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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.

How I Increased Facebook Reach and Engagement by 200-300% This Week

Note: This post has been updated with fresh examples including our most seen post ever.

Over the last week I’ve been putting a renewed effort into working with Facebook after listening to a session by Amy Porterfield at our ProBlogger Training Event last week.

While our Digital Photography School Facebook Page is something that I update every day with new posts (and it does pretty decently with engagement and driving traffic). Based on some of Amy’s teaching (you can hear them in the virtual ticket) I decided to mix things up and this week I’ve experimented with a few new types of status updates on the page.

Aside: much of what I actioned I already knew I should be doing (or that I’d done once or twice before)… but wasn’t actually actioning regularly. Isn’t that always the way?!

Here are some of the things I’ve experimented with this week:

Image Posts

I’ve long known that images are GOLD on Facebook and have played around with status updates that are a great image from a blog post and a link in the image description. However, truth be told, I get lazy at times and fall into the trap of just adding a link into the status update area and let Facebook pull in an image automatically from the post.

This week I decided to pull my finger out and stop with the laziness and play with a couple of types of image updates. In doing so I realised that the ‘good’ results we’d been getting previously with Facebook pulling in small images from our post meant that we were well and truly under performing.

Single Image Updates

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 9.57.47 AM.png

Here’s an example of one of these. I chose a visually striking image from this blog post and uploaded the photo to Facebook. I then added a description of the image and a call to action to read the post.

The post got a higher than normal number of likes and shares and drove some really decent traffic to the site.

Collages

I’ve never done ‘collage’ based image updates on Facebook before so this was a very new experiment for me. I’m glad I did it. I used a free web based app called Pic Monkey to create these collages which were a collection of images from blog posts. Here are some examples:

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.01.30 AM.png
This status update was our most popular this week. It was a collage of 16 images that came from this blog post from our archives. This was a popular post that I knew had done well on Facebook last year so I thought it might be a good one to experiment with. You can see it received over 850 likes, 502 shares and had quite a few comments. It ‘reached’ over 80,000 people.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 04 21 AM

I was a little surprised by the above collage update. It was a collection of images from this blog post but I almost didn’t publish it as it wasn’t the most visually appealing collage. The post was quite technical and contained diagrams but no stunning photos. However, you can see that the update also did quite well with loads of likes and shares and driving a lot of traffic.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 09 00 AM

This collage was simply an image and a diagram that showed how the image was lit. In some ways the image actually was a ‘how to’ in and of itself and people didn’t need to click the link in the image description to put the tip into place – but they did click!

I experimented with a variety of other types of collages and they all did well. See a couple more examples here and here.

Albums

I’ve used this strategy in the past to great effect. Instead of uploading a single image or pulling multiple images from a post together into a collage, I upload multiple images into their own ‘album’.

You can see an example of one of these albums here (I literally uploaded this a few minutes ago but it’s already getting lots of likes) – it is just 6 images from a larger image collection post on my blog.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 21 47 AM

Interestingly you not only get people liking, commenting and sharing the whole albumin, you also get engagement on the individual photos in the album.

See other examples of albums that I’ve created in the past here and here.

Interaction Updates

Another style of update that I’ve always done because it gets a lot of comments and engagement is where I ask a simple question.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 45 25 AM

By asking followers what they took photos of we not only get lots of comments but many of those who respond actually upload photos for us to see too. That simple actions gets followers looking at each others photos and commenting/liking upon each others comments (true engagement).

Link Updates

While I’ve tried this week to use ‘image’ updates more than I had previously I am still sharing a few ‘link’ based updates as well.

Facebook have recently changed the way that they display these so that now if you have a large image in the post you’re linking to Facebook displays a larger wider version of that image in the update, making it more visually appealing. Here’s an example of one of these.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 50 19 AM

While the engagement on this type of post isn’t as high I have noticed since Facebook made the change, we’re getting a bit more traffic from these updates as well as a higher number of ‘likes’.

The one tip I’d give on these types of updates is that rather than just pasting in your link and letting Facebook choose what text to display add in an introduction and call to action to read the post.

The Impact of this Weeks Experiments

It’s always a little tricky to tell exactly what impact these experiments have as Facebook made other changes in the last few weeks that will have had an impact too. However, we’ve definitely seen an upswing in engagement this past 10 days.

Here’s Facebook’s summary of our last week (click to enlarge):

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 11.17.01 AM.png

Page likes were up 17.7% on last week, total reach was up by over 200%, post reach up by over 300% and engagement up to just under 300%. Considering that the page was already travelling pretty well – I’m over the moon to see these initial results from these experiments.

