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Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013

This guest post is by Jeff Foster of WebBizIdeas.

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

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

How do we know an update is coming?

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

What’s the wrong way to publish guest posts?

1. Stop telling people it’s a guest post

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

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

Notice What SEOMOZ.org does:

seomoz-author-name

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

2. Stop letting authors add unnatural links in posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the proper way to allow guest blog posts?

1. Allow author bios

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

Author-bio-section

What are the main features of this section?

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

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

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

2. Provide author bios for each author

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

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

Here’s an example author bio page.

Author-bio-page

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

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

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

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

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

3. Allow natural outbound links in the post

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

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

Allow-links

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

Link-building in 2013

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

4. Allow real people to comment

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

Links-in-comments

How should you code your comments?

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

The benefits of doing this are:

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

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

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

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

Is Your Content ROI Really Untrackable?

This guest post is by Johnny.

We have all heard about the traditional advertising campaign that cost thousands and makes almost no impact on sales or turnover. But when was the last time you heard that about a content marketing strategy?

I’ll give you a clue: you haven’t. An effective content strategy can cost as little as the time it takes to create.

However, as more and more blue chip companies are beginning to catch on, questions are being asked about whether this strategy is the right one. Convincing people that it is will almost always require you to show the returns on your investment.

Here we take a look at some tips for content measurement and examine if tracking ROI is actually possible.

Always start from the end

Imagine I am a lost man trying to find my way to the first page of Google. I have no idea where I am and I don’t have any directions to get to the search engine, but I know I want to be there. What should I do first?

Knowing where you want to be should be the first step in your journey with content marketing.

Make the goal achievable and set some bench marks. Do you currently have 100 likes on Facebook, but would prefer 1000? What kind of content could achieve this?

Once you have your achievable goal in mind, set a time scale. Even if the goal is ongoing, having a monthly strategy and aiming to hit benchmarks along the way is essential.

One of the biggest indicators of return on investment relies on monitoring whether you’re hitting your monthly objectives or not.

Analyse and track

The majority of businesses undertaking content marketing will be focussing on one thing: sales. This is where a lot of people become confused and assume that you cannot measure sales from content marketing or social media.

This is completely untrue. It is simple to monitor key performance indicators in Google Analytics.

If you are providing content in order to boost brand awareness, monitor organic brand searches on Google. If this is increasing month on month, the work you are doing is obviously having an effect.

If you are trying to generate leads, monitor new visitors to your website. Use Google visitor path to see where your new visitors are coming from, and how long they are spending on the site. Systems like ResponseTap offer a call tracking solution which allows you to monitor how many people are picking up the phone after visiting your website.

Adding a monetary value to each of your goals is imperative to monitoring return on investment. For example, in your first month, you may be focussed on building a community. Monitor how many more visitors visit your website after the content is published.

If on average $100 is spent for every 500 visitors, and your content attracts an extra 100 visitors, then you can put a value on the content ($20). This is a basic arbitrary measure, but I think it’s important in showing how much top-level, real value you are adding, even ignoring the secondary benefits.

Nurture your leads

People who visit your website may be in different places in the buying cycle. Someone may find your content accidentally and become interested in the products you sell, but don’t know how they could use them. Do you have another piece of content or landing page equipped to show them how to get value from using your products? You should!

Another visitor may be looking to buy a product like yours at that very moment, so it’s essential to make your pricelist easily accessible. To attract more interested buyers, ensure you have white papers or videos showing why your products are the best on the market, and explaining your competitive edge.

Lead nurturing is the new lead generation. Your customers aren’t stupid. They want to come to their own logical buying decisions, so the more you offer them, the more value they will attach to your brand. The real value in content marketing is in building community, so attaching a value to your community is important.

So … is content marketing ROI trackable?

In a word, yes. Monitoring leads and sales value is possible using the various analytical programmes on the market. ResponseTap and similar companies are starting to bridge the gap between offline conversions and online activity, and I see this as the next step in linking content marketing with return on investment.

However at the minute, the secondary benefits of social marketing are not clear to monitor. Comparing new and repeat visitors to your website is a great metric for seeing how well your content is doing at bringing fresh customers to your site, but how advantageous is this in the long run? It is yet to be seen.

