a strong piece.

Don’t make obvious, generic points. I saw a few posts that weren’t badly written, but that didn’t say anything much. They gave very obvious advice, and didn’t offer examples, quotes, screenshots, or anything similar. There wasn’t anything new or interesting there for readers.

Edit your post carefully before sending it. I strongly suggest you look at the “big picture” first – do you need to cut any paragraphs, or add in anything new? Once you’re happy with the post overall, do a close edit to make sure your sentences all read smoothly, and to fix any typos.

Get to grips with formatting a blog post well. I loved having guest posts with subheadings, bold text for key sentences, lists in bullet point form, images, and so on. Too often, though, I had to add these things myself when editing. No-one wants to wade through a mass of long, dense paragraphs … and that includes blog editors.

Follow the guest post guidelines. I bet you’ve heard that before! I know it sounds obvious, but so many bloggers ignore guidelines – and that’s often enough to get your post rejected (or at least send it to the end of the queue). If you can’t find any guidelines, take a close look at recent posts to at least get a sense of how long yours should be and what sort of style it should be in.

Include links to posts on your target blog. Some guidelines ask for this, but even if they don’t, it’s good practice. It shows you wrote the post specifically for that blog, and it adds extra value for the host. If you include plenty of links like this, you can usually get away with one or two to your own website as well (so long as they’re relevant).

There aren’t any guarantees in blogging – but if you can write an interesting, well put together post that’s on-topic for a large blog in your niche, there’s a pretty good chance it will be accepted.

(But if you never even try – it definitely won’t!)

I know that pitching a guest post can be daunting, but the worst that can happen is the host blog says “no thanks” – and you can always rewrite the post a little and approach someone else instead.

Is it time for you to write your first guest post? Choose a blog today to target, dig into some of their posts, and brainstorm some topics you could write about. If you get stuck or have a question, just pop a comment below. Good luck!

Ali Luke’s ecourse On Track is a free seven-week program for bloggers and writers, designed to help you get motivated and moving again on your blog (or ebook, or any other big writing project). It’s packed with practical tips to help you move forward week by week, and comes with a free ebook, Seven Pillars of Great Writing. Find out more and join here.

How to Make Friends and Influence People at the ProBlogger Event

9757870912_fccf7fe022_z

This is a guest contribution by blogger Johanna Castro.

Day one of the ProBlogger conference dawns, and butterflies are probably winging around your stomach as if making a bid for freedom.

For many of us this day has been eagerly anticipated for about 6 months, and it represents one of two days in which you’ll meet some of the biggest names in blogging: Presenters, bloggers, media celebrities and a heap of new friends.

But first. You walk in, you register at the front desk, and then you face a sea of people. That sea of people seems to be undulating like a wave mingling effortlessly with yet another wave of people and the worst thing is that they all seem to know each other.

Crikey!

While you, on the other hand, are standing there on your own without a friend in sight.

I know. Because I’ve been there done that, and at my first ProBlogger event in 2011 I cringed with embarrassment and wondered how I’d dared to bring me and my little blog out into the open to such a huge conference.

After registration I clung to the nearest wall like a boggle-eyed wallflower and actually shook to the souls of my pink suede boots.

Added on to the anxiety of meeting people I had little idea about What to expect at a Problogger training event.

You might also like: Problogger Event 2013 and The Meaning of Life

Be Prepared

Forearmed is forewarned as they say, and since then, and after many brazen ‘fake it till you make it’ occasions, I’ve been continually reminding myself that a conference is not just a fabulous place to learn (Problogger Perth), it’s also a great way of networking in real life with others from the online world.

So it’s a really good idea to be armed with some strategies to put yourself ‘out there’ in order to meet new friends and influence people.

This year I decided I’d up the ante with my networking, and at my local library I found a book called “How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends” by Don Gabor (Simon & Schuster) which gave me the idea for this post, as well as some prompts for conversation openers. I’d like to reference it because it incorporates a lot of great advice and echoes many of the thoughts I’d been having about making the most of a Problogger event and getting to know as many people as possible.

Help I don’t know Anyone!

So you’re standing there hoping that your make-up isn’t smudged and you haven’t got lipstick on your teeth, or as a bloke maybe you’re hoping that in this meadow of mostly women you might find a friendly male face.

You look around the room, feel slightly overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start.

How to introduce yourself

Relax. Have a walk around. Smile, and look for smiling faces. Also keep an eye out for small groups of people. You might think that these people know each other already and are chatting about old times, but in reality you’ll probably find that they’ve only just met.

Hover close by (keep smiling won’t you) and when there’s a gap in the conversation, take a deep breath and say: “Hi, I’m … this is my first ProBlogger event. May I join in?”

Tip: Don’t leave it too long to introduce yourself in a group situation, because if you do it could make the other people feel uncomfortable.

Better still look out for anyone standing alone. They’re probably in the same boat as you and longing to chat with someone, but they don’t know who to approach for fear of butting in on a group of friends.

Perhaps you could say, “Hi my name is … I’ve never been to a ProBlogger event before. Have you?” and if they say “Yes,” then follow with something like, “How does this one compare to previous years?”

Getting a conversation going

Keep a look out for bloggers that you’ve met online. Smile, make eye contact and say something like, “Hi, I’m … and I’ve been longing to meet you.” If they’ve given a presentation you could add, “That was an awesome presentation you gave and I really related to X or Y comment you made.”

Remember that what you say doesn’t have to be clever or witty. As long as you come across as smiling and friendly you’ll be surprised how willing other people will be to talk to you. They’ll also probably be sighing with relief that someone has approached them. A simple, “Hello, my name’s …” offered with a smile and a handshake and followed with, “Nice to meet you,” should do the trick to get a conversation flowing.

Body Language

Body language is also important. I try not to cross my arms when I’m chatting and even if the conversation veers away from my own interests I think it’s important to keep engaged – so I nod and maintain eye contact – because soon you will hit common touch-points or shared interests, and it’s important not to have turned the other person off by then due to bad body language.

Influence

Influence begins by being noticed.

To be noticed you need to make new friends and acquaintances. Just as you might comment on other people’s blogs in the online world, you need to carve out a ‘belonging’ in the real life world too.

In time you’ll be noticed as ‘one of the in-crowd’ or ‘one of those in the know’ and bit by bit you’ll become viewed as someone with influence rather than an unknown newbie who needs befriending.

