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Got a HOT Post on Your Blog? Here’s What to Do To Find and Optimise It

Yesterday, I shared a post that analysed 5 posts I wrote in the first year of Digital Photography School, that went on to generate a lot of traffic for the site.

Today, I want to build upon that post and share some tips on how to capitalise on such posts to help you to build your blog even further.

You see, getting a post to the point where it’s generating decent traffic is just half of the challenge a blogger faces. If you have such a post, your work has only just begun!

Any post that is generating decent amounts of traffic, whether it’s temporary (as the result of a social media event or another blog linking up), or whether it’s because it’s ranking well in Google and generating decent long tail traffic, is a golden opportunity.

Every person who arrives on your popular post has the potential to help you reach your goals. They could:

  • Read another post (generate another page view which can be good for advertising revenue)
  • Subscribe to your feed or newsletter and become a regular reader
  • Follow you on one of your social media accounts and become part of your community
  • Buy a product you’re selling or promoting as an affiliate
  • Share the post with other people and help generate more traffic

You can add to or subtract from this list depending upon your own goals and objectives.

The key is to be aware of what posts are doing well for you in terms of building traffic and optimise those posts to help you achieve your goals.

Let’s break that down into two parts:

1. Build Monitoring Post Performance Into Your Workflow

Unless you’re aware of which posts are doing well, in terms of traffic, you’ll never know which posts to optimise.

Most bloggers don’t have too much of a problem with this. In fact, many of us quite obsessive about checking our blog stats! However, there are a variety of things that are well worth keeping track of on your blog. Here are two things I do regularly:

Check Real Time Stats

I love Google Analytics and have loved their addition of Real Time stats.

Optimizing posts google real time stats

This tool means that at any moment I can see a variety of great things about what’s happening on my site, including total visitor numbers but also which posts are particularly hot at any point.

I keep ‘real time stats’ open most of the day and check it numerous times through the day as part of my normal working rhythm.

So if there’s a post that is going viral due to something happening on Facebook or because another blog has linked up, then I can immediately identify that post and think about how I might leverage that traffic.

This is only really useful in helping you to identify temporary rushes of traffic so it is also important to keep checking of long tail traffic that might be slowly building up over time.

For example – yesterday I gave the example of a post on the topic of ISO in photography. This particular post has never really had a day of viral traffic but over the last 6 years it has generated over 2 million page views. It’s simply ranked well in Google which, every day, sends a few hundred visitors to the post.

Digging Deeper to Identify Long Tail Traffic

If I was only ever checking Google’s ‘real time stats’ I might never have noticed that post was doing well – so it’s also important to dig deeper.

So every month I spend a little time looking at what posts have done well on the site. I look at this both to see what new posts have done well from newsletter traffic, social media etc – but also drill down further just to look at search engine traffic.

Here’s a screenshot of last months search traffic to posts:

Search traffic last month

This is golden information to be aware of as it identifies some key posts and pages in the archives that I should be spending time optimising (see how below). Collectively these pages send a lot of traffic over time to the site, if I’m not paying attention to them I’m wasting some great opportunities.

2. Optimising Pages

Once you’ve identified which pages are seeing higher than normal traffic to your blog you then want to turn your attention to thinking about how to leverage that traffic.

How you do this will depend upon your own individual goals for your blog.

Here are a few things that I have done on some of my key pages:

Note: all of these things you should be doing on all of your posts to some degree. Your goal should be to have a blog that will call people to action in all the ways mentioned below – however when you have key pages that are performing above average – you’d be crazy not to spend a little extra time polishing up those posts!

Directed people to my Newsletter

The #1 goal for me when a new person arrives on my blog is to get them to signup for our free weekly newsletter. We do this through a popup that shows the first time that they arrive but on my key posts, I also add a specific invitation to subscribe to our newsletter in the post itself.

At times I do this as an update at the start of the post but often I’ll leave it to the last line of the post when the person has had an opportunity to digest the content and has hopefully been helped by the post.

Interlinking Posts

In most of the posts I featured in yesterday’s blog post, you’ll notice that they link to other relevant posts.

My goal is to get people deeper into my blog’s archives where they’ll hopefully realise that there is a lot of useful content that they should keep exploring.

My feeling is that the more posts a person reads the more likely they are to subscribe and keep coming back. Each post they view is not only an ad impression (which helps pay my bills) but also an impression upon them as a person about the brand of the site.

I will add these links both within the posts, as I mention concepts and topics that I’ve written about before, as well as ‘further reading’ sections at the end of a post (a place that people are looking for something else to do).

Promoting Products

I don’t do this on every ‘hot post’ but if the post is on a topic that is relevant to an eBook that we’ve produced I’ll certainly add a link to that eBook at the end of the post.

For example in yesterdays post I linked to a popular Photoshop post that I’d published in which I promote our Post Production eBook at the end.

Again – I wouldn’t do this for every post, just those that I have a relevant product for.

Opportunities to Share the Post

If the traffic coming into a post is coming from a social media source, and I notice it while the traffic is still coming in, I will often add a call to action to share the post on that social media site.

For example, at times I’ve noticed rushes of traffic coming in from Pinterest on particular posts. In these cases I will often add a Pinterest Button to the post at the bottom of the post (we already have one at the top).

Other times, I have noticed great traffic from Twitter so I’ll add a call to share the post on Twitter.

Optimise for Search

If the post is generating decent search traffic it might be worthwhile spending a little time thinking about how you might tweak the post to rank even higher in search engines.

I use Yoast’s free WordPress Plugin to help with this process and will often tweak meta description, alt tags of images, add headers etc based upon the recommendations in that tool.

I don’t spend a huge amount of time on SEO when it comes to building links to my site (in fact I spend no time at all and concentrate on building useful and shareable content) but if I do see a post doing well in search I will focus a little time on improving ‘on page’ SEO.

