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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Facebook Theme Week: Boost Your Organic Reach with These Tips

Sam SurnameIt’s a war most of us as bloggers find ourselves in with Facebook fairly often: our desire to have our posts seen by our likers, versus Facebook’s desire to not overwhelm its users with thousands of updates every single time they log on.

With so many users on the world’s biggest social media site (Darren said this week it’s been logged as 1.317 billion monthly active users in the second quarter of this year), the potential for reader overload is astronomical. Facebook advertising executive Brian Boland explained a few months ago that Facebook now handles more pieces of information than ever before, mostly due to how easy smartphones make it for people to share. He says that there is “far more content being made than there is time to absorb it”, and for people with lots of friends and page likes, there is potential for up to 15,000 stories to be available every time they visit the site.

So what does that mean for Page owners? Well, it means that the Facebook News Feed Algorithm is designed to show your readers what is most relevant to them, not every single thing uploaded. What you need to do now is be relevant. And how do you know what is most relevant to your audience? You get familiar with your Insights.

What does your audience want?

For all the general advice we can give, it doesn’t beat your own personal experience, and the needs of your readers.

In your Insights tab, you can click on “Posts” and then “When Your Fans are Online”.

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As you can see, the Likers of my Veggie Mama Facebook page are online pretty much all day – but 8pm sees the biggest spike. If I want to catch the most of my readers, that would be the time to do it.

So now you know when your readers are online – the next step is to see what types of posts on your page they interact with the most. Click “Post Types” and get an overview of successful post types (including their typical reach and typical engagement rate). For me it’s video, followed by status, link, and then photo last.

Where to from there?

Make a plan to increase the types of posts your readers like, while still trying to stay useful, interesting, and entertaining. Facebook themselves say the most engaging posts you can create on Facebook are “short, original, benefit the person viewing the content, and connect to your objectives and identity”. But at the end of the day, you want real interactions with your readers, so being authentic regardless of post type should be your main aim.

Facebook also recommends video and images for the best interaction, especially those that depict humans and their relationships with others.

Video

Facebook’s recommendation to use video, and my insights listing video as the most popular post type, is consistent with the conclusions we came to yesterday about what worked on popular pages. For four out of the five pages we studied, video was their first or second most successful post type.

You can see here that a recent video shared on singer Beyoncé’s page has had incredible success. 222,000 shares (almost double the highest share rate from yesterday’s posts), 42,000 comments, and almost half a million likes.

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So what makes it work?

  • it’s original – only Beyoncè has this particular video
  • it’s current – The 50 Shades of Grey book was a phenomenal success, and excitement for the new movie is ramping up
  • it features a never-before-heard Beyoncé track that fans would be interested to hear
  • both Beyoncé and 50 Shades of Grey are highly popular among their target audience
  • It also doesn’t hurt that mobile Facebook video autoplay would make this run automatically in people’s feeds, making it look like they’re interested in it (regardless of whether they actually want to watch it or not)

Images

It has long been said that images were consistently achieving the best results for people looking to increase their reach. Beautiful images, relatable images, funny images – as visual creatures, it appears that appealing to that sense is usually a winner.

There is little doubt that Humans of New York has nailed the use of images on Facebook. Primarily to showcase his photography work, Brandon’s Facebook page has become a legend. Every day, millions of people see and interact with the images and small snippets of conversations he provides.

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So what makes it work?

  • It’s heartwarming
  • It’s relatable – whether you are someone like that, or know someone like that. It might make you think of your parents or grandparents
  • Love is a language that transcends all barriers
  • It’s a beautiful picture in a beautiful park
  • The people are smiling – they’re obviously happy, and that can be contagious
  • Readers might think this will brighten others’ days as it has theirs, so they share
  • It’s also a bit cheeky and people love a bit of a joke.
  • It’s a little bit unexpected – often the elderly have assumptions made about them and their usefulness due to their age. To see them cheeky and joking around is pleasantly surprising.