So make a point to meet, introduce yourself and chat to as many new people as you can because these are the relationships which are likely to continue online as well as offline.

It’s this connectivity which leads to influence.

And ultimately, influence leads to making money blogging.

Remember people’s names.

You’ll meet tons of people at ProBlogger and Don Gabor says that five seconds is all the time it takes to make a good first impression. Remembering a person’s name makes them feel important and adds warmth to the conversation as well as helping to build rapport.

Author and public speaker Dale Carnegie said, “The sweetest sound in any language is a person’s name.”

Darren Rowse is very good at names, and I’m sure he employs lots of useful strategies.

5 name remembering tricks

  1. When you’ve been introduced to someone, try to repeat their name back to them in the conversation.
  2. Focus when you’re introduced to people. Don’t think about what you’re going to say, and don’t worry about what people are thinking of you, or if your clothes are ok … just focus.
  3. If someone has an unusual name, mention that it’s unusual or unique and ask them to spell it.
  4. Don Gabor suggests trying to use a person’s name at the end of your conversation so you’ll better remember them next time you meet. “Ronelle, it’s been lovely chatting to you. Here’s my card, it would be great to keep in touch.”
  5. If you’ve forgotten someone’s name, don’t fudge over it! Just be honest and say something like, “I do remember you, and we’ve been introduced. But I’m so sorry your name has suddenly escaped me.” We’re all human after all ;)

Other conversation openers

At coffee or lunch breaks – where the food is likely to be awesome :) you could start with an opening gambit of, “Wow, doesn’t the food look fantastic! What would you recommend trying first?”

Or … “Hi, my name’s … Isn’t this a great event? What’s been the best bit of the conference so far for you?”

Most people like being asked for advice or information, so if there’s someone you admire then ask them something. “Excuse me. My name’s … and I love your blog/I loved your presentation … may I ask you a question?”

Be interested in others – remember people like to talk about themselves. “May I ask you what your blog’s about?”

If you’re sitting next to someone you don’t know then don’t just stare ahead. Strike up a conversation. Ask them something like, “Which speaker have you enjoyed most so far?”

Tricks to keep conversations going

  1. In group situations keep your ears open and listen to what other people are talking about, then respond with a positive comment that shows you’ve been listening. Note: “Negative comments are conversation stoppers,” says Don Gabor.
  2. Don’t give unsolicited advice unless you are expressly asked for it. It’s always better to ask questions and respond accordingly.
  3. Remember that most people like talking about themselves and bloggers like to talk about blogging.
  4. Have an opinion but don’t be overtly opinionated.

Compliments

Sincere compliments make people feel good. Notice something interesting about the person you are talking with, and then weave your compliment into a question which will ease any embarrassment. “You’re always dressed so stylishly. I love the dress/shoes/top you’re wearing – may I ask where you got them?”

If you’re given a compliment then smile and say thank you. Don’t dismiss it, belittle it or make light of it in any way.

Mrs Woog (Woogsworld) and Liz Lennon (Life Dreaming) taught me a lesson quite recently on Twitter about receiving compliments gracefully, when inadvertently I’d made light of one.

“I’ve worked with 1000′s of people and one thing I say is ‘just say thanks’ to the gift of compliments,” said Liz.

“I learnt years ago from someone who took compliments well. It is grand,” added Mrs Woog.

Okay. QED!

And I was grateful for being pulled up on that one.

So … Thank you for reading to the end of my post today :) Any compliments will be received most graciously ;)

I really hope if you’re attending ProBlogger Event that you’ll use one of the techniques I’ve written about and pop over for a chat with me. I’ll probably nervously be wondering a) if anyone will come and speak to me or b) who I could approach to engage in conversation!

Anyway, it’s your conference. Make friends and start influencing people. You deserve it.

Do you have any tips to add for attending a blogging or social media conference?

Jo Castro is freelance writer who also facilitates blogging and writing workshops. She’s the founder of two blogs: Lifestyle Fifty, an inspirational blog empowering women to live life to the full as they get older, and ZigaZag a Travel and Leisure blog. A gypsy heart and geologist husband keep her in search of utopia – a tropical beach, a simple shack, and a fridge filled with chilled champagne would do nicely.

 

How to Use Your Blog to Leverage Social Proof and Increase Your Authority

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell.

Have you ever wanted your readers to take more notice of what you have to say?

You’re not alone.

And have you ever wanted other bloggers, journalists and writers to reference you as an expert in top publications on the web?

Countless others have done this and you can too.

But HOW?

The answer is social proof.

With social proof comes authority, and all the benefits that it has to offer.

And authority is an awesome thing to have because most of us are inclined to trust authority figures implicitly.

In this post you will learn exactly what this social proof thing is, how to avoid negative social proof, and the specific steps you can take to leverage positive social proof – starting today.

What is this social proof thing all about?

Social proof is a psychological concept which highlights how people look to those around them in order to make decisions and decide on a course of action.

This is based on the assumption that those actions are indicative of the correct course of action.

A popular example of social proof is how nightclubs limit the number of people that can come in at a time. When others walk past, it appears that the night club is more popular than it actually is.

You can use this concept on your blog and it’s easier to do than most people realise.

And there are different types of social proof that you can leverage, including a large number of email subscribers or even testimonials from industry influencers.

But, you have to be careful to avoid any negative social proof because there is the potential for social proof to hurt you, when you do it wrong (more on that in a moment).

The key to successfully leveraging social proof

Social proof can be positive or negative.

Negative social proof can have very damaging effects.

A good example would be going into a restaurant at peak time only to find that you and a few other people are the only ones there – this sends the message that nobody else enjoys going to the restaurant and usually prompts the thought of “is there something wrong with the food?”

The same can happen with your blog.

Telling people about your 165 email subscribers or drawing attention to a post of yours which has only had 15 tweets will send the wrong message to your readers.

So, if you don’t have the numbers – leave them out.

On the other hand, if you do have something to really shout about then it’s worth letting your readers know.

We’ll talk about exactly how you can do this in a moment.

6 ways you can leverage social proof right now

It only takes around 1/10th of a second to form a first impression.

So, first impressions are a big deal and you need to take every step you can to ensure that the first impressions your blogs visitors get is a great one.