Here’s a chart of our page’s ‘likes’ in the last few months:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 05 13 AM

Where a few weeks ago we were seeing a steady 100-300 likes per day this past week we’ve seen that rise to 700-1000 per day.

Similarly the stats are pretty clearly on the rise in terms of likes, comments and shares on posts this past week:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 07 47 AM

As has been ‘total reach’:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 08 49 AM

And the traffic to my blog has seen some improvement (although not the same spikes as we see on the above charts).

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 14 42 AM

Lastly, here is a screenshot of the last few days stats on each status update that we’ve done (click to enlarge). You can see in it most of the examples I’ve given above to show you how well they did with ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 11.11.46 AM.png

UPDATE

Since publishing this post we’ve seen a result on a status update that has us shaking our head – our most seen update ever. It has been seen by over 135,000 people, liked 2100+ times, received 180+ comments and shared 805 times in the last 8 hours.

Here it is:

our hottest post on facebook

The update was based upon images in this post on the blog (which was a popular post that we published several years ago).

I think the update has been so successful for a few reasons:

  1. Collage Image – as outlined above – collages have been doing well for us. This one has the added benefit of being pretty much self contained and the image is a ‘how to’ by itself without anyone having to go view the post (although they’ve been visiting in great numbers). I do find that these kind of ‘how to’ or illustrative images do well not only on Facebook but also sites like Pinterest.
  2. Humour – the original post on the blog was quite funny with the author making fun of her bottom being shown in image #2. This has certainly been a feature of some of the comments left on the post. Humor works!
  3. Question – when I scheduled this status update I formatted the description of the image as a question. In fact I asked it twice. ‘Do You Know these 6 Techniques to Reduce Camera Shake?’ and ‘Which do you use?’ People are wired to answer questions – hence the high comment numbers. Effectively I’m combining the ‘image’ strategy’ and the ‘interaction’ strategies mentioned above.
  4. Engagement has been high on the page this past week. I suspect one underlying factor is that we’ve been seeing good engagement on the page this past week due to the above experiments. When you get engagement people are more likely to see your new posts – so anyone who has liked/commented/shared this past week is likely to have seen this post.

DISCUSS: Which Social Network Sends Your Blog the Most Traffic?

At PBEVENT last week I was having lunch with a group of 5 bloggers from quite different niches and for a few minutes the conversation centred around the topic of which social media sites send us the most traffic.

We went around the circle and shared the top sources of social media traffic for our blogs and it was fascinating to hear how for different blogs and niches the answer changed.

I thought it might make an interesting discussion post here on ProBlogger (and might help some of us to work out where to invest more time into social.

Social media traffic

While traffic isn’t the only benefit of engaging on social – I know for many bloggers it’s a big reason to be engaging in social.

So here are my 2 questions for discussion:

  1. what is your blog’s niche/topic?
  2. what social media site/s sends your blog the most traffic?

Let me quickly answer for my two main blogs:

For Digital Photography School

  1. the niche is obviously ‘photography tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was clearly Facebook with Pinterest coming in at number 2 (but not even close to what Facebook sent).

For ProBlogger

  1. the niche is ‘blogging tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was again Facebook – but Twitter came in as a closer 2nd.

Aside: I was actually a little surprised by the result for ProBlogger because last time I checked Twitter was the #1 and I do put more effort into building a presence on the ProBlogger Twitter account than on our Facebook Page (we also have a lot more engagement and larger following numbers on Twitter). It looks like I might need to rethink my focus a little!

6 Essential Twitter Tools to Find and Connect With Influencers

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell, blogger at Bloggingwizard.com.

In the following post you’re going to discover a wide range of powerful and useful tools that will help you find and connect with the influencers on Twitter.

There have been a lot of great posts here on ProBlogger, a few of the best ones can be found here, here and here.

I’m going to be taking a different look at what is possible on Twitter.

This isn’t going to be just another list of tools that you can use to manage your Twitter profile – we are going to be talking about how to identify and connect with influencers in within your niche.

Before I dive in, I want to give you some background information on why you need to find and connect with influencers within your niche.

Influence Marketing

Influence marketing is all about identifying who has influence within your industry or niche and market directly to them.

Think about it like this, there are influencers within most niches or industries on the web and they have an existing audience so the ultimate aim of using these tools is that you will be able to tap into that audience and use it to market your blog.

You can use other platforms to find and connect with influencers, but ultimately Twitter influencer marketing is much more straight forward and there are enough tools on the market to help you.

