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Guest Posting and The Panda Update: Is Guest Posting the Problem?

This guest post is by Philip Rudy of www.inetzeal.com.

The recent Panda update has affected many websites, and not only the “content mills” of the Internet. Many bloggers are scrambling and wondering what they can do get their rankings back to where they were.

Side note: If you feel you have been wrongly effected by the recent update, let Google know about it here.

Many bloggers have even gone as far as to delete each and every one of their guest posts until their rankings bounce back, thinking that the guest posts they have allowed on their sites are what is affecting their rank.

However, guest posting is not a problem if it’s done right. If accepting guest posts is what’s keeping your web site at the bottom of the SERPs, then it’s time to start taking a better look at the guest posts your web site is accepting.

Let’s take a close look at the similarities between your sub-par guest post and the type of pages that were affected by the Panda Update:

Original content makes up a low % of content, either at the page level or throughout a whole site

Unfortunately, many guest post topics are rehashed over and over on the Internet. Is it always the guest poster’s fault? No, but when people are trying to build links rather than provide value through their writing, then topics become rehashed over and over again. If you have many guest posts like this then your web site starts to look like a duplicate content monster—and sometimes you wouldn’t even know it.

Solution: Research proposed guest posting topics and see what’s already out there. Let guest bloggers know that if they want to write on topic, then it has to be something completely different from what comes up in the SERPs.

Ads that don’t coincide with the content

Many times when you accept guest posts they may be a little off topic from what you are usually writing about. When you accept many off-topic guest posts, your site begins to look like a content mill—more like an article directory than a blog.

If you have advertisement on your site that’s the same on each page, you begin to have totally irrelevant ads on many of your pages. This is a sign of a poor-quality website—and one that is now measurable in Google’s algorithm.

Solution: Make sure when you are accepting guest posts that the topic is at least somewhat related to the ads that you run on your website. If you run a blog that covers a few or many different topics then make sure you place the appropriate ads to place on the pages that are guest posts.

High bounce rate and low time spent on the page

Low-quality guest posts ensure that the visitor will leave the site as soon as they land on it. Since many guest posts do not have the in-depth analysis on the topics that the visitor is searching for, and are usually just cover a broad generalization of the topic, a visitor will automatically assume that the rest of your website will be just as low quality.

Solution: At first glance the solution to this problem might be to require lengthier articles—but that of course is not a solution. It may in fact just add to the problem. There is no magic word count that will keep your visitors on your site longer—only good content can do that. A good solution to the problem is to require some type of study case or detailed analysis with each article—something to capture the readers’ eyes and keep them there.

Guest posting is not the problem

Guest posting should not be a link-building exercise first and foremost. It is a valuable tool, but one that can definitely be taken advantage of, and doing so will definitely leave your site susceptible to algorithm updates like Panda and others that will be similar in the future.

If you think submitted guest posts will increase the value of your blog, accept them. If they’re just filler, then you are probably better off without the unneeded content.

This article was written by Philip Rudy. Philip helps to run www.inetzeal.com, which is an Internet marketing company that provides a white label link building service.

A Comprehensive Post on SEO

This guest posst is by Kole McRae of Office Buddha.

I’m a blogger now but in a former life I did SEO professionally. As a part of the industry I’ve seen first hand the insane amount of misleading information available. Even so-called “professionals” have been known to give out absolutely terrible advice.

That’s why I’m writing this article. I want to finally teach you bloggers the truth behind SEO and how to rank well in Google. Some of the following information might be obvious and some of it might seem strange, but stick with me. If you follow my advice you’ll be ranking number one in no time.

The information I’m going to give is specific to Google, but the same tips will also help you rank in Bing and all other search engines.

Meta tags

Meta tags are a part of the HTML of your page that appear in the header. There are hundreds to choose from but only two matter when it comes to HTML: the Title tag and the Description tag.

Some people talk about the Keywords meta tag but Google has made it clear that they completely ignore it. It doesn’t hurt to have a keywords tag, but don’t assume it will help you rank in Google.

The Description tag

This is what Google (sometimes) uses to describe your site in the search results. It’s shown in the screenshot below.

This does not effect your rankings, but it can be used to help entice people to click on your link in the search results. Make sure it is relevant to your site, and describes what people will find when they click your link.

As you can see in the screenshot, the term that was searched for will show up in bold in the results. You can use this to help get more clicks—but don’t abuse it.

The Title tag

The Title tag is (sometimes) used by Google as the main text of your link within the search results, as seen in the screenshot below:

The words used here have been proven to help with rankings. Basically, the closer the keywords are to the left edge of the link, the better the result will rank for those keywords. For example, Geek Juice: Canadian Tech News won’t rank as well as Canadian Tech News by Geek Juice for the term “Canadian Tech News.”

“Sometimes”?