Social proof will make a difference (when it’s done right).

#1 – Your home page is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted

If you check your blogs analytics, chances are that your homepage will be one of the most visited pages.

Instead of a standard blog page, you could try something different, something that would place higher focus on social proof elements.

Try creating a landing page with key social proof elements.

The added benefit of this is that you can use this to funnel more subscribers into your email list. 

It’s a win win.

A great example of this in action is the home page of Noah Kagan’s blog; OKDork.com:

okdork-home-page-noah-kagan

This page screams “I know what I’m doing and you should listen to what I have to say”.

Here’s why:

Noah highlights exactly how successful he has been (2 multi-million dollar businesses and growing a 700,000+ email list).

Noah has two fantastic testimonials from big names and these names are 100% relevant too.

Studies have shown that pictures increase trust, Noah includes a smart picture of himself so you can put a face to the text.

Another good example is Ian Brodie’s homepage.

ian-brodie-example

Here’s why this works:

Ian includes logos of publications where he has been featured, they hyper relevant to his audience and big names in general.

Ian has incorporated two testimonials, these speak volumes about what Ian can do for his readers.

There is also a picture of Ian for added which increases trust.

How to implement this yourself:

You need to decide on how you want the page to look; the best thing to do here is to create a wireframe – just a rough example of how you want it to look.

You could do this with Microsoft Powerpoint, a free image editing tool like Canva or something similar.

Once you know what you want the page to look like there are two main options.

You could either hire a developer via a site like PeoplePerHour.com or Elance.com (for example).

If you’re a WordPress user, there are plenty of plugins on the market that will allow you to create your own landing page.

Joe Fylan discusses some of the best plugins you can use in this post.

Hiring a developer is more expensive but will require less work on your part, although using a plugin to do this means you can tweak the page without having to go back to your developer. 

#2 – Social share counts can be more than a vanity metric

If someone comes to your site and sees that your posts are being shared by lots of people, this acts as a very positive form of social proof.

On the flip side, it takes a few seconds to share a blog post, so if visitors see that your posts aren’t getting shared then this is where negative social proof will come in.

A rising trend is to display a total share count rather than individual share counts. A great example of this in action is Mashable:

social-proof-mashable-example

This is really powerful for several reasons, first of all there are a lot of social shares and secondly displaying the total social shares has a higher impact than showing individual social share counts.

How to implement this yourself:

For WordPress users, there are a number of social share plugins available that will allow you to accomplish something similar (most are free), you can find a few examples here.

If you don’t use WordPress, AddThis have several solutions available. Aside from the free options, the most effective would be the “Jumbo Share Counter” however this requires a monthly payment.

#3 – Use your sidebar to create a positive first impression

Take a look at the sidebar on your blog and ask yourself this:

“Does everything in my sidebar really need to be here?”

The first step to using your sidebar to create a positive first impression is to remove anything that doesn’t provide a function or doesn’t help you achieve your goals.

What should you consider removing?

The answer is; it depends on your goals but there are a number of things to consider:

Adverts – If your site relies on adverts, keeping them is a must, but you have to ask yourself whether the money you receive is worth sending visitors away. If ads aren’t performing, remove them.

Badges – If you have badges that mention article directories or web directories, these provide no benefit and just serve as a distraction. On the other hand, if you have won an award that would be difficult for other bloggers to attain, that is a keeper.

Facebook like boxes – I’m personally not a fan of these, but if you have a large following they can provide a significant level of social proof. Also Facebook displays pictures of your friends who are also fans which can be very powerful.

Twitter widgets – Again, if you have a large following these can be worth including but if you don’t, they are worth removing.

Blog rolls – These will only distract your readers from your content and send them away from your blog.

How can you leverage social proof in your sidebar?

If you have the numbers, display them.

A great example of this is social widget Darren uses on Digital Photography School:

dps-social-proof-sidebar-example

If you don’t have those sorts of numbers, don’t worry because there are more ways to display social proof.

You could display a testimonial from a big name in your industry like Derek Halpern does on Social Triggers

social-triggers-sidebar-testimonial

Another option would be to display the logos of blogs you have written for or been featured on like Marya Jan does on WritingHappiness.com:

social-proof-example-writing-happiness

#4 – Highlight how many people comment on your posts – engagement matters

Blog comments are a great way of determining how engaged a blogs audience is.

If you get a lot of comments on your blog, its well worth drawing as much attention to that number as possible.

Pat Flynn does this by displaying the comment count in an eye-catching bubble:

comment-bubble-example

How to implement this yourself:

If you use WordPress and your theme runs on Genesis, Josh Kotsay has a great tutorial which shows you how to do this (and style your bubble exactly how you want).

For other themes and platforms, you may need a developer to help you.

#5 – Leverage social proof to build your email list

One of the smartest things you can do as a blogger is to build your email list.

It will provide you with a method of selling products, courses or even your services at the click of a button while serving as a reliable way to get more eye balls on your latest blog posts.

Francisco Rosales does a good job of leveraging the number of subscribers he has in his sidebar on SocialMouths.com:

list-building-social-proof-socialmouths

Brian Dean displays an incredible testimonial from Neil Patel on the homepage of Backlinko.com:

list-building-social-proof-backlinko

I especially like this because while it may be a testimonial from one person, it’s from a relevant influencer and the testimonial itself is relevant to Brian’s audience.

How to implement this yourself:

First you need to identify an element of social proof that you can use.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Testimonial from an influencer.
  • Reader success story.
  • Number of subscribers.
  • Total number of followers (including email, RSS and social media).
  • Total number of monthly visitors.
  • Logos from other influential sites you have been featured on or written for.

Once you have identified an element of social proof you can use, it’s time to add it to your opt-in forms or in close proximity to them.

#6 – Invite key bloggers in your niche to contribute to your blog

There are countless bloggers in your niche that already have an established audience.

If they were to contribute to your blog, they would not only expand your existing audience, the mere fact that they are contributing to your blog would act as a form of social proof.

Expanding your audience, increasing traffic and social proof – how could you say no?

The reality is that this does involve some leg work but the payoff is huge.

How can you try this for yourself?

Find out who the popular bloggers are in your niche, these tools will help.

Identify whether they are actively writing for other blogs.

Start engaging with them via blog comments and social networks.