Please note that there are an enormous number of tools available that can be used for influencer research and an even larger number of tools for Twitter in general – this is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Twitter Influencer Research Tools

1. Simply Measured

Simply Measured influencer tool

Simply Measured is a social analytics tool that will give you access to an incredible range of reporting and data collection tools.

At first glance, their subscriber toolset is quite expensive, but they do have an impressive range of free reports that you can have access too. They’re not just limited to Twitter either. Some of them include LinkedIn, Facebook, Vine, Google Analytics and more.

There is even a report that gives you a detailed combination of analytics that incorporates both Twitter and Klout data.

Simply Measured’s reporting tools will allow you to identify exactly who has the most influence among your network of followers.

This will tell you who you need to connect with and build relationships with.

2. Twtrland

Twitterland influencer tool Twtrland is an incredible social intelligence research tool that works with Twitter and Instagram. It excels at allowing you to easily find influencers and find market insights.

There is a free option and premium option ($19.99 per month), even the free account is still incredible powerful but you just won’t be able to export reports and lists.

There are a few other restrictions but one of the reasons why I like this is that you can still actually use the free account, most free accounts are restricted to the point where it is pointless even using (and then you subscribe of course).

You will get some interesting data about your Twitter account, but what you’re looking for here is to look at the follower’s analysis.

There is an immediate breakdown of the demographics of your Twitter followers – top followers, countries, cities and skills of your followers but the real fun stuff happens when you click ‘browse all’.

Twitter Land influencer tool

Next, tick the ‘power user’ option under Typecast, select your metrics, skills and other demographics – this will show you an incredible list of all of the people that you need to reach out to and connect with.

3. InkyBee

Inky Bee influencer tool

InkyBee is positioned as a blogger outreach tool but it also excels at finding market influencers.

Whether you’re doing blogger outreach or influencer research, the process is the same.

Add a ‘list’ and name it as the market you’re searching for influencers in then add a discovery job by inputting 3 different terms that you would imagine influencers to talk about in a single blog post.

InkyBee will go out and find blogs from all over the web that fit your search terms and pull in some really useful data that is outlined in the image above.

You can order them by different metrics and then export to PDF or Excel documents too.

The way I usually use InkyBee is to find influencers but also gather data of other influencers that I have discovered using different tools because you can manually add lists of blogs.

5. Commun.it

Commun.it influencer tool

Commun.it is a great tool that can separate out your followers and people you follow into a number of different categories while giving you the tools you need to help build and maintain valuable relationships.

The influencer research is essentially done for you because one of the categories just so happens to be influencers; along with supporters and engaged members.

You can use this to follow and continue to connect with these users and continue to build powerful relationships.

One of the difficulties that people sometimes have is what to do next, who do you respond to? Who do you follow? Who do you engage with?

Commun.it actually lists these all out in a straight forward dashboard so you don’t need to leave the page and go into another Twitter management tool.

5. Followerwonk

Followwonk influencer tool

Followerwonk is bundled in with Moz Pro so it does mean that is a paid tool starting at $99 per month but it also means access to some really helpful tools that go beyond Twitter and even social media.

You can do a bunch of different things like compare users, track who is following you, analyse and sort followers but where this really helps with influencer research is the search function.

Just search for a phrase that is particular to your market and you’ll get a huge list of Twitter users that you can export to Excel and then filter by social authority and the number of followers they have (along with a bunch of other helpful data).

6. Twellow

Twellow influencer tool Twellow is essentially a database of Twitter users arranged by a variety of categories and then by the number of followers a user has.

You can then dive deeper and view a user’s profile which pulls in social profiles along with their website.

There is a search function too so you can find users that talk about the exact topic that you’re looking for.

This platform does revolve mostly around the number of followers a user has, the metrics aren’t much more complex than that but it’s still a huge database that makes users easy to find in various niches.

The important thing to remember is that just because someone has a lot of followers, doesn’t mean they get a lot of engagement; this is why I like to search Twellow for users with websites and add them to InkyBee to get some more comprehensive data.

Summary

You may have noticed that I haven’t listed Klout or Kred as one of the Twitter influencer research tools, and I have my reasons for that.

I have found that these tools are better at monitoring my own influence within particular verticals, rather than finding other influencers. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but as bloggers we only have a finite amount of time to spend on certain tasks so we need to focus on using the right tools for the job at hand.

There are a lot more tools that you could use for this too, but the idea of this post is to make things easier for you, and I haven’t found every tool on the market yet.

So I’ll put the question to you – which influencer tools are you using right now?

I’d love to hear more in the comments below, whether you use them for Twitter or any other social platform.