6 Reasons to Link Away from your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Adam Grunwerg.

The world of SEO and blogging is kind of limited in that most people will tell you the same things: “build high quality content and do personal outreach in order to receive natural authority backlinks”.

For example, this awesome resource from PointBlankSEO.com is genuinely one of the best articles and tools I’ve ever read for link building strategies in 2013.  It offers hundreds of tips for building white hat links such as PR, competitions, tools, interviews and tests.

However, I still feel this misses the point.

It focuses entirely on link building tactics, rather than how you can increase the perceived value of your content to users – namely by linking away from your blog.

Why? Well here are 6 great reasons to link out.

1. Useful Resource for Readers

The best bloggers will routinely link out to content on a regular basis because it provides readers with more information about a particular subject. For instance, if someone is looking for charts or tools not hosted on your site then it makes sense to link out for your reader’s benefit.

You can even include a cloaked affiliate link if you’re interested in getting credit for the referral (although transparency about affiliate links is always recommended)

2. Creating a “Top List” of the Best Resources or Products

Creating lists such as “13 Tools and Services that I use Everyday” or the “Top 5 Affiliate Blogs” are extremely popular among readers. By linking out to the best resources, you can improve your relationships with other bloggers and websites. It’s a bit like re-tweeting some else’s status – it’s a way of supporting great content and becoming known to the author.

3. Give Credit to External Research and Statistics

Backing up your articles with research and statistics from external resources helps add credibility and value to your content. If you use someone else’s statistic or surveys in a piece then you should also ensure you quote or link to the original source.

4. Interviews and Quotes with Experts in the Industry

Many bloggers and newspapers will routinely look to interview industry experts in order to get better insight and quotes for their story. If you want to add value to your website this way then you need to build some solid contacts, engage in B2B relationships and use PR enquiry services such as HARO and Response Source (both of these services are free to use).

5. Publish Charts, Infographics and Aggregate Data on your Site

Using visual chart and infographics can make it much easier to get a point across to your readers. If you publish someone else’s infographic, you should give credit to the original source as they’ve taken the time and cost to research, produce and distribute it.

6. Improving your SEO, Usability and Panda Score

The best websites will link out to high quality sources for their articles and it’s great for SEO and website rankings. While incoming links are more important (from a ranking point of view) outbound links, to valuable content, is good for your readers and that’s what gets rewarded long term. Too many blogs are scared of linking out in order to preserve their own Page Rank but they’re actually missing out on the other rewards.

Remember…

Linking away from your blog can increase the value of your own content; help build real relationships with other bloggers; and in many cases it’s just the right thing to do (a bit like when you use someone else’s images).

If you’re scared of losing traffic to other websites through external links then you can always use the target=”_blank” HTML tag in order to force open the link in a new window, or you can use cloaked affiliate links to be compensated for the referral.

whiteboard

Image by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons

Now it’s over to you. How much link love do you send away from your blog?

Adam Grunwerg is an Internet marketing specialist who runs his own consultancy at http://www.searchable.co.uk.  He writes extensively about marketing, PR, blogging and affiliate marketing.

Increase your SEO with Team Content Marketing!

This is a guest blog contribution from Matt Ganzak, founder of EliteGurus.com and BuildNetworkPlus.com.

Content marketing and SEO is getting more difficult. Each day, there are thousands of new domains purchased and thousands of new websites going online.

Most new bloggers and content writers will get started with their site, staying active for a couple months, and then reality hits them. No traffic to their articles. The time does not seem worth the effort.

Content Marketing can be FRUSTRATING!

Frustration on a keyboard

In an effort to remove outdated and irrelevant search results, Google has been updating their systems over the years with a series of updates. The latest Google update, Penguin, was said to lower the ranks for websites that have poor quality links and also took into consideration the relevancy.

This was the push some businesses and bloggers needed to find a better way to build quality SEO.

Today’s Content Marketing Strategy for SEO

According to Google, the best way to get quality rankings is to follow this guide:

1)     Post quality content that gets shared

2)     Have social widgets easy to access

3)     Use Google Plus profiles for authors

4)     Use Google Plus Pages for sites

5)     Guest blog on other sites to earn link backs

6)     Do not buy links

7)     Setup your web pages targeting keywords

8)     But do not over optimize

In a nutshell, there is no shortcut to boosting your organic traffic, so just put out the quality content and they will come. Well, this strategy is causing newbie bloggers to get frustrated.

So what is the solution?

I have been teaching my clients to build networks within their niche industry, and share each other’s articles. This is a strategy that will build your organic SEO naturally as all the sites work together to grow traffic. Many bloggers choose to be loners and just focus on “their audience” but realistically, today’s Google Algorithm stacks the cards against these loners.

Fact is, you need to reach out and make new friends. Connect on the social networks, and reshare each other’s content. Then also guest blog on each other’s sites and even send newsletter’s to each other’s lists. If you build small niche teams and work together, Google will build your PageRank and Domain Authority as your sites grow together.

Focus group

Copyright Yuri Arcurs – Fotolia.com

This strategy does not create overnight success, and can be rather time consuming. But Google will index their community with excellent authority and continue to do so as her network grows.

Steps to creating your Network

The first step is to decide on your niche market, and do not stray from it! If you confuse Google by having so many different industries, Google will not index you with high relevance for your target industry. Choose and stay the course.

Next, determine who your competitors are in your vertical. You can do this with a Google search for your keywords. And I always like to check Alexa.com rankings to get a look at their traffic score.

After that, choose relevant keywords with high search volume but low competition. I suggest picking 4-7 keywords to target. If you choose more, you can spread your site too thin which will lower your keyword density for your target keywords.