Drop them an email and invite them to contribute – this is the most challenging step of all, you have to highlight the benefits while avoiding any negative social proof. This post by Kristi Hines includes a good selection of resources to get you started.

Over to you

When you do this right, you will eventually get to the point where your blog acts as its own social proof.

Your authority will increase and opportunities will appear, as if by magic.

And the biggest sign that things are moving in direction is when other bloggers start using your logo as an element of social proof.

What are you doing to leverage social proof on your blog?

I’d love to hear more in the comments below.

About the author: Adam Connell is the Founder of Blogging Wizard and spends most of his time helping bloggers to increase their traffic and email subscribers. If you want to blog smarter and not harder, download his free guide and learn how you can leverage the influencers of others to climb to the top.

Business Led by Technology: How Mobile Commerce is Dominating Total eCommerce Activity in 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 4.26.49 pmThis is a guest contribution from online journalist and entrepreneur Megan Ritter.

Every year, tech companies continue to roll out dazzling new smartphones and tablets into the market. Depending on personal preference, people have the option to choose from an iOS, Android, or Windows device, and you don’t necessarily have to break the bank anymore to have the latest and greatest in technology. Simply put, today’s tech makes even the most grueling daily tasks, like banking, as easy as tapping a screen a few times. 

And while we continue to jump back-and-forth between the sizes of our devices (big to small, to big again), both smartphones and tablets are evolving to meet at a 7-inch “SmartTab” form factor, allowing the two different functioning capabilities of a smartphone and tablet to become one. In addition, there will be wearable smart devices, so there will be multiple ways that a person can participate in mobile commerce.

Mobile Tech: Pros and Cons

The number of features built into a tiny device like a smartphone are nearly endless, and with those features come plenty of opportunities, particularly for those in the mobile commerce industry. The bulky PC desktop and even the laptop have largely been shrunk to a fraction of their size, and now a mobile phone can perform nearly all the functions of a PC or a laptop. Mobile commerce allows the consumer to purchase from a business at their own convenience. Retailers have adjusted their services to cater to the mobile customer, including redesigning their websites to cater to mobile visitors along with company-specific apps.

Consumers who participate in the on-the-go, mobile shopping experience expect the entire process to be quick, so it is essential that businesses also make their websites easily accessible and compatible with mobile shoppers as well. Near field communication (NFC) can also assist in mobile commerce. This allows a mobile device to broadcast information over short distances and uses this technology by taking your digital financial information to make payments online. 

However, there are a few roadblocks to be overcome regarding this technology—many devices still do not have NFC, and those that do are a bit more expensive than a regular smartphone. These barriers to entry are causing both consumers and businesses to find cheaper alternatives in the meantime while NFC is being phased into smartphones.

Mobile Revolutionizes Marketing and More

Mobile devices have also caused a marketing revolution. No longer can marketing be done by traditional methods alone—many businesses should have a strategy where they can market their products and services via mobile device. Businesses have started using QR codes so that people can use their mobile devices to find out more about a certain business and its products and services. Mobile devices also play a large part in loyalty programs—you can get discounts or free products for checking in on Facebook, for example.

In addition to business, pleasure and entertainment have become largely active on mobile devices—many games today offer the option of in-app purchases, and people can easily watch their favorite shows, movies, and YouTube videos in the palm of their hand. If technology can tell us anything about what consumers want, it’s convenience. That means that you need to make your brand’s services available when your customer wants them, and by making your business mobile-friendly, you’re giving them a reason to keep coming back. 

Director, Anybody?

People love using their smartphones to consume content; now they can use it to create content as well. Whether it’s a seven-second Vine or a YouTube video a few minutes in length, creating content via mobile devices will increasingly become the norm as their specifications come to match those of several devices: desktop PCs, cameras, and even sound recording equipment. You don’t necessarily need a studio or a movie set to become a content creator—just whip out your smartphone and let your creativity (and your device) get things rolling.

The Next Step

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. As the demand for mobile commerce increases, businesses must adapt to their consumers’ wants and needs, which will lead to new innovations in the field. Unlike some previous inventions, however, all of us can participate, and we should all be trying our best to move mobile commerce forward for the economic benefits and the sake of innovation.

The 6-Step Guide for Crafting an Effective Content Marketing Channel Plan

CREATE AN ACTION PLANThis is a guest contribution from freelance writer Kanika.

With businesses employing multiple channels for marketing, it can quickly get overwhelming. To stay across everything without losing your head, you really need to have a plan of attack for each channel. Only then will your business be able to get the best results from its marketing projects, campaigns undertaken across various channels, and comprehensively achieve its marketing objectives.

You have to ensure that the content created suits its targeted audience and is appealing and informative enough to hold the people’s attention. But the same content cannot be presented on different channels in the same format – t has to be moulded and revised to best fit into a situation, so it can deliver the goods. This is so important for the success of a business’s marketing projects and campaigns.

Follow this 6-step approach and you will be well on your way.

 

Research your chosen channel

Before a business goes ahead with putting its content on a chosen channel or channels like Twitter, Linkedin, etc., it needs to conduct deep research on various factors. The timing of publishing a content, what type of people it wants to target, the tone of content, and team members who will be writing it, and the budgetary limitations all need to be looked at. You also need to consider an estimated number of people who will respond to the content, what action you want them to take, devices people would be using for seeing the content, their time of accessing it; whether they would be at work or holidaying, and similar other factors. Only then will you be able to mold the content to best fit a situation and hold the interest of your target audience.

Choosing the right channel at the right time

It’s great that a business can maximize its content promotion efforts and use every available channel for promoting itself, its products, and solutions, but you need to use these tactically. Choosing some channels over others is best, as it enables a business to devote enough time and energy on few specific channels rather than spreading too thin across all. This is helpful for those businesses who have a limited number of personnel for doing various tasks like content creation, SEO, etc. For maximizing their output, it is better to selectively utilize a couple of channels you think will work well. After that, you can try others – but just starting with every channel and leaving many of them silent is not going to work. Moreover this will burn out team members who have too much work to do than they can easily handle. Failure to follow up with maximum channels is bad for a business’s reputation. People who have posted their comments and are waiting for ages to get their questions answered will get annoyed. This does not do much for your reputation – dissatisfied people can be pretty vocal about being ignored.