Adam Connell is the operations manager at UK Linkology. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com, where he talks about marketing, social media, SEO and a few other topics. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.

Social Media: What’s it Good For?

Does social media drive sales?

I’ve been asked this question quite a few times lately from business owners trying to get their head around how to use social media in their online marketing mix. Many of them tell me that they don’t see a direct return on investment from their use of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

In response, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on how social media benefits what I do. Keep in mind,  there’s no right or wrong way to use social media. I know of many online and offline businesses that use social media very differently.

For me Social Media is NOT Primarily about Direct Selling

Perhaps the biggest thing that I can say about how I’ve come to use social media is that I don’t see it as a primary avenue for selling.

I know some online businesses see substantial sales generated directly through their social media pages. In most cases, it is through offering coupons or running discounting sales. That said, the tests I’ve run have not seen a great deal of success.

In contrast, I see the vast majority of our sales of eBooks and events to be the result of our email marketing.

In a recent eBook launch, here’s a break down of where sales came from:

Screen Shot 2013 06 11 at 9 37 08 AM

Interestingly, over the 4 week launch of that eBook we sent/posted:

  • 4 sales emails
  • 3 blog posts
  • 17 Tweets
  • 5 Facebook Status Updates
  • 3 Pinterest Pins
  • 2 LinkedIn Updates
  • 3 Google Plus Updates

As you can see, we promoted the eBook quite a few times to our social networks. Those social networks have a combined reach of over 350,000.

In the same time we sent 4 emails (to around 700,000 people). The ‘return’ on sending a handful of emails far outweighed the effort in social.

That’s not to say we will stop doing sales related updates on social media – (there are ways to use it to sell) – it just isn’t our primary sales avenue.

Social Media – What is it Good For?

So social media hasn’t generated as many direct sales as other channels, and my business relies upon sales to be sustainable, so what is it good for?

I do invest a fair amount of time (and some money) into social media but for me, it is not a direct sales strategy.

Rather social media is largely about:

  • Building the Brand – by being useful, telling stories, answering questions, giving glimpses behind the scenes
  • Building Community and Engagement – asking and answering questions, listening to feedback, supporting the goals of those you connect with
  • Building Trust and Credibility – by showing you know what you’re talking about and an understanding of the niche you operate in
  • Driving Traffic – sharing links to new content (and highlighting the best bits in the archives)

By building a presence in places like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn (and more you) you create relationships with and create impressions upon those you connect with.

Those relationships may not directly lead to a sale but they have other powerful outcomes.

They all have an indirect long term positive impact upon the the bottom line of your business. In many ways, by building brand, engagement, trust and driving traffic you are building the foundations of a strong relationship. Once the time for selling comes, you’re much more likely to see a conversion at some point.

They also make business a lot more satisfying and fun to run!

What is Your Posting Rhythm to Social Media?

social-media-update-frequencyLast week I was on a panel discussing social media at a conference here in Australia and a question from the floor asked about how often is ideal to post to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest?

I was fascinated to hear the range of answers we gave as panelists and I thought it might be a good discussion to have here on ProBlogger.

What frequency do you publish to the social networks that you’re active on?

I’ll kick things off:

Facebook Pages: On the dPS Facebook page I try to update 3-4 times a day with posts spread out over a 24 hour cycle. I find if I do it too much more regularly that the posts don’t get as much engagement.

Twitter: On my ProBlogger Twitter account I find I can post at a higher frequency on Twitter as tweets tend to have a shorter life. Having said that most of my tweets are done live when I have something to say (and time to tweet).

Tweets go up automatically when I post a new post here on the blog or when a new job goes up on the Job Boards and I’ll often share another link to a blog post 12 or so hours later. The rest of my tweets are more personal/conversational and not scheduled.

Pinterest: on the dPS Pinterest account I’ve employed Jade to update our board.

Google+: My Google+ account is something I don’t update with great frequency. I use it more when I want to test an idea that I’m thinking through, ask a question or share something I’m excited about.

As a result there are days when I might post 2-3 times and then it might be 2-3 days before I post again! My posts there can be as short as a link or up to 2000 words!

LinkedIn: I’m a dismal failure on LinkedIn. Status updates are largely new posts on the blog and automated. I feel like I could improve a lot in this area.

What about you? What’s your posting rhythm on to social media? Do you update them all the same or have different strategies for each one?

Google Hangouts: Turning Bloggers into Broadcasters

This is a guest contribution by Sarah Hill, the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network.

Blogging no longer has to be a text based conversation. Google+ has allowed bloggers to become broadcasters, adding a visual component to each blog post, and all you need to become a “Blogcaster” is a webcam, an internet connection, and Google+.