While usually focused on people (hence the “Humans”), sometimes the unexpected on the HONY page works even better.

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Text Status

For a while there, it was popular to try and provide useful or engaging text statuses, as they seemed to be the least penalised by Facebook (at least, less penalised than links, which could be seen as too promotional or salesy, and less penalised than overtly meme-y or spammy images). It gave rise to the question, or the fill-in-the-blanks. For some, it works really well. For others, it really can be seen as a blatant engagement grab, and quite off-putting.

So what makes a great text status?

Let’s look at Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. With more than two million fans, and a regularly-updated Facebook page, Ree connects with her readers in a variety of ways (mostly with images of her delicious cooking). But Ree has a quirky sense of humour her readers love, and often gets the text status exactly right.

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Always self-deprecating, Ree likes to poke fun at herself and how she looks on her Food Network cooking show. Her penchant for overexaggerating also usually sparks a giggle.

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Ree has a brother with special needs, and he is quite the character on her blog. Many of her readers can relate, and think he’s sweet.

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Again, her quirky humour and casual, friendly demeanor really makes an impact. Thanking your readers for something is usually something they appreciate.

Consistency

People want to know there’s a human person behind the Facebook page, and that the person is interested in them. If the reader comments or otherwise engages with the content on the page, they want that engagement to be a two-way street. If you are a blogger, then make an effort to be around. Don’t just post and run – post and chat. Post regularly (but not so much that your posts get hidden as people get sick to death of seeing you) and be approachable. Facebook keeps track of the pages that each person interacts with, and boosts the visibility of the last 50 pages in the newsfeed. It’s ideal to be one of those last 50 interactions (which include engagement and profile/image views).

Authenticity

Not only will Facebook limit the reach of meme content in favour of more relevant (i.e. current news or shared interests) pieces of content, but fans will see through desperate grabs for likes or comments. It also pays to be thoughtful and aware of giving your readers what they want without appearing overly strategic. At the end of the day, you still can’t beat being useful, inspiring, visual, and interactive. And nobody will tell you what works on your Facebook better than your readers will, so get to know your Insights.

As Jon Loomer says:

Meh. Just share interesting content. Monitor your results to figure out what works.

(Jon will be back tomorrow with some super-useful tips from the other side of the coin – advertising and marketing on Facebook – it’s not to be missed!)

Do you think as a whole, bloggers are over-thinking Facebook organic reach strategy? Have you found reaching your fans frustrating? Or have you hit a stride that works?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal 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: Your Guide to All Things Facebook

Sam Surname

Facebook – whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that huge numbers of your readers are on it. And although it can be confusing, frustrating, and increasingly a “pay for results” platform; with a bit of knowledge up your sleeve, you can really make it work for you and your blog.

This week we are delving into all things Facebook – from organic to paid reach, we will cover what you need to know to get the edge and be successful on the world’s biggest social media hub. We will be looking at case studies of successful Pages, breakdowns of what kinds of interaction garners the most engagement, the lowdown on Facebook advertising (Advanced Facebook Marketing guru Jon Loomer stops by with a packed-to-the-brim webinar), and what Darren and the team have been doing over on the Digital Photography School Facebook page that have seen real results in ad campaigns.

It promises to be a doozy, and you will leave with plenty of advice to make the most of Facebook. Check back each day for the next installment. We will add them here as they go live.

Your Guide to Facebook

Organic Vs Paid
Case Studies of Popular Pages and What They’re Doing to Get Great Engagement
Boost Your Organic Reach with These Tips
Tips and Tricks to Nail Facebook Advertising: a Webinar with Jon Loomer
Facebook: The Lowdown on Advertising, and What We’ve Found Works Really Well
Facebook Week: Putting it all Together

See other theme weeks here

Content Week: How to Consistently Come Up with Great Post Ideas for Your Blog
Beginner Blogger Week: Everything You Need to Know When You’re a Newbie
Finding Readers, Building Community, Creating Engagement
Creating Products: How To Create and Sell Products on Your Blog
Five Things to do with Your Blog Posts After You’ve Hit “Publish”
Make Money on Your Blog by Partnering With Brands

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

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Image via Flickr user triedandtruetutoring

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur and author Niall Harbison.