 

Formulating a content management plan

A business has to get created quality content in a time bound manner and this can be done by making a content management plan and executing it systematically. It has to devise a content strategy which will decide what type of content needs to be created for various channels and which type of audience will be targeted by the content. The team members who will be writing the content, submitting, promoting and marketing it, have to be identified and assigned their respective tasks. They should clearly know the deadlines of their tasks and milestones. Once content has been submitted and promoted on various channels, the results obtained need to be analyzed. This will help a business to know if its marketing efforts are succeeding as intended or do they need to be improved. This will give an idea what new or extra it needs to do for achieving the desired results. Thus it can better plan for its future content marketing projects. 

Executing the content management plan

After the content management plan for a project or campaign has been formulated, it needs to be executed in a streamlined manner. Activities of team members assigned with various content creation, submission and promotion tasks have to be coordinated. Their progress at their tasks needs to be tracked and critically assessed. A business has to know if they are completing their tasks within the stipulated time or if they taking more than required time for their execution. This helps it to know if a project or campaign will be completed within the allocated time and budget. If a business discovers some inconsistencies in the smooth functioning of such projects and campaigns, it should be able to take corrective measures in a timely manner.

This calls for improved organization, communication, collaboration and precise monitoring of tasks and projects. This is something which cannot be achieved manually. The reason being team members are often based in different locations and it becomes difficult to update them on latest developments happening in such projects. It becomes difficult to keep them at same page over a project. So better solutions are needed – and usually web-based.

Web-based project management tools enable smooth and proper execution of content management projects. These will improve communication and collaboration among globally dispersed team members so projects can be completed within time and budget. 

You might like to try some of these:

Basecamp: A popular project management tool enables enhanced management in projects in a simple manner. Team members remain well aware of any new activities happening in projects.

ProofHub: Team members can communicate, collaborate fast and transparently with this enterprising project management tool. This tool enables smooth implementation of projects and these can be completed as scheduled.

Trello: This collaboration tool boosts communication and collaboration among group members by making it smoother. Work, projects can be better organized and managed with this solution.

Asana: This project management system enables team members to work together without using emails. Their efficiency improves and they are able to achieve more at work with minimum effort.

Molding content as per the context

After content has been created, it has to be molded so as to fit into the right context. A business may witness new developments like it launching new features or solutions, redesigning its website, upcoming festivities like Christmas, New Year and others where it becomes quite necessary to mold the content to best fit to a given situation, context and the targeted audience. Thus the business would be able to present the latest and updated information to the people and they will respond more actively to the business’s needs. 

6. Creating an editorial plan

For properly using a chosen channel and for getting the maximum results, a business needs to create an editorial plan. This will get mapped to its global editorial calendar. The editorial plan enables a business to determine velocity, tone, intended action and structure for the content it needs to put on a specific channel. As an example, a business wants its Twitter page to consist of following things: 


Velocity: One post per day
Tone: Conversational, friendly and occasionally laced with humor
Intended Action: A business wants subscribers to click through to its guest post
Structure: 140 worded post with a business’s logo

An action plan means you get your business marketed effectively and quickly. I hope these six steps have helped you.


Kanika is a freelancer content writer who likes to delve deep into technology, tools, and making people aware about utility of such aids through her informative write-ups. In her spare time she enjoys sketching, cooking, travelling and spending time with her family and folks.

Solving the Content Management System Standoff: Drupal, Joomla or WordPress?

CMS Comparison Graphic

This is a guest contribution from Kyle Metcalf, of Rackspace Digital.

Choosing the right vehicle all depends on the trip you have in store. Just as you wouldn’t take a Formula One racing car off-roading through the Rockies, a rugged 4×4 Jeep wouldn’t stand a chance on the track against an aerodynamic one-seater.

Similarly, the same approach should be taken when it comes to choosing the best open-source content management system (CMS). Whether you’ll be running a company blog or a site that’s jam-packed with graphics and video, making the right choice depends on your content. Of the three open-source choices, each one has its own advantages, and making the right choice will be a crucial step in creating a dependable website that delivers an engaging user experience. 

Checking out the contenders

If you’re in the process of building a new site for your business or revamping your current one, you’ll need to begin with some questions. Are you presenting a purely informational help site or an ecommerce marketplace? Will your content be staying the same for long periods of time, or will it need to be updated multiple times a day? Keeping these questions in mind will help you match up your online goals with the characteristics of these three open-source CMS choices. No one wants to spend more than they should, so knowing the essentials of these three platforms can help you make the best choice.

Drupal: Sophistication and usability in one package

Robust is one way of describing Drupal. Both the White House’s website and the British government’s site, data.gov.uk, utilize Drupal, which provides a sophisticated means for delivering video, text and images in a user-friendly design. The following are the top reasons for using Drupal: 

Advanced content: Large-scale multimedia websites have some serious drawing power, yet they need a platform that will be sturdy enough to handle these capabilities. If you’ve got a site in the works that will showcase different kinds of content, this will be a good way to go.

Multiple sources of input: If your site is an ongoing collaboration among many different employees, you’ll need a platform that will enable a variety of input from different users. If you’ll be posting new content around the clock from many contributors, Drupal will give you an effective means for doing so.

Stability and flexibility: A large amount of traffic isn’t a bad problem to have, as long as you have the capability to handle it. Drupal is built to provide a stable performance with a great deal of content versatility. It also can be scaled up or down to accommodate your needs depending on the flow of activity to your site, such as traffic spikes during certain times of year.

Drupal is best for those with a strong background in Web development, and for a complex multimedia site that will need to be SEO-friendly.

Joomla: Your online storefront starts here

Of the three, Joomla’s the latest arrival to the CMS scene and occupies the middle ground between Drupal and WordPress, offering the best characteristics of each. Let’s take a look at Joomla’s top benefits:

Simplified installation: Even if you’re not pressed for time, you’ll be able to get this up and running quickly and easily. Although Joomla isn’t for beginners, its setup is user-friendly and straightforward.

Versatility: Whether you’re planning to build a basic site or jump into the digital marketplace, Joomla will allow you to cover many different options. You can also create forms and surveys for collecting info from site visitors. Whatever you have in mind, you’ll find the right extension for it among the thousands that are available for customizing your site.