In both instances I said that Google sometimes uses these tags. This is because they sometimes use other sources. Google may display content from your site instead of your chosen description or title tag if Google’s algorithm believes it is more relevant. Google may also use content from DMOZ (the open directory project.)

Keywords

The tips I’ve seen online for on page SEO range from ill-conceived to downright frightening. People tout keyword densities and other strange points of data as the be-all and end-all of SEO. In reality Google hasn’t used keyword density in years. Stuffing a million keywords at the bottom of your page won’t help; some believe Google actually penalizes sites for this.

As long as you mention a chosen keyword once or twice within a blog post, you’ll be fine. The important thing is that the rest of the post is about that keyword. Google has figured out a lot of very complex ways to make sure your post is about the keyword you’ve chosen. For example if you’re talking about the keyword “Toronto Raptors” you’ll probably mention basketball and scores and various other basketball related information.

The best thing you can do when it comes to keywords is simply talk about the things you love.

Building links

Google first built its search engine on the idea of page rank: a page was probably relevant if a lot of people linked to that page. The more links to that page, the better. Early in Google’s life this approach was easily spammed, and to this day people continue to try and gain PageRank.

You’ve probably heard advice such as putting your link into blog comments and forums, and within your profile on social networking sites. The problem is that these days these links are all marked as “no follow” links. “No follow” tells Google not to use this link within its determination of the site’s ranking. So in the end, these links count for very little.

The only real way to build links is to create great content that sites want to naturally link to. The issue is that if you are a new blogger, your chances of getting a link are slim to none. There are ways to build them though…

Guest posts

Guest posts (such as this one) will almost always produce a really high-quality link to your site. Don’t guest post just anywhere, though. Google likes it when sites that are similar to yours links to you. So guest post on blogs that have similar themes.

Contests

Running a contest where you give something away is a great way to naturally product lots of links.

Viral content

If a single post or image of yours somehow gets to the first page of Reddit or Digg, you are guaranteed to get tons of links pointing to your site.

Social signals

Both Google and Bing have admitted to using social signals within search results. This is getting more and more prevalent.

However, it’s still a brand new part of SEO, and it hasn’t been thoroughly studied yet. What I can suggest, though, is that you make sure you have a Twitter and Facebook account and that you interact with your followers regularly.

Ultimately, all this advice amounts to one tip for achieving good search rank: create great, high-quality posts and interact with your readers regularly.

Are you doing this already? How’s your search rank looking?

Kole McRae started Office Buddha, a resource for those working 9-5 jobs that want to reduce stress, get more done, find more time for the things they love, and all around become happier.

Is Traffic Potential a Good Proxy for Link Quality?

This guest post is by Mark of GiftedSEO.com.

Since Google’s recent Panda Update, the world of SEO and blogging has been buzzing, and while there have been some innocent sites caught in the crossfire, the one thing most people will agree on is that Google has once and for all let the world know that poor quality, spammy content is not okay.

A side-effect of the update is that if you have a lot of links to your site from poor-quality sources, those links probably just lost most of their value, too.

statistics

Copyright Frank Gärtner - Fotolia.com

Basically, as far as SEO link building is concerned, quality is more important than ever right now. But after years of directories and article submissions, some people seem to have forgotten what a quality link actually is!

What does “good quality” even mean?

SEO has always been about trying to second-guess Google and create links and content that check all the right boxes. But sometimes, this can be taken a bit too far.

Chasing an algorithm is like chasing a carrot on a stick: every time you get close, the stick moves, and the carrot moves a step further from your grasp. Why not just aim for wherever the carrot is headed and meet it when it gets there?

If you aim for the same goal that Google is already moving towards, every future algorithm change is only going to make your blog stronger.

A world without SEO

Let’s just pretend for a minute that we don’t care about SEO or search engines at all. Before SEO existed, back when links were just links, what exactly made a link “good”?

Put another way, if you were trying to make money blogging, and SEO wasn’t in the picture, what links would you care about getting?

As I see it, the amount of relevant traffic generated by a link is the purest possible indicator of whether it’s a worthwhile link or not.

A quick analogy for the Internet

There is an actual, actionable point here: whenever you gain a new link, rather than trying to guess what the almighty Google is thinking, why not just check your own analytics and see whether you are actually getting any traffic from it?

Links are essentially the bridges of the Internet. And for some reason, people have started to worry more about making them look nice for the big guy in the sky, than about getting people safely across the water. (In this metaphor, the water is the parts of the Internet that are full of nasty spam sharks.)

This is the equivalent of a small high street business caring more about their advertisement getting some industry award than whether or not the ad actually generates any sales. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Action plan

If you don’t have it already, install Google analytics (or something similar) and start looking at where your traffic is actually coming from. You should be able see which specific sites and pages are sending you traffic. If you visit those pages, you can see the links that are sending you traffic.