Understanding the Basics of Google+

Narrow-minded individuals have been quick to dismiss Google+, seeing another Facebook; however, the true functionality of Google+ goes beyond keeping up with friends. This platform offers a unique feature that allows you to live-stream face-to-face video chats to the masses through a feature known as Hangouts.

Google’s Hangout feature is unfolding into a product that is changing how people collaborate and learn, providing real users with the tools and information to accomplish real-world tasks, and the ability to display it for all to see via YouTube.

This free broadcast tower is deepening relationships between bloggers, businesses and personal users through face-to-face interaction, setting the social network apart from all others and creating a fresh way to experience the web.

Hangout Preparation

Starting a Hangout can be done in a few seconds, just by clicking the “Start a Hangout” button; however, before diving in head first, it is best to prepare.

When you start a Hangout for the first time, you will be prompted to install a quick plugin. All you need to do is download Google’s voice and video chat plugin, ensure you have a webcam with a microphone and a decent internet connection. Ethernet is preferred but I’ve done lots of Hangouts over Wifi and even 4G as well.

In addition, it is best to check your lighting and background beforehand to make sure people can clearly see your face.

Once you’re confident in the set up and have ran some practice Hangouts, it’s time to promote a live event.

Announce the hangout

First, create a Google+ public event announcement a few days to a couple weeks before your Hangout. You want to give users time and create awareness of the Hangout.

Set to stream the hangout

Also, when creating the Google+ Hangout, be sure to open a “Hangout on Air” as those Hangouts stream live on YouTube and are then automatically recorded to your YouTube channel after you hit “end broadcast”.

Promote your hangout

Next, build awareness by posting in related Google+ communities, as well as other social channels. Don’t stay only on Google+, but cross-pollinate your live event to all your social platforms. Also, consider using a specific hashtag for your event.

Over Memorial Day, Veterans United partnered with Google+, the 9/11 Memorial and Virtual Photo Walks for a live Hangout. We used #honortheheroes to promote it to the public. Search that hashtag for examples of how we promoted that event.

Becoming a Blogcaster

Hangouts fuel the possibility of bloggers to become blogcasters, allowing up to ten users to video chat at a time, with the ability to broadcast to the entire world through “Hangouts on Air.”

So what would you talk about when you host a Hangout?

What are you passionate about? Original ideas, quality content and social sharing are the goal, and if you are posting interesting, thought provoking content on a frequent basis, you have the ability to gain followers and grow your authority – and this is no different through Hangouts.

Common Hangout topics include education, interviews, product demonstration and, more recently, customer service. However, when blogging, consider taking your hottest blog post and invite other authorities in the space to join in on the Hangout panel, providing multiple angles on the topic.  This lengthens the life of your blog beyond just the initial post.

Preparation is a must. Put together a list of questions that you can ask members in the Hangout, know who is speaking, on what topic and how long. Also, be sure to keep the conversation flowing by having transition topics so that you don’t permit awkward downtime.

And, no matter what method is used when producing a Hangout, remember to monitor social channels, blog comments from people who couldn’t attend the Hangout. You should also point users toward a social feed that they can post questions, essentially making them a part of the Hangout as well.

As with blogging, when you engage with your users on a frequent basis, user interaction and discussion becomes much easier. With Hangouts, that interaction is deeper as it’s now face to face via webcam.

Claim Your Work

The larger your presence is on Google+, the more likely it is that Google will see you as an expert or authority in your personal niche. And, to ensure that you’re capturing all the authority given from your Hangouts – especially when you post the URL to another site – be sure to claim the content through Google+.

“Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman at Google, recently said that future rankings will be determined by verified author profiles,” said Matt Polsky, an organic search strategist. “If you haven’t realized it yet, authors are already verifying their content on Google+, which is more than enough of a reason to get started.”

As Matt said above, bloggers are already verifying their broadcasts and content, providing users with not only a picture snippet in search results, but with additional authority for your specialized niche – especially when you branch out and write for other authority publications.

To verify your content, you can add the rel=author tag to your Google+ link in your byline when you create and post content.

With some forethought, time, and effort, you can grow your online presence and authority so people can discover your content. Broadcasting isn’t just for TV stations anymore. If you have a blog, you too can become a Google+ blogcaster.

Have you already used a Hangout? What was your experience?

About the Author: Sarah Hill is the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network – a leading hub of news and advice on veteran and military issues. Connect with Sarah on Google+ to start a Hangout, or chat with her on Twitter.