Lastly, find out where your niche industry peers hang out. This can literally mean go to networking events in person, or meetup groups. Take business cards! But you will also want to find online communities dedicated to your niche. Get in, get involved and start networking together.

Personally, I have been doing this sort of networking for the past year and my group has been growing. If you would like to join, I would be more than happy to chat and put up guest posts on any of my websites.

So let’s all work together to improve our PageRank and Domain Authority to grow our readership together. Content Marketing and SEO has become a team effort. I look forward to meeting each and everyone one of you.

Matt has been working in marketing for the past 12 years. He is an innovator of new ideas and has been training businesses on building their online presence. He specializes in Website Development, SEO, blogging, PPC, media buying and monetization strategy. Connect with Matt on EliteGurus.com, and be sure to check out his WordPress hosting (DollarWebsiteClub.com). 

How We Increased Organic Blog Traffic by 203.5% in Less Than 3 Months – And You Can Too

This is a guest contribution by Kristina Allen, marketing consultant for AdEspresso.

Over the past couple of months my team at AdEspresso has increased our organic blog traffic by 203.5% and I’m going to share the secret of exactly how we did it!

Step 1: Conduct Keyword Research

When we first started working on driving (more) organic traffic to the AdEspresso blog our team began with keyword research. We used SEOmoz but you can easily get a keyword list using Google’s free Keyword Research Tool.

When using Google’s keyword tool simply type in  a couple of relevant key phrases and then Google will search for related keyword ideas along with their search volume.

Because Facebook advertising is a really popular topic the overall keyword list is pretty gigantic so I immediately sorted the list by highest number of searches.

I then went through and highlighted in green the keywords that I thought I could easily turn into blog post topics. (I also highlighted in yellow keywords that I thought would be good for us to try and use as anchor text in link backs to our site – but that is for a different project).

The keywords I did not highlight were skipped over because they were either too generic or would not have made a good blog post topic for us. For example, “facebook ads coupon” was skipped over because we do not have any Facebook ad coupons to give away and a blog post about Facebook ad coupons wouldn’t have helped us drive the right people to our blog.

Most people who use Facebook ad coupons are first-time social advertisers who are looking to experiment with Facebook ads. Our software is made for Facebook advertisers who know what they’re doing and are looking for an easier way to create ads and also deeper insights into the performance of their campaigns.

It’s really important to select your keywords carefully because the goal of increased traffic shouldn’t be about getting a bunch of people to visit your site for a few seconds. It should be about driving high quality traffic.

Step 2: Include Keywords in the Post URL

Once you have your list of keywords it’s time to get to writing! Simply start going down the list and turning keyword ideas into blog post topics.

For example, one of the keyword phrases we researched and deemed appropriate for our blog was “facebook ads on mobile” since AdEspresso can help you create and analyze mobile Facebook ad campaigns. With the keyword phrase “Facebook ads on mobile” in mind I wrote a post called 5 Tips for Rocking Facebook Ads on Mobile Devices and published it to the AdEspresso blog. I made sure to include the keyword phrase in the URL of the blog post like this for SEO purposes:

Another keyword phrase we want to rank for is “Facebook Suggested Posts” I wrote a post called How to Run Suggested Posts Like the Pros. The URL for the post includes the keyword phrase of course:

However, you will notice the title of the post does not include the word Facebook in it at all. That is because I thought How to Run Facebook Suggested Posts Like the Pros didn’t sound quite right. However, the body copy does include the word Facebook quite a bit and we are still able to rank for the phrase in Google:

This leads us nicely into step three…

Step 3: Include Keywords in the Post

When you’re putting together your post be sure to include your targeted keyword phrase in body copy of your blog post frequently but naturally. Do not keyword stuff your post as this will likely get your penalized by Google and will definitely turn away intelligent readers.

What I do is write a post draft without thinking about adding the keyword phrase in at all. This allows me to focus on creating high quality content without worrying about the technicalities that come along with SEO.

After the post is finished I go back and see if and where I included the keyword phrase naturally. Usually I’ve included it enough times naturally that I do not need to make any edits. Sometimes I’ll have words flipped around a little bit and just need to make small adjustments with phrasing.

For example, using the keyword phrase “Facebook suggested post” I might have written “when putting together a suggested post on Facebook you should…” in my article. If so, I’ll just adjust it so that it reads, “A Facebook suggested post should include…” allowing me to get my target keywords in while saying essentially the same thing in a natural way.

Step 4: Stick to a Posting Schedule

One of the top rules for building up readership for any blog is to stick to a posting schedule. Whether you’re running a business blog or a personal one, frequency + high quality content will get you far.

Sometimes the hardest part of sticking to a schedule is wondering what you should blog about next – that’s the beauty of having a keyword list. You’ll never run out of great ideas! You can quickly go down your list and find a topic that people are actively searching for and help them out!

If you have a business blog, research shows that the more often you post the better your customer acquisition results will be:

Since we started actively trying to increase organic traffic to our blog we have been posting twice per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While we would love to post more frequently, we’re a small startup team and we all have a million things to do. Posting twice per week is a schedule that we know we can manage and stick to, so that’s what we’re doing for now – and the results are positive!

Step 5: Understand that Growth May Be a Slow Process

When it comes to increasing organic traffic for your blog, understand that it may be a slow process.  Unlike posts that go viral through social media channels, organic traffic takes time to build; however, it is often the gift that keeps on giving for years down the road.

A post that goes viral will likely send you a lot of traffic over the course of a day, week or even a month and then die down. A post that drives organic traffic will continue to send you a steady stream of visitors over the long haul. That’s precisely why organic traffic is highly important for any blog. While you are building up your organic traffic you should also be sharing your posts via social media and bookmarking sites for the biggest boost.