By doing this, you’ll get an unparalleled insight into which links are providing you with real traffic, and which areas of your site are the most popular.

Next, look at the pages on your site that are popular, and try to figure out what you did to make them so. Also look for unpopular pages and try to improve them.

If you can learn what makes good content for your site, you can start building more of it. Any time you get a lot of links from a page, try to build on that success and repeat it.

You can also start to spend more time looking for and connecting with the sorts of people who own the types of sites that are linking to you. Ask for links if you like, but you might soon find you don’t even need to!

A final thought

SEO and link building have a bad reputation because there are a lot of ways to do it, and let’s face it, some of them are pretty scuzzy, as Mr. Cutts would say. But in my opinion SEO can and should be a positive thing.

In the last few paragraphs, I discussed what I think is a powerful new way to think about SEO. It’s not so much about pleasing the algorithm as it is about finding new ways to build real links and at the same time improve the quality of what you are offering to the Web.

What do you think about this approach? Are you already using it? How’s it going for you?

This post was written by Mark from GiftedSEO.com, a new kind of SEO company for a new Internet. We get by by helping good sites be better sites and in doing so earn the rankings they deserve.

Leverage the Long Tail of Search on Your Blog

This guest post is by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

Not getting all the search traffic you would like to get to your blog? One way to improve your results is to tap into long tail search terms to use in your posts. This is not always that easy to do, so today I will explore some ideas of ways to tap into that data.

One reason why this is such an attractive thing to do is that the long tail actually has more traffic in it than the major “head” terms which are the first thing we all think of for a particular topic. The popular theory is that the long tail represents about 70% of all search traffic. These are the search terms that we don’t normally think of. Here is the four-step process I usually use to explain it to people:

  1. Take your executive staff (or your writing/editorial team) into a conference room. Tell them to list search queries people might enter in at Google or Bing which might indicate that they are interested in your product, service, or content.
  2. In the first five minutes, they will write the most popular terms (these are “head” terms and represent about 10% of all search volume). These terms will generally be one word or two word phrases. An example phrase in the e-commerce world might be “digital cameras.”
  3. In the next ten minutes they will record the next group (“chunky middle” terms that represent 20% of search queries). These terms are a bit longer, two to three words. An example here would be “canon digital cameras.”
  4. After that they will get tired and start checking their emails, texts, go to the next meeting, or whatever. What did they leave behind? The long tail! This is the remaining 70% of search queries. These are longer phrases, using three or more keywords. Examples include: “canon powershot sx230,” “buy digital camera seattle,” or “I want to buy a digital camera now.”

Since this long tail has so much volume in it, let’s figure out how to tap into it.

Develop the right mindset

First and foremost, let’s define the way we should be thinking about the problem. We are discussing how to leverage the long tail within your blog. Blog posts are natural gold mines for long tail search, simply because they contain lots of unique original text that is presumably related to the topic of the post.

The search engines are naturally going to process all of that text to figure out what user search queries your post may be relevant to. They do an excellent job of matching you up with a variety of potential searches already. Our task is to make their job easier and help them match your post up with more relevant queries.

In addition, you probably don’t want to spend several hours doing keyword research for each post. This post is going to focus on the strategy for accessing the long tail, but how to do it with about 15 minutes of keyword research.

Makeup of the long tail

How can I quickly get a sense as to what will be in the long tail for my topic? It turns out that this is pretty easy to figure out. For example, if you are writing a blog post about the deficit in the USA, and you do some keyword research using the Google Adwords keyword tool, you will find that the phrase “balanced budget” has more search volume on it than “deficit reduction.” Let’s look at the numbers for “balanced budget:”

Next, here is the output from the Adwords Keyword Tool for “deficit reduction:”

Notice the correlation. “Balanced budget” has 1,600 total searches, and the largest variant of “deficit reduction” has 880 searches. In addition, all the variants of “balanced budget” had 7,256 searches and all the variants of “deficit reduction” had 3,341 searches.

This is our first important conclusion: the most long tail terms are associated with the biggest head term. So the first step in leveraging the long tail of search is picking the right head term. You should use this head term in the title of your web page in which the post appears, as well as the post title itself.

An important note on using the Adwords Keyword Tool

I really like this tool because it does give us a crude window into the real data from Google. However, to get the right data from it, you need to configure it properly. To see how to do that, reference my screen shot below:

First, notice that I checked the box up top marked “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”. For purposes of this analysis, I don’t want to have terms which are not closely related in my list.

Also, over on the left, notice that I have picked the “Exact” match type, and unchecked the other boxes. The tool will default to “Broad” match when you first run it, and you can’t even configure this option until you run the tool the first time. So to do the query on “balanced” budget I had to run the tool once, it gave me broad match results, then I was able to scroll down and set the results to exact match.