How I Turned a Guest Post into 3 Million Visitors and Over 150,000 Social Media Shares

Yesterday, I shared a practical exercise for diving deeper into your blog’s analytics to discover how you can use the last month of blog action to plan for the future.

Today, I’d like to show you an example of just how powerful this discipline can be when it comes to building traffic to your site. In fact, this simple exercise led to a series of events that generated:

  • 3 million unique visitors
  • 131,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest
  • 25,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook
  • 19,000 RT’s on Twitter

It all started with a Guest Post Submission

This story all began in March of 2012 when I received an email through the contact form on dPS, outlining an idea for a guest post. The author wanted to write a post with some examples pictures of how to pose women for portraits.

I liked the idea and agreed that the author could write the post. He submitted it a couple of weeks later and I scheduled it to go live late on the 28th.

The post was titled Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You started with Photographing Women (note: on the blog it says ‘Part 1′ but at the time of publishing it was a stand alone post).

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Initial Results

I thought the post would do well as it was on a topic we’ve had good responses to in the past i.e. posing techniques. It was also an image based post, which we’ve had quite a bit of success with.

Four days later (on the first of April), when I was doing my ‘deep dive’ into Google Analytics, I was excited to see that the post had done very well indeed.

The day it was published the post had over 17,000 visitors, which was higher than an average post on its first day. Around 30% of that traffic was coming in from Facebook, which was surprising as I didn’t promote it on our own Facebook page until the day after.

The second day after publishing, the post saw around 8,000 visitors but day 3 saw it reach over 42,000 visitors.

This spike was partly due to the post being featured in our newsletter, which normally spikes traffic to the site, but that day also saw some great traffic from social media including StumbleUpon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the following few days it continued to do really well so by the time I did my analyse it had already received around 150,000 visitors – considerably higher than other posts on the site in their first week.

Other than the raw traffic numbers I was interested to see that:

  1. The number of sharing events the post was getting on Facebook, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. The post had some great visuals that seemed to stimulate this.
  2. The number of comments and emails we were getting from readers asking how to pose men and kids.

Building Momentum

I saw an opportunity and immediately emailed the author to see if he’d be interested in similar followup posts on posing men and children.

He had also noticed a spike in traffic to his own site as a result of the post, was keen to do more and immediately began work.

Within a week we published Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men.

This second post did about 75% of the traffic of the first post but the patterns were very similar. The difference was that we didn’t see traffic from StumbleUpon but instead saw it from Reddit.com

10 days later we published a Posing Guide for Photographing Children with very similar results.

While traffic wasn’t quite as spectacular on posts #2 and #3 they were still well and truly out performing most other posts on the site. Naturally, I commissioned the author to write more!

Post #4 was a Posing Guide for Photographing Couples is an interesting case study in and of itself because while it spiked in traffic over the first week it didn’t drive as much initial traffic. However, since publishing it last May it has gone on to become our most popular post ever on Pinterest and continues to drive great traffic to the site ever since.

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To this day, that post has over 83,000 ‘pins’ and has been visited just under half a million times in the last 12 months!

Over the coming months we published more followups in this series:

Each post has not only gone on to drive its own traffic but every time we post another addition to the series we see a surge of traffic to previous posts (as we interlink them all). So now, because we’ve published six followup posts in the series, our original post has received around 850,000 visitors and they’ve had over 2.5 million visits between them all.

Take Home Lessons

The take home lesson for me is it’s not only important to create useful content, you need to take note of what works. You also need to attempt to find ways to build momentum on your site and followup with more of the same!

While the traffic levels may not be the same as what we do on dPS (we have the benefit of having build decent traffic to the site since 2006) the same principles can apply for a blog at any level.

The success of this series of posts has generated a lot of future ideas for dPS. We’ve commissioned the author to create another series of posts (the first of which went live on the blog in the last hour) which will also include ‘real photos’ based upon the poses previously covered. This was something we had requests for in the previous series of posts so I’m hoping it goes well.

How LinkedIn Groups can Explode your Blog Traffic

A Guest Contribution from Fiona Hamann.

Whatever topic you blog about, whether it’s your business or your life, getting your name out there and expanding your blog community can be a challenge. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are free and work well if you have the time to organically grow a following. But let’s face it, if you are new to blogging or a small business blogger with little or no social media strategy, achieving 10,000 organic followers on these sites is often a pipedream.

Now, you could take the paid route via Google AdSense and sure, AdSense is a great tool for bloggers who want to get noticed online, but the drawback is that it costs money and can quickly eat through your budget.

So what other options are out there for bloggers wanting to increase their blog traffic and gravitas in their industry, without breaking the bank?

The answer is LinkedIn Groups.