Although not everybody wants to make money from their blog, it is undoubtedly the goal for many. To make a living from writing at home often features high on the list of dream jobs! I’m lucky enough to have just published a book which got to number one in the charts, sold a business, as well as running a couple of businesses today, and most of the success can be put down to blogging. I wanted to share some of the tips that helped me first of all get the book published, and secondly, how blogging helped it to the top of the book charts. The book is called Get Shit Done and if you start using these tips that is exactly what you will be able to do. Hopefully you too can turn your blog into a bestselling book…

10 Steps To Help Turn Your Blog Into A Number 1 Bestselling Book

Find your niche

The really good blogs focus on one thing and they do it well. It doesn’t matter if you are a pig farmer in Russia, or a fashion student in New York, because whatever you do you will have an audience. The biggest mistake that most people make is they try and be to generalist and start straying away from their topics in order to get more traffic. Even though things won’t explode in terms of visitors at the very start, if you keep on doing what you are doing and writing in your niche with authority, you will eventually see the results and the audience grow.

Let Your Personality Shine Through

Think about all the big blogs that you read and the chances are there will be a strong personality or character shining through in the writing or through the content. Readers have millions of pages online to choose from so in order to keep them coming back and engaging with what you do there needs to be a part of you that stands out. It doesn’t mean you need to share your deepest darkest secrets like I did, but do try and be personable in your writing and give your readers something to latch onto.

Invest In Professional Design

The one thing that I think sets the truly great blogs and the average ones apart is great design. In my own early days of blogging I made the mistake many make trying to design the blog myself and using templates. If you are to be taken seriously and to get a book deal or start driving some serious revenue then invest $500-1000 on getting somebody to design your blog professionally. A badly designed messy blog will put people off straight away and make people think you are small-time.

Connect With Other Bloggers

This was the best advice I got in the early days and it has paid off over and over again. Some of you might think that people within your own niche should be seen as competition but the reality is that there is room for everybody. Like-minded bloggers within your niche will help you grow your audience, refer business to you, add value to your content, and share what is working for them. Most people ignore this tip but the community of bloggers is so strong and you’ll be surprised at just how welcoming most are.

Help People

There is no more effective tool in the world than helping other people. It could be advice. An Intro. A Retweet. A link in a post. For the first five years that I was blogging and on social media, all I did was help other people and give out favours to others. What that does is create a huge base of people who are willing to help you in return when you need it. As soon as I launched my book, I was able to nicely ask all the people I’ve been helping over the years to share my link, review the book, or even just buy it. Helping others is the best way to help yourself in the long run.

Network At Offline Events

You probably think that because you have a blog you can do all your networking online and that you never have to shake another hand in your life. The reality is very different. Some of the best connections and your biggest fans will come from the real world. I got a publishing deal by meeting people in the flesh. I met commercial partners in real life. You have to get out from behind the laptop sometimes and put yourself out there and meet people who are going to help you achieve your dreams.

Use Traditional Media And PR

Although the likes of print media are certainly dying, there is still huge leverage to be had by appearing in traditional media. I often write newspaper columns for free (newspapers love filling space for cheap these days) and I’ve found PR to be one of the most effective tools in terms of building brand. Your blog might be the best thing since sliced bread but people still put a lot of weight on seeing a photo or a name in a byline in a newspaper. Use traditional media to take your own brand to the next level.

Think International

Another big problem that most bloggers have is that from day one they pigeonhole themselves within a certain country. We live in a connected world where the internet knows no boundaries, so don’t limit the size of your potential audience by nailing your colours to the mast in your own country. Think big and talk in an international tones and you’ll be surprised at just how big your blog can get all over the world.