The reason for doing this is that the broad match setting means that the total query volumes shown for each keyword will include all the derivatives. I tested this and the phrase “deficit reduction” showed a volume of 12,100 instead of 880. The result is that the broad match setting tends to obscure the real data, from my perspective as an SEO.

Implement major synonyms and similar terms

We have already given a good example of this. If we have titled our article using “balanced budget,” we should also find a way to include “deficit reduction” in the title, or if that is not possible, include a discussion of that in the post in a prominent way. That’s a good start, and that was one I was able to think of off the top of my head. How can I find more?

Go back to the keyword tool and uncheck the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box, and repeat your search. Here is what you get for “balanced budget:”

Note the two items I circled. Two strong additional terms have emerged. Can I work a reference to a budget surplus or fiscal responsibility into my article? Once again, as we showed with the head terms, strong synonyms will feed a solid long tail.

Understand the chunky middle

The rationale here is the same: a solid chunky middle will feed a fat tail. Looking back at our “deficit reduction” screen shot we can some examples of chunky middle terms:

These are three great phrases that you might want to include in the article.

Leverage the long tail

The best way to leverage the long tail of search in your post writing can be summarized as follows:

  1. Pick the right head term.
  2. Find major synonyms and closely related terms.
  3. Selectively leverage the chunky middle.

But, the most important thing is not to lose sight of the main task, which is to create great engaging content. Don’t let keyword research be the “tail that wags the dog.” Do some selective keyword research as outlined above, write a great article, and you will surely leverage the long tail effectively, and not had to spend three extra hours doing it.

Also, if you use contract writers, make sure you keep them focused on writing high quality content as well. One of the dangers with providing keyword instructions to a writer before they begin writing an article is that it can bend their mind, and they start writing low quality articles no human wants to read. If you are using writers that can’t maintain that focus then consider replacing them. Another alternative is to not give them the keyword info and have that added in during editing the article after the first draft is written.

Are you leveraging the long tail of search on your blog?

Eric Enge is the President of Stone Temple Consulting, a 20 person SEO and PPC consulting firm with offices in Boston and Northern California. Eric is a crusty old veteran with 30 years working experience in technology and the Internet. STC provides Strategic SEO and PPC services to companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

Blogosphere Trends + Readability Scoring

Do you know your blog’s readability score? If not, there are several ways to find out. But before you go calculating, let’s talk about why you should even care.

For starters, the average American adult reads at a level between eighth and ninth grade, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey. Other nations’ results vary but many are in the same neighborhood. So if you’re writing on a twelfth-grade level, you are not reaching some segments of the population (which is why many government-regulated documents must have readability scores that indicate they can be read and understood by most people).

That’s not necessarily a bad thing and, depending on your target readership, might even be a good thing, but there are some advantages to simplifying: increased sharing, a bigger audience, and possibly better SEO.

Blogger and “social media scientist” Dan Zarrella’s research found that posts written for lower grade levels were shared more often on Facebook—with those written on a second-grade level being shared about 40% more often than those written on a twelfth-grade level. (Look, I’m not saying this isn’t a little depressing, I’m just stating facts. We all know that one of the Internet’s most popular sites is called “I Can Has Cheezburger?”)

Way back in 1954, a fascinating (seriously) book called Know Your Reader: The Scientific Approach to Readability cited multiple studies and experiments in which changing the reading level of published material increased readership by as much as 50%.

The fact is, the more readable your text, the more people you can reach.

Ever since Google implemented its reading level feature late last year, there have been rumors that your site’s categorization (basic, intermediate, or advanced) may be impacting your search engine rankings. I’m not an expert on SEO but what I can tell you for sure is that, at the very least, Google users now have the option of limiting their search results to a specific reading level and filtering out the rest.

Those are the arguments for keeping your reading level basic, but ultimately, you ought to be writing for your readers, not for some formula. Take your readers’ ages, backgrounds, and interests into account. At the last magazine I worked for, there was a woman on staff who personified our publication’s demographic, so when I finished a story, I’d ask myself, “What would Betsy think?” You can do the same by imagining your ideal or average reader while you write, and using readability scores occasionally to see if you’re hitting the mark.

When you decide you do want to see where your blog is sitting, there are a few tools you can use.