Easy management and updates: For those with solid tech experience, Joomla will allow you to make updates to content or design quickly through helpful control tools. You’ll be able to have all the administration tools in one place for generating and tweaking content efficiently.

Joomla is best for ecommerce sites or organizations who want a solid but basic site that features multimedia. It won’t require the expertise that Drupal demands but still demands some development skills and will be a dependable solution for those looking for something less complicated than what Drupal offers.

WordPress: 20 Million and Growing

From its beginning as a humble blog platform, the latest edition of WordPress now boasts over 20 million users and is the basis for everything from The New York Times blog to the Lollapalooza website. For those interested in creating a simple blog or getting their new startup online, WordPress will be a straightforward choice. The following are the best reasons for choosing WordPress:

Ease of use: You don’t have to be a coding whiz to use WordPress. Its accessibility is part of the reason why it’s such a popular format and can be easily customized to create the right look and feel for your business.

Plugins abound: If you already have an idea of the user interactivity you’ll want, you’ll likely find a WordPress plugin that will take care of it, many of which are available for free. Internal linking and embedding external video can all be handled perfectly to increase the usability of your site, whether it’s SEO or broadening your social media activity.

Help is always available: As an open-source tool, and a popular one, WordPress has an enormous community of users, so finding help when you need it is easy. Whatever version you use (each one’s named after a jazz musician), you’ll be able to find answers to questions from experienced users online.

WordPress will be a good choice for simple websites for small to medium-sized businesses and text-heavy blog sites. 

And the Winner Is . . . 

Once you’ve gathered the facts and weighed the possibilities, match up your goals with the available systems and then prepare for a winner to emerge. Consider the content you plan to generate and what your audience will best respond to, as well as your own coding skills. More information on which open-source platform is right for you can be found through an open-source CMS infographic provided by hosting service Rackspace on each of these three open-source CMS tools. 

Great content can be the deciding factor in winning over a consumer, and making the right choice when it comes to content management will help make a good first impression. Making sure you have a strong foundation for your site will be the first step in creating an effective website that will be the nerve center of your online marketing goals.

Kyle Metcalf is the General Manager of Rackspace Digital, focused on delivering best of class services and support around WCM and commerce applications.

Facebook: The Lowdown on Advertising, and What We’ve Found Works Really Well

Often when I float the idea of advertising amongst my blogging colleagues (including Darren) I get looks of skepticism, dismissal, and that blank empty stare of disinterest.

You might have that look on your face already.

In some ways I can understand that sentiment. As bloggers, for more than a decade we have leveraged our content as the main drawcard for attracting visitors to our blog through free means such as organic search (SEO), social media, and incoming links and referrals.

I say free a little loosely here, as yes you’re not paying money directly out of your pocket for these activities, but the time you spend on managing social and search for example stops you from doing other things. Things like crafting better content, creating a product, talking with an advertiser, etc, so it does come at some cost.

That said, this approach is a bloggers true competitive advantage, and we essentially earn money by selling ads or access to our audience to those who can’t figure out their own content strategy — we certainly don’t buy them! Right?

Well today I’m hoping to challenge that today.

You’ll never ever hear from me that advertising is a replacement for your content. Your content is the pillar and driving force behind everything you do. But what makes a blog truly valuable is the audience and community you build around it. This community is what and who you create your products and services for, it’s what appeals so much to advertisers.

Advertising when done right is a way to help you expand the community you have today. To accelerate your growth. To find new readers in different markets and to sell more of your stuff. Advertising has been around for a lot longer than blogging. And there’s a good reason for that — when done right, it works.

There are so many options when it comes to advertising your blog. You can spend (and burn) tens of thousands of dollars very quickly if you are not careful. Unless you’re in the top 5% of bloggers already, it’s just too risky to put that sort of coin on the table. That doesn’t exclude you from advertising altogether though, as there are platforms that enable you to take very small steps and grow. You can spend as little as $5 to see some value. You can then step that up to $6 when the return on investment is there and you are ready. You’re in total control and can extend you investment and your reach at your own pace.

Google Adwords and Twitter are good options for this, but the one that excites me the most at the moment is a platform you’re probably already using for ‘free’ right now, and that’s Facebook.

We’ve been using Facebook advertising for around 18 months on Digital Photography School. It started fairly haphazardly, and I felt we were more donating money to Facebook’s shareholders than delivering any real value. It was when I decided to spend the time to really understand how Facebook advertising is actually done did the penny drop and our Facebook advertising strategy was transformed. I’m hoping by sharing what we’ve learned it makes life easier for you so you’ll have the confidence you need to run successful Facebook ads yourself.

How we approach advertising on FaceBook for dPS

Now I don’t consider myself a Facebook marketing expert, and I know I have a lot to learn. I often say to Darren that I could spend an entire year tweaking and adjusting our ads and still not be done. But as I like to play with new toys, I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me, and thus our story begins …

Prepare

You’re about to spend some of your own money on advertising, even if it’s a small amount. Unless you’re cashed up, careful preparation is important to make every dollar count. When we starting looking ad advertising options, we broke down our own preparation into three groups: learn, plan, and get your house in order.

Learn

Darren and I were the first to admit to each other that Facebook advertising was a mystery to us both, but in the same breath we both knew it was an opportunity we were missing. We could either just accept that as fact or take the time to learn what it was all about. Darren had been following Jon Loomer for a while and shared with me some links. I subsequently absorbed a lot of extra content from Jon and was lucky enough to interview him in a Problogger Community Webinar recently.

My second port of call was with a person I’d know for some time, Jen Sheahan. I met her first during my time at SitePoint but she’s since gone on to create a Facebook advertising company of her own. With pretty big-name clients, she sure knows what she’s talking about.

Both Jen and Jon shared similar insight to me about how to approach my campaigns which I’ll cover more later, but one thing they both said to me clearly was to spend the time getting to know the power editor, as that’s where the gold lives. Since then the general Facebook ads manager has got a lot better, but I still tend to spend most of my time managing our campaigns in the power editor.

Some notes about the Power Editor:

Before we continue on into some real examples, there are some concepts around the power editor that I need you need to understand (or my examples won’t make any sense at all). They are:

Custom Audiences: These are collections / groups of people that you define inside the power editor. They can be saved as groups of Facebook target segments, e.g. people in the USA, female, with a house value above $500,000 who are not a fan of yours (and about a million other variations). They can also be groups that you upload yourself such as your email subscriber list, or customer list. Facebook will match the email address you provide with a Facebook user and contain them all in a group. Or it could be a user who visits your blog, or even a specific page in your blog.