Now I’m not guaranteeing that you will receive 10,000 ‘connections’ or that LinkedIn Groups is the only answer for bloggers with no marketing budget; nevertheless if you are considering social media as part of your online promotion strategy, LinkedIn Groups is a must.

What is a LinkedIn Group?

LinkedIn defines LinkedIn Groups as “a great way for organisations to keep in touch with their members about current events and to discuss issues of common interest.”

LinkedIn Groups have a stronger business focus that Facebook or Twitter, and unlike other social media sites, most LinkedIn Groups are industry specific. With its focus on careers, business and networking, LinkedIn Groups is one of the most appropriate social media tool for industry bloggers, and is one of the best ways to attract people to your business blog.

Not only can LinkedIn Groups attract readers and customers to your blog, who have a genuine interest in your topic and industry; it can also create viable financial business opportunities – all without breaking the bank.

The benefits of LinkedIn Groups:

  • It’s free
  • It’s social
  • The members are your targeted audience and either work or are genuinely interested in your industry
  • It’s effective at driving traffic to your site
  • It’s effective at getting you noticed in industry circles

LinkedIn Groups are not normally open for just anyone to join. This means that in order to be a member of a LinkedIn Group, your profession usually has to be the same as those members within the Group. For example, the LinkedIn Group labeled ‘Sydney Financial Services Industry’ is likely to have the captains of the financial services industry in Sydney as their core demographic – an ideal target audience if you are blogging about Australian fiscal matters and policy.

Give me the stats…

Before jumping in to how LinkedIn Groups works, let me firstly give you a real example on the effectiveness of LinkedIn Groups:

A small Sydney-based, PR firm used a WordPress blog post to attract clients and connections in the Public Relations and Communications sectors. The specific blog post in question was called ‘The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened’ – a dilemma most PR professionals come across in their career.

After pinning the blog post on the Walls of just three different LinkedIn Groups, the blog readership skyrocketed from 212 readers to 736 readers in just 24 hours – a jump of 334%. Not only that, the blog viewership for this PR firm has remained consistent at about 200 hits every day thereafter. In addition, subscriptions to the blog grew by nearly 300%.

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As can be seen by the above graph this specific blog did not begin with a huge readership, but to get noticed, you don’t need a huge following.

Let’s look at the bare facts. This company spent nothing and tripled the amount of hits on their site from a single post on LinkedIn Groups.

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The table above shows nothing grew the blog’s readership faster, or as organically, as LinkedIn Groups. According to the table, the blog article got as much as 29 times more views from LinkedIn Groups than from Facebook.

This response was enough to get the ball rolling on the PR-firm’s social media strategy, and the blog’s popular commentary helped cement the firm as a thought-leader in the industry. Moreover, another PR firm contacted them with a job opportunity that led to a monthly media monitoring contract.

Ca-ching! Free LinkedIn Groups marketing turns to profit.

Why do LinkedIn Groups work?

Killer content rules in social media circles and this is no different with LinkedIn Groups. If you blog content misses its target audience, or is not well written, it is unlikely to attract readers.

Using the above example on the PR firm, the majority of the content on their blog is about copywriting, social media and Public Relations. They targeted industry LinkedIn Groups that would be likely to read about these topics. In this example, the LinkedIn Groups they joined were ‘Copywriters Guild’, ‘Sydney Media People’ and ‘Public Relations and Communications Professionals’.

Each of these groups had over 250 members and unlike other social media, LinkedIn Groups sends a private email directly to these members whenever a new article/blog has been posted on the Groups community wall.

Essentially, putting your blog post on a LinkedIn Group wall is like direct mail marketing to a targeted audience, who are likely to click back to your site. All for free.

If you consistently post up new articles on the Linked Group wall, it’s as if the members of the LinkedIn Group are already subscribers to your blog.

Obviously, the more LinkedIn Groups you post on your blog to the greater chance of an improved readership. For example, say you post your blog on the walls of five LinkedIn Groups related to your industry, and each Group has around 500 members – essentially, you are targeting an audience of over 2,500 potential clients and connections – at no expense.

Just remember, there is a fine line between targeted promotion and spam. It is highly likely that same industry captains will be members of more than one group, which means they could potentially receive your blog post 3 or 4 times if you share it with too many Groups. For this reason, limit your blog post to the most important Groups: The ones with the most members or the highest level of comments and interactions.

The nuts and bolts – How do I make LinkedIn Groups work for me?

Step 1: Create a blog

Your blog’s purpose is to promote your business and/or your online profile, as well as to drive traffic to your website. If you are unsure if your website has a blog section in its Content Management System, speak to your web developer, they can help you get started.