  • To use Google’s reading level feature, do an advanced search for site:thenameofyoursite.com (that’s the word “site”, then a colon with no spaces, then your blog’s URL without the “http://www.” part), and be sure you have selected “Annotate results with reading levels” under the “Need more tools?” heading. A couple of words of caution about Google’s tool: It doesn’t give you a grade level, just categorizes your site by basic, intermediate, or advanced. ProBlogger.net, for example, is 44% basic, 55% intermediate, 0% advanced. Also, be aware that it may take the text of your comments into account when evaluating your site.
  • If you use Microsoft Word to write posts, you can check readability easily. Go to “Preferences,” then “Spelling and Grammar,” and you’ll see a checkbox under “Grammar” that says “Show readability statistics.” I use this often. The advantage over Google is the handiness of it and the ability to evaluate a single post. Plus, it gives you the average number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, characters per word, and percentage of passive sentences.
  • The first readability formulas were written back in the 1920s. Now, according to Wikipedia, there are literally hundreds, each taking different factors into account and, thus giving you different scores. My favorite, at least by name, is McLaughlin’s SMOG formula, where SMOG stands for Simple Measure of Gobbledygook. (If you really want to geek out and learn about the most popular ones, Wikipedia’s Readability page is a great start.) That’s why I like sites that provide multiple scores at once. AddedBytes has a great readability calculator as does online-utility.org. Both allow you to analyze specific text rather than a whole site.

To get a sense of what different grade levels look like and the results you’ll get, let’s take a quick look at the scores of posts about the month’s most-blogged-about topics, according to Regator: (they are, in order, Osama bin Laden, Royal Wedding, Birth Certificate, Easter, Donald Trump, PlayStation Network, Lady Gaga, Tornadoes, Libya, and Japan).

The Daily Beast’s “Osama Bin Laden’s Death Exposes the Price of Torture
Google site info:
19% basic, 80% intermediate, <1% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease (according to Microsoft Word): 47.3 (scale of 1-100, where 100 is easiest)
Grade level
(the AddedBytes calculator, which averages five types of scoring, was used): 11.36

PopEater’s “Celebrities Tweet Like Crazy About the Royal Wedding
Google site info: 88% basic, 11% intermediate, <1% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
62.2 Grade level: 6.92

Fast Company
’s “How To Make Skeptics Believe Obama’s Birth Certificate Is Authentic
Google site info:
19% basic, 79% intermediate, 1% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
30.8 Grade level: 14.62

Makes and Takes
’s “A Wee Enchanted Garden and Easter Bunny Napkin Holders
Google:
No data
Flesch Reading Ease:
74.8 Grade level: 7.1

The Gothamist
’s “Is Trump’s “Campaign” Over Before It Even Officially Began?
Google site info:
59% basic, 40% intermediate, <1% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
56.0 Grade level: 10.46

L.A. Times Technology Blog
’s “Sony’s websites may be next target for hackers, report says
Google site info:
15% basic, 84% intermediate, <1% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
45.8 Grade level: 11.32

Perez Hilton
’s “GaGa’s Monster Ball Breaks Record For Debut Headlining Artist!
Google site info:
94% basic, 4% intermediate, <1% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
62.9 Grade level: 6.38

Daily
Intel’s “Death Toll From Tornado Outbreak Reaches 300
Google site info:
17% basic, 82% intermediate, <1% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
56.6 Grade level: 9.92

Econbrowser
’s “Saudi oil production and the Libyan conflict
Google site info:
1% basic, 78% intermediate, 19% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
55.9 Grade level: 9.68

ScienceDaily
’s “NASA technology looks inside Japan’s nuclear reactor
Google site info:
<1% basic, 29% intermediate, 70% advanced
Flesch Reading Ease:
24.5 Grade level: 12.06

Now that you get a sense of what these scores can tell you, will you be testing your blog? Let us know in the comments!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator, a site that curates the best of the blogosphere, as well as an award-winning print journalist. Reach her on Twitter @kimber_regator and get free widgets for your blog from Regator.

How to Select Good SEO Keywords

This guest post is by Jeremy Myers of TillHeComes.org.

The problem with good keywords is that they are usually not words at all. Good SEO keywords are usually phrases, that is, two or more words strung together in a saying or idea. When you enter keywords into your meta keywords section, don’t use words, use phrases.

Why? I’ll give you two reasons.

1. There are too many single keywords

While you can use single-word keywords, you will be vying for position with the millions of other websites that also use the same keyword.

Let’s say, for example, you are writing a post about how to prepare a manuscript for ebook publishing. While you could use the keyword “ebook,” you will be up against the millions of other blog posts about ebooks, even if they are about ebook readers, ebook sales, or ebook marketing.

By lengthening your keyword into a keyword phrase, such as “ebook publishing,” or maybe even “prepare manuscript for ebook publishing,” you significantly narrow the field of competitive websites, which allows your page to rise higher in Google Search results for that phrase.

Reason 2. Nobody searches for single keywords

When was the last time you searched for something on Google using only one word? That’s right: never.

If you are searching for ebook publishing tips, you don’t search for “ebook” or for “publishing.” Both are too broad. Instead, you search for the complete phrase, “ebook publishing tips.” If that is how you search for relevant sites, then that is also how you should write and prepare your own pages and posts so others can find your sites.

Boost relevance using Google Insights for Search

One helpful site I use to search for relevant keyword phrases to use in my blog posts is Google Insights for Search.