Power_Editor

Campaigns: Campaigns are the starting point of your advertisement. Not only do they given them a name, they also contain your objectives eg Like, click, sale.

Ad Sets: These are the second level of your advertisements and contain all the money information. How much you want to spend (per day or single amount) and when you want to start and finish your ad.

Ads: Ads is the ‘thing’ that facebook users will see. They hold the creative, and the targeting information, and how you will pay for the ads. eg. Cost per click, cost per 1,000 impressions. These ads can be both side column ads and in newsfeed ads.

Power_Editor

Custom Audience Pixel: This is a little snippet of code you put on your site to start creating custom audiences on Facebook to people who visit. When someone visits a page you send a little message to Facebook saying add this user to a customer audience under the settings you define. You can for example create a custom audience of all visitors to your blog (that are also on facebook) or all visitors to a specific or collection of pages. Or a combination of all. You can also specify how long to keep that visitor in your list (up to 180 days). If that’s confusing, don’t stress, I’m going to share what we use as a case study for you to start with.

Power_Editor

Conversion Pixel: This is a little bit of code that tells Facebook that a visitor has successfully completed the action you wanted. It might be to buy something, or it might be to sign up to a newsletter. You put this code on the ‘success’ page in your checkout / sign up process. For example the landing page someone sees after clicking the verification link in your email confirmation.

_1__Conversion_Tracking

Lookalike Audiences: This is an audience that Facebook creates for you based off an existing custom audience. So for example if I’ve created a newsletter subscriber custom audience, Facebook can create for you a audience that is similar to that group. I can specificy how accurtate I want to that be. The less accruate the bigger the target group will be.

Power_Editor

Okay so that’s the power editor. We can move on now.

Plan

You hopefully have an idea of the different types of ways you can target users and you have an idea of what you want them to do. It’s time to start planning all the different types of campaigns you are going to run.

Think along the lines of:

  • Customer and segments (who)
  • Actions (what)
  • Budget (how much)

With dPS we are currently running 9 main campaigns:

  1. Visited any dPS page in the last 48 hours that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  2. Verified newsletter subscriber last 7 days that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  3. dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To like | $100 total
  4. Lookalike Visited any dPS page in the last 48 hours that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  5. Lookalike Verified newsletter subscriber last 7 days that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  6. Lookalike dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To like | $100 total
  7. dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To buy | $100 total
  8. Lookalike dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To buy | $100 total
  9. dPS fan | To buy | $100 total

Some other types of campaigns we have run

  • Promoted posts: We have experimented with seeing if we could get some viral momentum with updates on our feed. To day we haven’t had great success with that, but we will re-visit.
  • Promoted product announcement post: We have promoted posts that announced a new product to our fans and had amazing success. The campaign we ran for our posing guide was the most successful campaign we’ve run to date.
  • Target interest groups: We have done some target interest campaigns where we focus on people who, for example, like photography in the US. But we’ve not had a heap of success with this type of campaign.
  • Unverified newsletter subscribers: We ran campaigns to people before they confirmed their newsletter subscription but it was a lot more costly than tarting post verification so we’ve stuck with that.
  • Different combos of the 48 hours / 7 days delays: We have experimented with 1 day, 2 day, 7 days, 30 day and 90 day times on our campaigns which we then narrow that down to a couple of options.

Setting budgets

When we set budgets we tend to first run a set figure, so $10,$20,$50 after that we review and decide if we’ll run it ongoing. Only three of our 9 campaigns are set to ongoing at this stage. I also like to set budgets before I’m in the power editor as I like to see the total spend. $5 doesn’t seem like a lot when you are looking at the one campaign, but 5 X 100 campaigns you want to see up can add up pretty quickly.

Get your house in order

Once you have a plan for the types of campaigns you want to run initially it’s time to get everything set up.

Get your advertising account set up

You’ll of course need some way for Facebook to take your money so you’ll need to set up an ads account. Chances are if you’ve used the ‘donate to Facebook’, sorry, ‘boost post’ button in the past, you’ve already done this. As you create more ads over time, Facebook will allow you to spend more but you still remain in control.

Get your tracking in place

If you want to use custom audiences that include visitors from your site you’ll need to set up the tracking pixel. This was actually a little harder for me that I expected so I decided to commission a plugin to make that easier for wordpress users to install the Facebook tracking pixel. Best of all it’s free and you can download it here. Watch the video for details on how to use it.

Get your segments and custom audiences ready

Once you have your tracking pixel set up, you can start creating custom audiences. With dPS we have a lot. Audiences for all visits to the site across different time delays. Separate audiences for visits to our sale pages the list goes on. Initially keep things simple and create audiences for the campaigns you planned above. Then let your imagination run wild. Your custom audiences should include any lists you can upload as well such as your newsletter and customer list.

Once you’ve set up your audience it’s time to setup your lookalike audiences. When creating a lookalike audience you’ll be able to select your custom audience to base it off.

You would finally then create general target segments that you might use to target specific interests and types of Facebook users. Remebering that this type of segment is the one I’ve struggled most with trying to deliver value for spend. If you’ve made this work I’d love to hear more.

We now have to people to advertise to. The final preparation step is to…

Get your Facebook page in good standing

Now I’m kinda lucky here as I have a pretty savvy guy named Darren ensuring that the Digital Photography School Facebook page was in good standing. Great engagement, good visuals, and a constant stream of new content makes anything I wanted to do with advertising so much easier. Not everyone has that luxury, so you’ll need to make sure your organic activity and the setup of your Facebook page is in tip-top shape.

Create

Okay so we’re staring to round the final turn here and we’re close to setting live your first ads. Everything is set up, we have our audiences, we have our campaign plan, now it’s time to put them all into the the power editor…

Creating your first campaign

You start by giving it a name, then picking your objective and setting any custom fields you might need (dependant on the objective). You should already have most of that that in your planning. Once you have set up your campaign you then create an ad set that you link to a campaign, give that a name then set your start / finish times and your budget.