And there you have it, the step-by-step process we followed to grow our organic blog traffic by 203.5%! We’ll continue to follow this process (and stay up to date with trends in SEO) to provide high quality content for our blog readers on topics we know they’re searching for information about.

This post was written by Kristina Allen, marketing consultant for AdEspresso, a Facebook ads manager that allows you to quickly create and a/b test Facebook ads for maximum campaign results!

Why Interlinking Your Blogs Posts is a Must (and Not Just For SEO)

This is a guest contribution by Daniel Vassiliou of Endurance SEO.

Everybody loves (LOVES) to talk about link building and find the latest and greatest technique for building backlinks to your blog. While this gets you more traffic and better rankings in the search engines, it can draw away from an equally important aspect of your blog – internal (or onsite) SEO.

Not only does a good internal SEO practice help boost your rankings by making it easier for Google’s crawlers to access your pages, but it also allows real people (yeah, they’re still on the internet) to navigate your site and hopefully stick around longer.

A major part of onsite SEO is the internal linking of your blogs pages, and this post will explore the intricacies of interlinking your blogs pages to one another.

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

Why Interlink Blog Posts?

The main goal of interlinking your blog posts is to have search engines be able to easily crawl and index all of your pages, as well as see the structure of your site. A clean structure makes it so all of your pages get indexed, which means it can match them to search queries.

Since Google strives to give the best experience as well as the best content for queries to its searchers, the quality of your site layout comes into play when rankings are determined.

Benefits Other Than SEO

There are plenty of blog posts that will tell you that interlinking is only important in regards to SEO, but this simply isn’t the case.

Internal links make it easier for your readers to navigate through your site and find more content. Imagine someone finding a post of yours through a Google search. They could read it, get the information they want, and exit or back out without a second thought. But if you incorporate anchor text links within the blog, leading readers to other relevant posts, of a sudden your readers are exploring your site for an extended period of time, rather than only a few minutes. And this greatly increases the chance of them subscribing or coming back another time.

Bounce Rate

Drawing visitors into your blog for longer periods of time will lower your bounce rate, which is important because Google uses your bounce rates as a metric to determine if your blog has good content or not. Google tracks if searchers jump into a post, look at a single page without exploring deeper, and bounce back out of the page. If this happens a lot on your site then Google can tell that people aren’t finding your site useful and you will experience lower rankings as a result.

This is a great Problogger post about reducing bounce rate. Pay special attention to the first Navigation Bar tip as it is a form of internal linking as well.

Ways of Internal Linking Effectively

There are two things to remember when internally linking your blogs: structure and common sense. For structure, focus on using a tiered linking system that uses a top down approach, starting with the home page. A good example of this can be seen with breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs

Hansel and Gretel may have been the first depiction of internet readers that we have to date. They were both so ADD that they couldn’t even remember how to get home on their jaunts in the woods. Readers on your blog are the same (in a way) but they can’t leave their own breadcrumbs to find a way back – so you have to help them out.

This is an example of online breadcrumbs taken from the Amazon query “blogging for dummies”.

Amazon breadcrumb example

Breadcrumbs show you the multiple levels and landing pages that took you to where you are. If you ended up going too deep down the rabbit hole a simple click and any crumb brings you to a broader page. There are plenty of plugins that allow you to incorporate breadcrumbs into your site, which in turn creates natural internal links on all of your pages. The best I’ve found is Yoast’s breadcrumb plugin for WordPress.

Link Naturally

Once you have a tiered system set up that internally links all of your main pages correctly you can begin to link between your blog posts. This helps to keep any one post from falling in the cracks and helps to keep everything indexed in the SERP.

There are tools that can help link naturally between blog posts – the best of which is yet another WordPress plugin known as SEO Smart Links that matches keywords to tags and titles and automatically makes links between the two.

SEO Smart links can be a great tool for larger blogs where you might forget about specific articles or if you post a lot of content. If you have a smaller blog however, it is relatively easy to link between your posts manually.

Make the anchor text relevant and keyword specific so crawlers and users know what kind of page the link is pointing to. This helps with click through rates and indexing, as well as SERP rankings.

Don’t Overdo It

It’s important not to overdo it when it comes to interlinking. Trying to manipulate the SERPs by creating thousands of exact match keyword anchor texts to your landing page looks, and is, spammy and your blog will be penalized for this abuse. Keep it natural and mix up your keywords to fit naturally within sentences, rather than trying to force your content around the keywords.

Keep it Under Control

It’s important to stay true to the tiered system of internal linking to keep things in order for users and for crawlers. Try following something close to the classic pyramid structure where the Home Page is on the top, and everything flows down from there. Linking randomly to and from landing pages, blog posts, the about page, contact pages, and whatever else you might have can quickly make a mess of things and you could be sending the crawlers on a wild goose chase as they attempt to make sense of your site.

Keep it simple for them and they will reward you with better rankings and quicker indexing, and your readers will reward you with more exploration and involvement.

It all starts with great content

Of course, the best internal linking structure is a moot point if you don’t have strong content in order to keep the readers around and interested. Any part of SEO should never take precedence over the quality of your content, but it can be used to boost strong content to the next level.

Daniel Vassiliou is CEO of Endurance SEO and has been involved in SEO and online promotions/marketing for about 13 years now. If you have any queries regarding this post or how to improve your websites internal linking strategy, then leave a comment or contact Daniel.

Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013

This guest post is by Jeff Foster of WebBizIdeas.

Just as low-level article directories (ezinearticles, articlesbase, and others) got hurt by Google’s Panda Update in 2013, I predict that Google will hurt sites abusing guest blogging in 2013.

I don’t feel guest blogging is bad, nor that all bloggers who do it will be penalized by Google. SEOMOZ.org allows guest blogging and their rankings increased during the Panda update. But when SEO companies start to abuse any link building tactic, you need a preventative plan in place because an update from Google will be coming.