At the top of the page, you enter the single keyword or keyword phrase that you’d like to write a post about. You can choose options including a geographical area of the world you want to focus on, or which timeframe you are interested in, and then hit Search.

Google Insights

Here is a brief video from Google about what Google Insights can do.

Let’s look a little deeper into how you can use Google Insights for Search to write blog posts around a central keyword or phrase. Let us say, for example, you wanted to write a post on the “top blogs.” If you entered “top blogs” as a search term, and did not change anything else, you would discover that since 2004, the interest in searches related to “top blogs” has been steadily increasing.

This is good news! You have hit on a rising trend which might make a good blog post or, better yet, blog series.

Interest over time

But Google Insights also provides you with a list of related keywords and key phrases that people have been searching for on Google, as well as keyword trends:

Top searches

The phrase you originally searched for, “top blogs,” does not appear to be the best choice of keywords. Better and more popular phrases appear on the left, with breakout trends on the right. As indicated, the word “breakout” means that over the timespan chosen, this keyword has trended by 5000% or more.

Choose a few of the phrases or words that are most popular or are trending upward, and write your post focusing on those terms. As the picture below shows, you might be better off focusing on terms like “top blog,” “the top blogs,” “best blogs 2010,” or “best design blogs.”

However—and this is crucial—this search, while helpful, does not show recent trending. Remember, it is using the default search criteria, which go all the way back to 2004. You want more recent trends to understand current searches. So one thing you could do is adjust the timeframe filter, maybe to just the last 12 months, as shown in the picture below:

Reseraching "best blogs"

By adjusting the timeframe filter, you can get a bitter picture of what people are searching for more recently. As the following image shows, not much has changed except the top search phrase on the right. People want to know what the best blogs of 2011 were. Maybe you could write a blog post on that instead of the more generic idea of “best blogs.”

Refining the keyphrase

Let me give one final example.

Let’s say you are launching a blog about men’s health. Naturally, you want lots of visitors as soon as possible. So what sorts of posts would be best to start with? Let Google Insights for Search tell you. You would begin by leaving the keyword search field blank, and then change the filters to reflect a recent timeframe and the “Men’s Health” category.

Google Insights on "Men's health"

By doing this, you discover the most popular and upward trending search phrases on Google.

Google Insights search results

Men's Health top search results

It would appear that if you were launching a blog post on men’s health, you would be wise to do a series on vasectomies, androgen insensitivity, circumcision, and uncircumcision.

Hmm, I wonder why those search terms are popular? I’ll let you research that on your own … but not on your work computer—your boss may not understand!

Using Google Insights for Search to help select better keyword phrases will not automatically rocket your website to the top of Google Search results, but such a practice will help you write more targeted and focused articles, which over time will provide you with more readers.

Have you used Google Insights for Search yet? Share your experience in the comments below.

Jeremy Myers writes at www.tillhecomes.org. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

What is Google +1 … and What Does it Mean for Your Blog?

This guest post is by Jacob of BlogRevolter.com.

On March 30th, Google announced the release of its latest addition to the search engine, a small button called the +1. As with any Google announcement, there are always going to be implications—both great and not so great—for the average and professional blogger. Understanding the potential effect of Google’s new +1 feature can better help you prepare for the next six to twelve months of your blog.

What is Google’s +1?

In essence, Google’s +1 is a way for people to vote up the results in Google without making it appear like a Digg setup.

In other words, if someone likes the result that they found on Google, they hit the +1 button, then go on with their lives. When someone makes the same search that person made, they’ll see that there’s a +1 attached to the particular search result, and that, at least in Google’s eyes, will encourage them to click on that result.

Should you decide to allow your name to appear, people within your network will see that you, specifically, liked this result. But this last aspect is voluntary.

Why is Google’s +1 important?

For some time now, Google has been talking about how social media and social networking is going to directly tie in with search engine optimization. It used to be that we just built a bunch of links to rank for keywords. But, what I’ve noticed as a SEO is that other aspects are becoming increasingly important, including how a site deals with social media.

We can tie this increased reliance on social media to Google’s quest to provide the absolute best results possible. Here’s an example.

Darren Rowse runs this site about how to make money blogging. He’s got 173,000 readers via RSS, 128,000 Twitter followers, and nearly 23,000 people who like his Facebook group. In other words, he has a ton of readers.

Now, you’re Google and you’re trying to figure out who to position as the top results for the keyword “Professional Blogger.” Sure, someone might have a ton of backlinks, all containing that anchor text, to back up the claim that they deserve the number one result.

But how does Google know that those backlinks are genuine and not, say, purchased? It doesn’t.

The only way for them to truly know if that website is considered an “authority” is to see what people believe. And what better way to do that than track how Darren is doing in the social media and networking world?