Setting up the ads

I’m sure by now you feel like you’ve come a long way, and you have. Now it’s ad setup time. You’ll need to enter:

Creative: There’s a whole different post on what creative to use on your ads and everyone has an opinion. But regardless of what others experience, experimentation is the key to finding what works for you.

Copy: There will be areas to enter limited text. Titles descriptions and buttons to your add. Again, just like copy, testing and practice makes perfect.

Placements: You’ll have to decide if you want the ads to show in the sidebar, the newsfeed, and on mobile. For a while I focused mainly on the newsfeed and mobile, but my recent webinar with Jon questioned the legitimacy of that, so I’m currently testing all options

Targeting: This is where you tell Facebook who to show the ad to. You’ve set up your target audiences already, so you don’t need to worry about all the profile stuff. Simply add your audience at the top, exclude any audiences you don’t want see the ads (and the same for fans at the bottom), and you’re good.

Charging model: The final step with your ad is to select CPC (cost per click) and big on that or CMP (cost per thousand impressions). I tend to stick with optimized CPM, but only because that’s what I was advised to, I do want to play around with that a little more.

You can run multiple ads under the one ad set, and I do that I a lot. But what I also find is that Facebook tends to decide which ad they are going to run out of the group very quickly. I think too quickly and that will result in one add showing 99.9% of the time and the rest only 0.01%. Not sure why that’s the case and the only way around that is to create multiple ad sets with single ads.

If your ad is about a click, think about your landing pages

You’re getting a very targeted click from Facebook when someone follow your link to your page. Spend time getting that landing page right for the user. We don’t send people directly to our sales pages for ‘buy’ related campaigns. We send them to a page we set up just for Facebook traffic. You can see an example of a current bundle we’re running right now.

Note about the conversion pixel: If you campaign success is conversions, Facebook will give you a tracking pixel for the campaign. As I mentioned earlier this needs to be put in your ‘success’ page for the action to be sent back to Facebook. The good news is that the Facebook plugin for wordpress you might have used for the tracking pixel also allows you to put the success pixel on any page or post of your blog. This will work only if your success page is on your own site. For example we currently use e-junkie on dPS and we can’t edit the ‘success’ page so we can’t track sales in this way.

We do however track success through analytics using the optional URL tags field in our ad setup.

By entering:

utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=promo&utm_content=us&utm_campaign=landscapebundle

It will attach campaign data (you’ll need to change landscape bundle to something else) to any sale Google Analytics records in it’s commerce area and thus we can report on a campaign level how many sales and how much revenue we make.

Power_Editor

We’re now all set up and ready to set our ads live. If your using the power editor you need to upload your changes (top of your screen). Once you do that you’ll send all the campaign data to Facebook. Facebook will review your ad and approve. I think there are two stages to this as I’ve had a few ads unapproved after being approved. Which is kinda weird.

Review your results

If you’ve set your campaigns to start straight away, you’ll actually start to see results pretty fast. You’ll want to leap to conclusions pretty quickly, but my suggestion is wait a least 24 to 48 hours for a more detailed story to be told. When you have a little more insight, that’s when you can take some action.

Reports are found in your ad manager where you’ll see what you’ve spent, your reach and depending on your campaign type, likes, clicks, reach clicks or conversions.

_1__All_Campaigns

You’ll be able to compare all your campaigns side by side to pause poor performances, increase budgets on your strong performers, edit ad creative and copy, change landing pages. These real time changes help you improve the performance of your current campaigns, but also inform you about the next campaigns you might want to run.

Darren and I will talk through campaign performance as often as we can. Trying to understand what’s working, making decisions on what to continue with and stop, and brainstorming on new ideas.

Our results:

From a ‘boost post’ perspective: The only real value we’ve seen from a boost post perspective is when we boosted a product promotion update. We had a result that was nearly a 500% return on investment in first purchase which is a phenomenal result in any anyone’s advertising book. Boosting content posts to help build a viral effect just hasn’t worked for us the handful of times we’ve attempted it. But we’re not done yet!

From a ‘like standpoint’: We’ve seen costs per likes range from 1 cent to over $1 (we stopped that one pretty quickly). On average it’s around the 7 cent mark. The impact of this is hard to gauge as the reach and traffic we get has just as much to do with the content and timing of the post as it does the volume of likes we have. So it’s difficult to know 100%. What we also notice is that when we are advertising for likes, our organic likes seem to jump as well. So in real terms that 7 cent per like might be a little understated.

From a sales standpoint: I haven’t actually run a campaign on Facebook targeting sales that hasn’t been profitable. The returns have been from $5 in sales for every $1 we spent to $1.20 in sales for every $1 we spent. We haven’t spend piles of money on the ads just yet but it’s very promising. I suspect that the more we spend the less return on investment we get, as we have to chase a wider audience but time will tell.

Expand

Once you’ve done the hard work to set everything up and your first couple of campaigns behind you, I’m sure your mind will be buzzing with ideas. Just like we were. Our approach as we look to expand our Facebook activity to fall into these principles.

Test and add budget to what’s working

Darren and I am both open to testing things in moderation. We’ll use small budgets on ideas and then add once we’re convinced it will work. We’ll keep doing that with who we target and what we ask of them.

Look for new segments and narrow the ones we have

We’ll continue to both expand into new segments, as well as be smarter in the ones we have. For example knowing what type of post you visited on dPS could inform me what type of advertisement image you’ll be receptive to, or what sort of product you might like.

Be careful on how many times you show your add

We’re also very cautious not to over-advertise to our audience. Facebook will continue to show your ads to people as long as you’re prepared to keep paying. There’s a figure in your campaign reporting you need to be looking at – ‘frequency’. That tells you the number of times an ad was shown to a user. We want to keep that to no more than five in a campaign.

_1__Campaign_Summary

You don’t have to advertise all the time

We also want to ensure we pause our ads from time to time. This not only give us a little break, we’ve found that short bursts net a better result than one steady steam of ads.

So that’s how we approach advertising on Facebook with dPS.

We feel we’re just getting started with our story here and I’m sure there will be much more to share over time. I’m sure there are a stack of personal experiences that others have had, I’d love hear. I’m learning something new every day too!

With advertising – before you give me that blank stare again, just remember, as a blogger growing your audience is important. It’s a big part of the value your blog holds. Advertising is a great way to support and help accelerate that.

There’s a reason business and people pay to reach your audience.

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.