How do we know an update is coming?

Quite simply, Google’s spam team has warned us.

What’s the wrong way to publish guest posts?

1. Stop telling people it’s a guest post

Would you find the information credible on the front page of the New York Times if the title said: “Guest post: 10 Ways To Improve Your Home Value”? Stop using the words “guest post,” “guest blog post,” “guest author,” or whatever phrase you’re using.

There is nothing wrong with allowing someone to contribute to your blog, but if you wouldn’t trust an article in the newspaper that says the writer is a “guest author,” do you think Google will trust it?

Notice What SEOMOZ.org does:

seomoz-author-name

Does this person work for SEOMOZ? No. Do you notice what the title is? A regular title that you would use if you wrote the article. Do you notice who it is published by? A real person. When you click on his name where does it go? To an internal author bio page using Google’s recommended rel=author tag.  Learn how Google wants you to link a guest author’s name correctly.

2. Stop letting authors add unnatural links in posts

Google’s Penguin update penalizes sites that link text unnaturally. What is unnatural linking? If I linked the words “Minneapolis SEO Company” to my homepage, that is unnatural. An editor of CNN.com wouldn’t link to a company talked about that way.

Should you add that to your “write for us” guidelines page? No. You should just not accept guest posts from people who submit content to you that way. Just like Google doesn’t tell you their algorithm, don’t tell people your filtering mecognizsim.

People who write content this way are spammers or a terrible SEO Company. You don’t want to be associated with their company or their clients. Why? Google has a new Co-Citation Algo that associates people with one another. Just as Google will devalue your website if you are in thousands or bad link directories, they will devalue your website if you are associated with spammers.

3. Stop letting people add unnatural links to their author bios

Many sites that were not pumping out low value content in exchange for links were still affected by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. Why? They weren’t trusted websites. The truth is Google thinks differently than you.

  • What you say: Sure, I would love to accept a well written article from you that relates to my blog.  I am ok if you add only a couple of links in the author bio.
  • What Google hears: If you tell people (i.e. SEO Companies) they can give you something for free (i.e. an article) in exchange for a link, it violates our link scheme guidelines.

Rationalize and argue all you want, but that is what Google will hear if you are not a trusted site. Do you think Google cares if the unnatural link occur in the article or author bio section? Do they they say, “We allow spammy links in author bio sections?”

You have a much higher chance of being penalized for this unnatural linking if you are not a trusted site—especially if Google knows your site is just built to accept guest blog posts in exchange for links. They normally don’t penalize sites they trust, but be safe and don’t give them a reason to get confused.

When in doubt, check out trusted websites that allow links in their author bio sections and emulate them. For example, check out this case, this example, and this one.

4. Stop promoting links as a benefit of submitting a guest post

Please read again Google’s link scheme guidelines. Anything that a person gives you in exchange for a link is spam in Google’s eyes.

Stop giving them reasons to not value your website. Nothing is wrong with having a “write for us” page with editorial guidelines. Nothing is wrong with allowing a natural link(s) in the author bio section. But saying one of the benefits of giving us an article is a link back to your site technically is in violation of Google’s policy.

You may never get penalized for it, but why take the risk? Instead of an overdone “write for us” page that begs people to submit content, why not try this?

Make your little blog look like the CNN.com in your industry, and Google will be happy.

What is the proper way to allow guest blog posts?

1. Allow author bios

Download an author bio plugin or create your own so people can connect with the authors on your site. A basic author bio section (bottom of post) looks like this:

Author-bio-section

What are the main features of this section?

  1. It’s about a real person: it links to an internal author bio page, correctly coded
  2. It includes social links: these allow people to follow the author socially, and are correctly coded.

The most important part of the example is the Google+ link. By default, you should have it link the Google+ anchor text to the profile of the user in the format of: <a href=”https://plus.google.com/(number)?rel=”author”>Google+</a>

Why would you want to do that? Because then the person’s picture appears in Google’s search results! Is the picture the only benefit? No. What if Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ posted on my blog and Google could identify that it was actually Rand Fishkin? Do you think Google would trust me more if I am associated with Rand? Yes. Google’s Co-Citation Algo is already in full swing, so code correctly!

2. Provide author bios for each author

To “feed” the Google Panda Update you needed to create quality unique content. To “feed” the Google Penguin Update you needed to create natural links. To “feed” the next update that attacks guest blogging you will need to create co-citations.

Step 1: Create an author bio page to create co-citations

Here’s an example author bio page.

Author-bio-page

What is an author bio page? It is a short biography of the author with properly coded social links. It also includes links to all the content that the author published on your website.

Step 2: Link the author’s name to the author bio page

Do this using rel=”author” on each blog post when you say “By [author name]” and in the author bio section.

This way, Google will associate the person with your website. If you get President Obama to write a guest blog post on your website and Google knows it really is the President, do you think they will find that article and your website valuable?

On the flip side, if Google doesn’t know who anyone is who’s published content on your site, are they going to value—or worse, devalue—your blog posts or blog? In 2013, that is my prediction. If the blog doesn’t tell Google who wrote the article, or if Google can identify that the people who wrote the article are spammers, the blog will be penalized.

3. Allow natural outbound links in the post

Many website owners are scared of Google. Some media sites don’t allow links because they just don’t know if Google will penalize them for it or not. Worrying that Google will increase or decrease your rankings shouldn’t be a reason why you don’t allow links in your posts.

Imagine reading this article (see screenshot below) and not being able to click on the resources the author is talking about. Even if the author, CEO of SEO.com, links to his own site, it is still cleverly relevant to the post:

Allow-links

Does Google penalize you for allowing relevant DoFollow links in posts? Well, Google ranks this post #1 for ‘link building in 2013′

Link-building in 2013

So it is not wrong to allow contributing authors to add natural links to posts. No, you don’t have to put Nofollow tags on every outbound link; Google does not want that. What do they want? They want you to ensure the content and links are relevant. So do allow contributing writers to add natural links.