The implications of Google’s +1 for bloggers

I look at this update as a powerful move for bloggers. Because we are taught that we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket, we’ve all been focusing on social media, search engine optimization, and other aspects to bring traffic to our blogs.

Now that social media is, in part, connecting to search engine optimization, the amount of work that we do now doubles for both social media growth and search engine growth. But, there is still more to it than that.

Google will be releasing a button similar to the Facebook Like button. And if you click the +1 button, you’ll have automatically given your vote to that search result. You are saying to Google, “Yes, I like this.” And the search engine will remember that.

What this means, as a blogger, is that you need to produce the highest level of quality that you can. If others are getting that +1 and you’re not, are you going to be missing out on potential search rank? I’d say that you are.

If Google believes that it is important enough to create a new button and include it on their SERPs, they are definitely going to take it into consideration when trying to decide which site to put as number one. And, if it’s a difference of +1s that determine who should be first, I’d wager everything that the person with more +1 votes will get the number one ranking.

Since 34% of people click the first result first, and the second to fourth results get less than 34% of the clicks, total, it’s very important to get that number one rank.

How to get ready

Since it was just announced on the 30th, this is obviously a component that will take some time to roll out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be getting ready for its complete implementation. Here are a few steps to getting prepared.

  1. First, ensure that you are publishing content that is high quality. No longer can you get away writing garbage content, or ripping content from other sites. Google’s Panda Update slammed people with this kind of content and no one will give you a +1 for it.
  2. Second, play around with it yourself when you start seeing it pop up. If you head over to Google’s experimental page, you can join the experiment and be put into the program to start working with it.
  3. Third, don’t start abusing it. One of the things that I think will play a major role in the success of +1 is who’s voting with it. If it’s the same few people, Google might not give those votes as much credit as other pages that get votes from random people. So, don’t start searching for every article you wrote to give it a +1.

Google’s +1 is not a social network, per se. However, it is a voting system that will give Google a better idea of what content people like and don’t like. And, when they release the button for inclusion on your web pages, you’ll have the chance to encourage your readers to +1 your site.

With Google’s love for social media growing, this is definitely an important step in your blog’s growth. How do you see +1 affecting your blog?

Jacob is a 22 year old SEO who works in Manhattan. When not managing SEO for a company, he works on his own network including BlogRevolter.com. He discusses topics such as link building and blog monetization. He is giving away a free ebook on how to get people to your website as well as how to keep them there. Be sure to follow him on Facbook.

Google’s Panda Update—the Lessons I Learned

This guest post is by Kevin Sanders, of strongandfit.net.

Things were going well over at my fitness blog. I was not an A-lister, but traffic was steadily increasing.

I was starting to get ranked for several lower competition keywords. Organic traffic was improving. Then suddenly my search engine traffic dropped dramatically.

I was apparently one of the casualties of Google’s so-called Panda update. I’m guessing it’s because about 10% of my website’s content was re-posted. I wasn’t just mindlessly copying and pasting a bunch of content for the sake of content. I only posted stuff I considered valuable to my readers—and I only ever post articles with permission of the original author. Regardless, it seems this was enough to have my blog slapped with the “content farm” label.

I’ve bowed to the Google gods and removed the “duplicate content.” Maybe I’ll recover my SERP rank, maybe not. Based on what I’m reading, no one has successfully recovered from the Panda meltdown once his or her site has been affected—I think it will take some time for Google to re-crawl sites reassess sites.

But I’ve learned some important lessons from this. Some lessons are new, while others just reinforce what I’ve already learned.

Lesson #1: Never become over-dependent on one source of traffic

The algorithm change has affected my site, but it hasn’t destroyed it. That’s because I use several methods for driving traffic to my site. Staying active on forums, for example, has been one of my favorite strategies I’ve spent a little more time on forums in lately in light of the Google issue.

Lesson #2: Blog as if no one is reading

Blog as if everyone is reading. Here’s what I mean: I love lifting weights, and fitness in general. I enjoy blogging about it, regardless of how many (or few) read my posts. This passion has kept me going in spite of the setback. But I always want to make sure I’m producing high-quality, useful posts—just as if thousands would be reading.

Lesson #3: Look to other bloggers for help

I’m not an SEO guru—not by a long shot! But there are several bloggers out there who are experts in this particular discipline. These blogs have been especially valuable in learning what adjustments I need to make to my site, and why. But this tip is not limited to search engine algorithms—you can apply it to almost any issue you have in blogging. Always be open to learn from your fellow bloggers.

Lesson #4: Try to keep an eye on search engine news and anything else that may affect your blog

I didn’t realize there was an update until after my traffic was affected. I later learned Google had already warned us about the coming changes—I just wasn’t paying attention. I’m not sure I could have changed the outcome, but I would have responded sooner if I had known.