Speak At Conferences

I’ve found nothing more powerful in all my years of blogging than speaking at conferences on the subject that you are blogging about. If anybody is willing to give you a microphone stand up in a room even if there are only 10 people there. If you’ve never done it before you will be nervous the first time but get over that because speaking at public events is the quickest way to build your own credibility and take you to the next level. If you don’t have any conferences to speak at simply ask organisers. They are always stuck for speakers and you’ll be surprised just how many people say yes!

The 70/30 Social Rule

It used to be seriously hard to grow an audience for a blog. Now we have social media. The quickest way to grow an audience is not by constantly pushing out links to your own content but instead by interacting with people on social. Answering their questions. Sharing links. Showing your expertise. The way I think about it if you want to build a really big audience you should be spending 70% of your time creating content and interacting on social media compared to 30% creating content on the blog. It really is that important. Do that and people will slowly start coming back to your longer pieces over time and your audience will be huge after a while.

These are some of the tips that I used for the last 6 years and repeated over and over again. The end result was selling a business for a couple of million and publishing this book which has all the tips and which just got to number one. Enjoy.

Niall is an entrepreneur who has sold a business for millions and author of Get Sh*t Done published by Penguin. 

Increase Your SEO By Appearing on Google News

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This is a guest contribution from business/tech writer Nick Chowdrey.

Getting on Google News

Everybody knows that the world of SEO is changing. As Google’s algorithms get ever more efficient at filtering out good content from bad, more and more companies are turning to content marketing and guest posting to increase their Google page rank and appear higher up searches.

In the world of content marketing, creating high quality posts is just part of the story. You could write the most fascinating and informative article, but with so many other companies now employing writers to do the same, it’s still hard to to get the attention you need.

The goal is to become a trusted and respected commentator in your niche, but this can often take a huge investment in both time and resources. As such, one content marketing strategy that has surfaced recently is to try and get ones site featured on Google News.

What is Google News and why is it important?

Google launched its full news service, Google News, in January 2006. Aggregating content from over 25,000 publishers worldwide, the service uses Google’s algorithms to search for and promote the top news stories of the moment. Users can customise what topics and publications they’d prefer to see and can order stories using various filters.

Getting listed on Google News is not easy. They have extremely strict standards and a publication can only register for consideration once every six weeks. Google then uses its web crawlers to scan your site and determine the journalistic integrity, authority, accountability and readability of your content.

The rewards for getting listed, though, are substantial. Not only will a listed site benefit from the huge amount of traffic that goes through Google News, the added authority that a site gets from being listed means that more sites will start linking to your articles, which bumps you up the Google search rankings.

Being featured on Google News will not only boost the domain authority of your page but, as other businesses and professionals begin to rely on your site for news that’s relevant to them, your actual authority as a commentator in your niche will also increase. This should increase the amount of shares and trackbacks to your articles and, ultimately, your visibility on Google.

So, how can you get featured on Google News?

Quality of content

Google states in its Google News guidelines that its main aim for the project is “to organise all the world’s news and make it accessible to its users, while providing the best possible experience for those seeking useful and timely news information.” In order to achieve this, they maintain strict quality controls, which were briefly mentioned above.

Google are very strict on what constitutes news and what doesn’t. Google state that they don’t include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data.

They also only accept genuine, original news stories with high journalistic values. The best way to make sure that you fulfil these criteria is to write about what you know. Find stories that are relevant to your industry and, specifically, your niche in that industry. Not only will this improve the originality of your content, it will also mean your news stories are more relevant to your target audience.

Accountability is also a must. Google wants to know that you’re a reputable site, so they require a degree of transparency on your part. Your office address should be easily viewable and all of your editorial team should have profile pages with images and email addresses included.