4. Allow real people to comment

Are you giving real people reasons to want to contribute to your site? Do people actually read and respond to your comments? Do your comments look like this:

Links-in-comments

How should you code your comments?

  1. Link the person’s name to their author bio on your site using a Dofollow link; not to their website. Learn how to properly code your author bio section.
  2. Automatically make all outbound links NoFollow links.

The benefits of doing this are:

  • More people feel part of your blog.
  • More people comment.
  • Which means more new/targeted content for Google.
  • Authors get links back to their author bio pages.
  • This increases the value of those pages.
  • And this ranks their articles (on your blog) #1 in Google.

When Google comes out with its next big update, if you have followed the steps above and associated each blog post with a real, influential person, you won’t be penalized.

But if you have low-value spammers writing content for you, or you don’t tell Google who wrote your content, expect your blog to be devalued.

is the owner of WebBizIdeas, an SEO, social media marketing and website design firm. WebBizIdeas Visit his seo resource center for more helpful tutorials on how to promote your business online.

How to Leverage Blog Comments to Increase Search Rank

This guest post is by Jonathan Solis of NutraSol Natural Center.

When the topic of getting blog comments for SEO comes up, your first thought would probably be to get links to your site by commenting on other blogs.

Well, I usually don’t waste my time with that technique, because most comment links are no-follow anyway.

And I want to bring focus to the comments on my own blog.

Having user-generated content on your site has always been an easy way to gain search engine traffic from long-tail keyword queries.  Comments are a good source of user-generated content containing those keyword phrases.

For the last two years, I’ve been conducting SEO experiments for all types of websites, ranging from my blogs to local business directories, and I have found that user-generated content from the comments section in my health blogs has increased my traffic tremendously.

The site that’s producing the best results for me right now is the Spanish health blog, Informe Natural. I apologize for using a site in a foreign language as an example, but this is the site I reached my conclusions from, and the idea will apply no matter what language you’re blogging in.

How it works

It all started when I began marketing Alpiste Seeds for sale online and featured an article about where to buy them on the Spanish health and nutrition blog.  As people found the page, they began to ask questions in the comments section.

Without realizing it, they were adding to my on-page search engine optimization efforts.

They would ask questions with keyword phrases like, “where can I buy the alpiste seeds in Georgia?” and I would reply with another comment answering the question in a complete sentence that contained the keyword phrase.

For example, I would write “you can order the alpiste seeds by the phone and we would be happy to ship it to you in Georgia”.  I would continue this technique with all the comments and the results were very rewarding.

I ended up getting a high ranking for the Spanish keyword phrase of where to buy alpiste seeds and also the long tail keywords derived from the conversations in the comments section of my blogs.

This technique made that page the second-most popular page on the entire site after my home page.

SEO Blog Comments

How can you do it? Let’s see.

5 Ways to increase search engine rankings with blog comments

1. Provide a call to action

Some people will not comment unless you entice them to.  A good technique is to write a call to action at the end of your article that tells readers to feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section of your post.

2. Reply to all the comments on time

If you give a prompt response and reply to the comments, other users will see that you are involved in the conversation and they will be more likely to ask questions too.

3. Know your target keywords before writing your comment

Make sure you know what your target keyword is before you respond with your comment.  This may seem obvious but it can easily be overlooked.  Do keyword research to find the words that are used more often by searchers.

4. Use complete sentences in your comments

As I stated earlier, answering in complete sentences gives you a reason to use your keyword phrases more often naturally, which helps you avoid making it look like a spammy attempt to increase keyword density.

5. Reply to comments with another question

When you reply to the comments, try to reply with questions so that you will get another response and, therefore, more user-generated content.

Are you using comments for SEO?

Leveraging blog comments is an effective way to get more traffic from search engines.  They are a great source of long tail keywords which account for about 85% of search engine traffic. And best of all, they are acquired from the users directly.

Do you use your blog comments to boost the search rank of your posts? Let me know in the comments.

Jonathan Solis is the owner of NutraSol Natural Center and Director of marketing for Expert Building Services, inc.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and he also has a blog where he often writes about professional business strategiesProfessional Tactics.

Are You Following these 5 Headline Writing Tips for Better SEO Traffic?

This guest post is by Garrett Moon of Todaymade.

There are so many variables to a great blog post. There’s the topic. There’s the writing style and overall quality. But few things compare to the headline. After all, your headline is the first thing that your readers will see, and is probably the most important factor in determining if they will actually read your article.

While getting actual human readers is our primary goal, search engines also matter—a lot. They can, however, add complexity to the original problem. Your headlines need to be written for humans and robots, and they need to bring in big traffic from both sides. In blogging, there are two big headline goals:

  1. Get your viewer to actually read the post.
  2. Provide Google with the fuel you need to bring you big traffic.

How do we write headlines that win big for both readers and robots? Here are a five things that you can do to improve your headlines right now.

Step 1. Become a student of great headlines

It may sound like a beginner’s move, but learning to recognize a great headline is vital to writing headlines that excel in search. How can we execute this simple step? Easy. Observe your own actions.

Observe your own actions

Day in and day out, we are all using Google to perform a variety of searches. What is it that you are searching for? Like it or not, Google knows. If you are logged into your Google account, you can view your web history at https://www.google.com/dashboard/. Review your results to see the headlines that you ultimately clicked on. Your readers are probably similar to you in what they would choose, too.

There is, of course, oodles of information out there about writing great headlines, including the famous Copyblogger course on writing magnetic headlines.