Again, this is a tip that applies to other aspects of blogging—keep an eye on anything that has the potential to affect your blog. I’m not suggesting you be reactionary in your approach to blogging. But a general awareness of things can help you make informed decisions.

I’m still learning about websites/blogs you can use to follow search engine trends. I’ll give you a few suggestions, and maybe you can recommend others in the comments:

  • SEO-Hacker.com is a blog I’ve mentioned before. I like the simplified approach to explaining SEO, and this blog has a few articles about Panda.
  • SEO Roundtable is a very helpful blog I ran across while trying to make sense of all this Panda update stuff. This blogger actually keeps an eye on forums and gives you a feel for what bloggers and webmasters are talking about.
  • The Google Webmaster Help YouTube Channel is another one to keep your eye on. You’ll be able to hear direct answers from Google representative Matt Cutts here.

Hang in there if you’ve also been affected by the changes at Google. Learn from the challenges and you’ll become a better blogger in the end. If you have a Panda experience to share, or some tips to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Kevin is a missionary, author and fitness enthusiast. You can check out his fitness tips at strongandfit.net. You can read his devotional thoughts and personal reflections at KuyaKevin.com.

The Unsexy Truth about Finding Traffic for Your Blog

Last week I tweeted that I’d not checked my Google Reader account in a month. Well, it turns out that I’m not the only one.

Within minutes, I started getting tweets back from others saying that they rarely check their RSS feeds any more. Instead, people were finding content from other sources including:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Paper.li
  • email subscriptions
  • apps (some drew in RSS feeds, but others were recommendation engines)

The decline of RSS?

It struck me just how much things have changed over the last two or three years.

It wasn’t long ago that bloggers were promoting their RSS feeds above all other methods of subscribing to their blogs. Email was dead and RSS was going to be the number one way that people would connect with you.

RSS does continue to drive traffic (at least, my Feedburner stats seem to indicate that) but as I look at my own statistics to see where people are arriving on my sites from, the percentage of those coming from RSS/Feedburner seems to be on the decline. The decline is only slight, but in comparison to the steady increases I saw a few years back, it’s been declining (as a percentage of overall traffic) for me, at least.

Fluctuations in social media traffic

What I do notice is that some sources of traffic fluctuate quite a bit from year to year.

For example, different social media sites have been rather inconsistent. Some months, Twitter can be good, but other months it can be down. Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, and other social media sites have provided great influxes of traffic at times; other months, they’re very low.

Some of the traffic levels will depend on the types of content we’re writing, but in other cases, it’s more to do with the rise or decline of the sites themselves (for example, Digg seems to have suffered a lot lately).

Overall, I’ve seen traffic levels from Twitter and Facebook rise, but this has varied from month to month, and despite quite a bit of effort in building my network, the percentage of my overall traffic coming from social media has been relatively small (less than 10%).

Steady growth in…

So RSS seems to be in decline (for me) and social media traffic has been fluctuating … but overall traffic has been continuing to grow.

So what is performing? Is there some new, sexy form of traffic that I’ve been focusing on?

I’m afraid not. If anything, the traffic sources that I’m seeing steadily grow have been a little, well, retro. There are two of them:

  1. Email. I keep seeing people talk about how they’re giving up on email, and that it’s a technology that’s dying, but I’m just not seeing that. Perhaps those at the cutting edge are giving it up, but “normal” people certainly aren’t. It’s increasing the traffic to my sites through newsletters, and continues to bring conversions when it comes to sales.
  2. Search Engines. Also regularly reported is that search engines are under threat from social media as more and more people use social media sites to search and find content to read. I’ve no doubt that there’s some truth to that, but search engines are by no means dead. Again, “normal” people still head to Google to find content. I’ve not put a lot of time into SEO or particularly targeted search traffic, but one of the side-effects of adding daily content to a blog is that you naturally build up the pages being indexed by search engines, so search traffic will naturally grow.

Conclusions

By no means am I suggesting that social media isn’t worth your time and effort, or that you should kill your RSS feeds and solely focus your attention on email or SEO. These observations are my own, from my four blogs, and they may not be typical.

I think the key take-aways for me are these:

  • Do some analysis of your own traffic and where it’s coming from. Doing this analysis myself today has challenged me to think about how much time and energy I do put into social media, and whether it’s really paying off as much as if I’d made other choices for my focus!
  • Don’t throw all your efforts into just the new, “sexy” forms of marketing (like social media). They have incredible potential, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
  • Keep in mind that the average internet user doesn’t always know and use new technology like the social-media savvy bloggers that you and I are. It’ll vary from niche to niche, but good old email and search engines might be good places to focus your efforts!

I’d love to hear some analysis of your own sites’ traffic sources. Have you seen any shifts in the sources of your traffic? Do they correlate with where you put your time and energy when it comes to marketing?