In my experience, the more controversial or opinionated a blog post is – the more response you will get. However, don’t be rude, insulting or arrogant; after all, the intention of your blog is to sell your expertise, and you don’t want your opinions to come across as ‘rogue’ in the industry. Be professional about what you post, be informative and give some tangible advice.

If you find an edge in your business or in the industry, don’t be afraid to share it. Fellow members and bloggers in the industry will often thank you for it, share your discussion or even send you business – it happens!

Also, if you are a business, don’t make it obvious that you are selling something. This is spam. It is acceptable at most to put a single byline at the bottom of the post like:

“I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic, and if you are considering a personal loan, feel free to contact me.”

It is also fine to inject some humour or a funny photograph but keep it in tune with the professional character of LinkedIn and the group. You are talking to your industry peers, not your friends.

And again, be consistent. If you put up one or two posts a week, your face will become a familiar sight in the LinkedIn Group and will give your blog more exposure.

Step 2: Join LinkedIn

Sign up to LinkedIn. You can’t join a LinkedIn Group without a LinkedIn profile and signing up is easy and free. Just go to www.linkedin.com and follow the steps to create an account.

Once you have created an account complete your LinkedIn profile so that the bar on the top right-hand equals 100%. This may take some time as you will need to build connections, seek endorsements and put up a professional profile photo. Note, that some LinkedIn Groups won’t allow you to join their group if your profile is incomplete, so to increase your chances of being accepted into a Group, spend some time giving your profile some love.

Step 3: Join a LinkedIn Group

Once you have a LinkedIn profile, select the tab ‘Groups’ at the top of the page and in the search bar type your profession. For example, if you are in the financial broking industry and is selling personal loans, type keywords such as ‘Financial broker’, ‘Personal Loans’, ‘Financial Planning’ into the search bar. Different groups will appear such as ‘Finance Industry Professionals’, ‘Finance Broking Careers’, and ‘Women in Finance’.

Tip: To find Groups that are more local, type in your country or state or city in the search bar in addition to your profession.

Look for Groups with a strong following – anything above 500 members is fair game. Anything below that may be worth joining but is probably not considered the chief Group of that profession and, if you want to be noticed in the industry, you will need the biggest audience.

Moreover, check out the conversations taking place on the Group’s wall. Sign up if you see a lot of peers commenting in the Group – healthy conversation is a great form of networking.

Once you’ve found a Group, click the button ‘Join Group’. Don’t be discouraged if you are not accepted straight away, as many Group administrators want to check who you are before allowing you into their Group (hence the importance of a ‘complete’ LinkedIn profile). Spamming is an issue in LinkedIn Groups and Group administrators put up these checks in an attempt to keep it spam-free.

Step 4: Post your blog to the Group

Once you have been accepted to the Group, it is time join the conversation.

  1. Start a ‘Discussion’ or ‘Promotion’ by giving your blog a compelling headline. There are a number of ProBlogger articles that will teach you how to write the perfect hook for a blog headline, but one technique that I normally use to get results is to incorporate numbers and lists. Using a financial broking business as an example, some good titles to use would be ‘5 tips to paying off a personal loan faster’ or ‘4 smart ways to consolidate your personal debt’, ‘the cheats guide to loan applications’.
  2. Beneath the headline there is a section that asks you to add more details about your post. Fill this space with a quick synopsis of your blog post, e.g: ‘A recent survey revealed 64% of Australians take out a personal loan to buy a car. We all know that cars are a necessary, but bad investment. Check out these five savvy ways to pay off your personal loan in record time…’
  3. Lastly, ensure you post the link to your blog post where it says ‘Attach a link’, it will bring all LinkedIn traffic directly back to your blog.

In addition, Some Groups have strict rules on what you can and cannot post on a wall and when you post is also important. Some Groups like to use the ‘Discussions’ section, while other Groups prefer that you post in the ‘Promotions’ section. It is important to abide by the rules otherwise your post may be blocked by the administrator.

To illustrate this point, here is a message from the administrator of the ‘Australian Writers’ LinkedIn Group:

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And that is it.

Monitor your progress using Google Analytics or WordPress Stats and tailor and time your posts to how your audience responds. It is entirely free to use LinkedIn Groups and it’s an effective way to get traffic to your business site or grow your blogging profile. Good luck.

Fiona Hamann is the senior PR manager at Aussie. She is passionate about all facets of communications including PR, writing, editing, website content, new media, crisis and issues management and branding in the finance industry – home loans, personal loans, credit cards, and insurance.”300%