Step 2. Know your audience

After viewing your own search habits and gleaning insight about headlines that mattered to you, put yourself into your reader’s shoes. What matters to them? Who are they, and what are they searching for? It is amazing how often we can go on blogging without even taking time to consider who our audience really is.

Step 3. Use Google’s related search to define key search terms

One my favorite tools for writing great headlines that rock is search itself—use Google! If you put a little strategy into your writing, you can write SEO-packed headlines using Google’s own related search terms.

The process is simple: when you search for keywords related to your blog topic, Google will automatically suggest alternative terms and phrases that other visitors have used. It is important to remember that these terms are based on crowd-sourced knowledge gained from millions of searches per day. These are the most popular keywords surrounding your topic.

Google autosuggest

It is very important in this step to refine your terms a bit and collect additional terms from a series of other popular searches. Let Google make suggestions and then revise your terms using these suggestions. This process can help us think outside the box and discover what our customers are looking for.

Step 4. Rewrite your headline at least three times

I can’t stress this step enough. Too often, we put a lot of our time and effort into the blog post, and forget about the headline. While the blog post will always matter and we do have to deliver in its content, the headline has to be great. Repeated iteration is key to great headline success. Write at least three alternative headlines for each post, for three reasons:

  1. We explore new territory: Admit it. You tend to write the same things over and over. We all do, but when we write more than one headline we force ourselves to work beyond the boundaries of our habits.
  2. Practice makes perfect: The more we write headlines, the better we become. More practice is always a good thing.
  3. We find new ideas: I can’t tell you how many “new posts” have come out of this simple habit. By writing three, you will regularly find a new spin on an old topic.

Step 5. A/B Test your headlines using Twitter or email marketing

Every time you publish or release an idea into the world, you are opening up to the opportunity to learn something new. Publishing new headlines should be no different. Improve your headline writing skills by putting them to the test.

Schedule a few tweets that link to the same post using alternative headlines. You could use several of your “extras” from step four of this blog post. The trick is to use a custom bit.ly link or other short URL service that allows you to track clicks. At the end of each day, calculate the clicks, retweets, and comments that you received with each headline. Which headline methods worked better than others?

The same test can be done with an active email marketing list. Most email software allows you to A/B test headlines and email subjects. Get into the habit of trying headlines against each other. Make sure you document the results and use what you lean to improve your writing abilities.

Better headlines, better traffic

No matter how frustrating it might feel at times, writing great headlines is not impossible. It just takes practice and a little bit of effort. SEO-driven headlines that are written to motivate readers and perform well in search are the goal of many but the achievement of few.

Follow these simple steps, and watch your headlines and traffic get the boost they deserve.

Garrett Moon is the marketing director at Todaymade, a web software and design company that created TodayLaunch, a fast and affordable social media dashboard.

Bloggers, Think for Yourselves: Reject the SEO Rumor-Mongers!

This guest post is by Dustin Verburg and Jeriann Watkins of Page One Power.

Matt Cutts spoke, and the internet started to buzz about guest posting. This unsettled blog owners who were already uncertain about accepting contributions from strangers. SEO industry veterans declared “and from this day forth, all link building is spam, especially through guest posts!” with bitterness and vitriol.

Soon after, some more fresh-faced SEO professionals came along and gave link building a few new names. Blog owners remained unconvinced. All sorts of fingers were pointed and all sorts of names were tossed around. “Spammer! Black hat! Link builder!

And, in the end, nothing changed apart from some minor algorithm updates and the emergence of a few videos. Blog owners, take heart: not everyone is just after an easy link. Link building didn’t instantly become some cursed mummy, forever doomed to wander a forgotten tomb. Instead, young professionals renamed their jobs and moved forward.

The thing is, though, the name change wasn’t even necessary. This is a perfect example of a reactionary, irrational response on both sides of the aisle.

About “link building”

In order to appease bloggers, panic-stricken lemmings of the SEO world have recently been purporting the value of “link earning” rather than link building. This stems from a comment by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz (video included below), whose argument is that if you’re doing things to “get” links then you’re doing it wrong.

Fishkin’s main point is that you need to build great content—then, the links will come to you. While this is true, it can be misleading to people who are unfamiliar with SEO and link building in general.  

The danger is that it makes it seem like anything that’s done with the intention of obtaining a link falls into black-hat territory. The truth of the matter is that great content is not enough if no one reads it; hence, reaching out to other sources to expose your writing to a larger audience is not a bad thing.

Some people are actively trying to change the name of link building. Here’s why that’s a bad idea:

A new buzzword

The truth is, a rose by any other name is still a rose. Fishkin isn’t recommending any revolutionary changes in SEO practice, he is coining a new buzz-phrase. Just because link building doesn’t have a great reputation right now doesn’t mean that we change the name.

People who claim to be “link earning” are probably using the same methods they were last month before the term existed. No matter what it’s called, the intention is still to get links, which doesn’t have to be bad.  It’s not the name that brings the spammy methods, it’s the spammers taking short cuts and using faulty methods. Changing the name of what you do just to appeal to what is trendy seems pretty dishonest, doesn’t it?

Rather than trying to set bloggers’ minds at ease by changing the name of an industry, SEO professionals should be concerned with generating quality content that bloggers actually want. If we work to build the credibility of our industry, and our own reputations, we’ll eliminate this reactionary cycle.

Shortcuts

The reason link building is under fire is because certain methods (black blog networks, comment spamming, keyword stuffing) try to “game the system” and outsmart search engines. People try to get links without going to the work of providing quality content. Unfortunately, that is the way of the world. If there is a short-cut, it will be found and exploited, especially online, where so many short cuts are available.

The key is to find the practices that promote efficiency without sacrificing quality. Guest posting is one link building strategy that does have the potential to add quality in terms of new, unique content for your blog from someone else’s point of view.

Value

Link building functions on a case-by-case basis. The reason links are an asset is because they show that site owners appreciate and find value in the content they are linking to.