Finally, the quality of the writing itself matters greatly. Here are some tips on how to write news content to an excellent standard.

Quality of writing

You’ll need to make sure that you and your team, if you have one, have excellent news writing skills. News writing may seem straightforward – especially if you’re already writing a blog – but it’s actually hard to do it right. the quality of your news writing is one aspect that Google will assess when considering you for Google News, so it’s important to learn to do it properly. Just republishing press releases isn’t going to get you anywhere.

A few quick tips on how to write a decent news piece: First, in terms of structure, you should always write your news with the most important facts at the top and the least important at the bottom. This is called the “inverted pyramid of news” and is designed for the way news is read, making it easy to skim lots of pieces and get a general jist of a story as efficiently as possible.

Deciding on what’s important is very much a judgement call on your part, but you should choose the content that’s most likely to get readers interested in the rest of the piece at the top. This will usually be some kind of statistic or statement, such as “X% of young people suffer from headaches, according to X professional body.”

Headlines are very important because they not only influence the searchability of your articles, but also the readership. The BBC are strongly credited with writing the most searchable headlines in the business. Here are some tips from their SEO guru, Martin Asser:

  • Use words that people would use in search in order to find the information being provided
  • Avoid words that people would never use in search to find that content
  • Put the most searchable elements at the front
  • Proper names are often used in search, so – following rules 1 and 3 – names should be included in the headline and if appropriate at the front

Finally, it’s also important to include first-hand information, correctly sourced and referenced, in the form of quotations. One of the best places to obtain these is from press releases, which you can find in the press sections of most big organisations. If you lift a quote from another news site, be sure to reference them, otherwise you’re just stealing other people’s work, which Google definitely won’t like.

Technical requirements

Your articles will need to meet certain technical requirements in order for Google’s web crawlers to be able to tell which of your site’s pages are news articles. If these requirements aren’t met, Google will not be able to automatically aggregate your stories, which is a requirement of being accepted onto the News site.

Technical requirements are as follows: Article URLs must be unique, permanent and contain at least three digits. This is so that Google can tell when an article is new. Links to the articles on your site must be in HTML with anchor texts that include at least a few words. Google is unable to crawl JavaScript, graphic links or links found in frames.Articles themselves must also be formatted in HTML, because Google is unable to crawl articles in other formats, such as PDF.

It’s generally accepted that articles made using popular content management systems like WordPress will be crawlable by Google without you having to make any manual changes.

A full list of technical requirements can be found in Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Other considerations

You then need to make sure that you’re covering as many news pieces from your niche a day as possible. Perhaps dedicate the first hour of every day to source, write and publish relevant news pieces that you think your audience would be interested in. Google don’t only assess quality of news, but quantity also.

You need to start building your position as a news provider. Make sure you diligently share all your news stories across all social media platforms. The amount of views your news site is getting will also influence Google in their decision on whether or not you’ll be featured.

Once you think you’re ready, go ahead and apply! But make sure you really have done as much as you can, otherwise there’s a six week wait to apply again.

Improving your rankings

Although the mere fact that you’ve been accepted onto Google News will most likely do wonders for your organic traffic, you can still take positive steps to climb up the rankings.

Firstly, it stands to reason that the more stories you write, the better chance you’ll have to get them read. At least three articles a day is recommended. Google also look to filter out duplicate content, so making the titles of your news articles unique will help to get it ranked. A unique title is also more likely to be clicked on by readers.

Finally, be diligent and get your news published quickly. As was mentioned above, if you make a routine of writing news pieces in the mornings, this will improve your chances of being the first. Start making a habit of keeping up with all relevant current affairs in your niche. Keep checking influential commentators and trade bodies regularly for press releases. You might also want to watch live broadcasts of political debates, such as Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK.

Nick Chowdrey is a staff and freelance writer specialising in business and technology. He is currently Technical Writer at Crunch Accounting. Follow Nick on Twitter @nickchef88.