This means that if you want links you should create content that people will find valuable. Putting this content on someone else’s site with the intent of getting a backlink does not change the value.

Good writing is good writing. Google knows this; bloggers should know this as well.

Not everyone is a spammer

Like a witch hunt, the fear of spam—and the penalties that follow—has led to wide-spread panic, making bloggers all but ready to burn link builders and guest posters at the stake.

But much like many accused witches were just medicine women, there are benefits of guest posting as well.

  • Networking: Not everyone is a spammer. Guest posts can be written by people who really know what they are talking about. After all, isn’t networking marketing basics? Guest posting is a very effective networking tool, and good writers should be able to utilize it. In fact, it should be encouraged.
  • Credibility: In a recent webmaster video, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, said that high quality guest posts still have value. He then cited some examples of well-known bloggers and industry experts who would be excellent choices to host on your site.  While this is a great statement to alleviate some of the fears of accepting guest posts, it would be a mistake for blog owners to accept posts from only well-known industry experts. After all, credibility has to start being built somewhere.

The strength of blogging lies in giving people a chance to get their voice out to as many people as possible. This can and should include companies. Though we as a society are inundated with advertisements and may hate to admit it, even advertisements can add quality. After all, marketers are people too, and they like to make things that people won’t hate (hence all the remakes of Top 100 songs in commercials).  

Even if it is for link building purposes, a lot of quality content can be generated by people who haven’t yet made a name for themselves in the blogosphere.

Usefulness, sustainability, separation, and usefulness

There’s a separation between link building and spam. I can’t stress this enough to blog owners—there are spammers who build diseased links, but link building is not an inherently evil practice.

“Link earning” is the term used now instead of the currently pejorative “link building,” but when they’re done right they are the exact same thing. A good SEO wants to work with blog owners and webmasters because their goals are the same.

Links are the fuel that powers the internet, and valuable links don’t come without time and effort. They’re cultivated and carefully placed with the content, the website, the link’s destination and the site owner all in mind.

  • Link building: Link building takes work. When it’s done right, it is the practice of trading something worth value (content of some sort) for a link. It’s a little hyperlink in a sea of other text and code, but it makes a difference to an SEO professional. Writing something interesting and finding a good home for it (or doing it the other way around) is not easy. A good link builder values and supports the blog s/he’s posting on and wants to see it succeed. That link builder wants a link too, of course, but it’s not a case of expecting something for nothing. Those links are built and earned. The link and the content strengthen the foundation of every website they touch.
  • Sustainability: There are spammers who play at building links, but there are bad apples in every industry. Just because there are some shady characters among us does not mean we’re all crooks. There will always be spammers, but their practices will never be sustainable. Building links and producing content in any meaningful way is never going to be easy. We can’t let spammers corrupt an entire system that brings people together and supports a happy internet. The only thing less sustainable than spammers would be an internet so afraid of that spam that it shuts itself down for an eternity of stagnation.
  • Separation: Almost anyone with good working knowledge of the internet can tell a quality site from a spammy one. Likewise, it’s easy to sniff out a totally irrelevant link. Bizarre robot-driven links and the spam sites they love will always exist, but they’re pretty easy to avoid. A blog owner’s initial scan of the writer’s content (and email) should reveal a spammer. 500 words in broken English with impossible keyword density is much different than the work of a legitimate professional. The spammer and the professional both exist, but they’re at odds with each other. Just as there are web directories with endless pages robot-driven gibberish, there are writers sweating and bleeding over their craft to deliver good content to quality websites.
  • Usefulness: The danger lies in not trying to separate the two—if webmasters and blog owners just freeze up and stop responding to emails, those spam sites are going to be the only places on the web showing any real growth. Guest posts and other link building tools must be judged individually, not by some all-encompassing magic formula. This can be summarized in one question: will this content be useful for or interesting to your readers? If the answer is yes, then don’t you owe it to them to post it?

More than links

Having smart, creative people creating amazing content and reaching out to other smart, creative people makes the internet a better place. Building links, in the purest sense, is so much more than code, text and pixels. Content provides:

  • Diversity: There are different kinds of content. Good content always makes an impact—whether it makes someone want to reexamine their Google Analytics data, want to ride their bike, want to leave a heartfelt comment, or just makes someone laugh. But there’s no exact formula for good content. Some search marketers might love an in-depth analysis of a ballpoint pen manufacturer’s backlink profile, complete with charts and cold, hard numbers.  On the other hand, that sounds terribly boring to me. We all want different things. Content comes in many amazing forms, and it’s engaging on many distinctive levels.
  • Community: Comments and social media build communities from content. It goes deeper than that, though. These emerging communities share the same values, but they challenge each other with new ideas and concepts. Site owners, bloggers, and readers engage one another and keep each other honest as these communities form. This is how innovation happens in any niche—and it all starts with content.
  • Infrastructure: As we build links, we’re building a trustworthy infrastructure that interacts with and independently of the major search engines. A link between two sites is a vote of confidence. A good link means never having to be afraid of what lies beyond that bit of text and code. A good link is relevant, helpful, and thoughtfully placed—it’s never superfluous or dangerous.

Link building is a complicated field, and that is where the value lies. As with all industries, there will be people who offer services and products of less quality. You are probably careful about where you order sushi; practice the same caution when accepting links for your site.

The danger does not come from the name, but from the practice, and not all who practice link building are spammers. Otherwise, links would not even be a factor in search engine algorithms.

Dustin Verburg is a writer and musician based in Boise, ID who enjoys frowning at Matt Cutts’ YouTube videos. Jeriann Watkins is a writer interested in music, technology, and all sorts of random topics. They both work at Page One Power, a relevancy first link building firmin Boise, Idaho and write for their SEO blog.