Do you have any of your own insights on content marketing and measuring returns? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

Written by Jonny who is interested in how social media and content marketing are helping small and medium sized businesses increase brand awareness online.

How—and Why—to Make Your Blog Print-friendly

This guest post is by Dunya Carter.

When crafting your blog, it is easy to neglect how it might look to someone who wants to print your articles and posts.

After all, with huge monitors, smart phones, tablets, and the bevy of other ways people can access your content, who’d want to print it out on a piece of paper like it’s 2004?

Well, it’s the hallmark of a good designer to not assume how someone will want to digest what you have to offer, and it’s so easy to make your blog print-friendly that there is really no reason not to.

You’d be surprised by how many people will choose to print useful articles, especially if they contain some useful information that they would like to refer to when they’re not near a computer.

Printing from scratch

For the code-skittish, there are some special tools and plugins you can use to help get your print-ready blog set up, and we’ll get to those shortly. If you want to customize it exactly how you want—for example, adding a print-only message to the bottom of the page—the best way to do it is coding it yourself with CSS.

Start in the file called header.php in your theme, and look for the line below:

<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>” type=”text/css” media=”screen” />

That line tells the browser what style it should use based on the way the user is viewing the page. Most of the time, it will be viewed on a screen. Below that line, add this one:

<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘template_directory’); ?>/print.css” type=”text/css” media=”print” />

This directs the browser to use a different stylesheet, called print.css, if the content is being printed. Of course, print.css does not exist yet, so open up your favorite text editor and save a new file called print.css, dropping it into your theme’s directory (the same place you can find your theme’s main stylesheet).

If someone is printing your article, they want just the content of the article. Excessive images that don’t add real value to the content usually wreak havoc on printers and ink supplies, so you’ll want to remove your site’s header, menus, and advertisements (you won’t be making any cash from printed out Internet ads, anyway).

How can you do this? Take a look at your page code, and find the div id of the section you would like to remove (e.g. <div id=”comments”>). Then, simply add the following rule to your print.css file:

#comments {display:none;}

If the code begins with div class (e.g. <div class=”comments”>, the rule should be .comments {display:none;}, not #comments {display:none;}.

The reader wants the article formatted to fit the piece of paper it is being printed on, so scrap any sidebars and footers that might cause unnecessary white space and extra pages.

Finally, remove anything that a reader of a printed sheet cannot use. This includes comment sections (as we’ve just seen), navigation bars, and anything else that requires some sort of user action, like related articles links.

You can test your stylesheet as you modify it using your browser’s print preview function. Just keep removing stuff until it looks like something you’d want to come out of the printer!

Using tools and plugins

WordPress and Blogger are the two most popular blogging platforms, and for those who are not comfortable digging into code and writing a stylesheet themselves, both platforms have plugins that can quickly get you a serviceable print-ready page for every article on your blog.

For WordPress, the easiest option is WP-Print.

A very simple plugin, it gives you a few basic options about how your print page should look, including which links to include, what images should stay in the page, how to handle videos, and an option for a disclaimer.

Your user will simply see a Print button next to your articles exactly where they expect it to. Some other, more complicated tools might offer other functionality, such as printing a page to a PDF, emailing it to friends, or integration with social media like Twitter and Facebook.

If you run a Blogger site, the website printfriendly.com asks you to make a few simple choices, such as the appearance of your Print button and the inclusion or exclusion of features like email and PDF printing. It then gives you a link to download a Blogger widget you can install directly on your site, as well as code you can copy and paste directly where you want the button to show up.

Looking good … in print!

In the end, whatever method you choose, you will have an attractive print-friendly version of every page on your site with only a few minutes’ work.

It might not be the most used feature you ever offer, but for the occasions when a visitor does want to print out something you wrote, they will undoubtedly appreciate that you spent the time to accommodate them.

This article was written by Dunya Carter. Dunya is a marketing consultant from Brisbane, Australia who works for Ink Station, an Australian online ink toner shop. She also writes articles on tech and business for several websites and blogs.

Clean Out Your List of Blog Post Ideas in a Blog Content Workshop

This post is by Steve of Do Something Cool. 

One of the first things I learned when I started blogging was to create a Word document to write down all my blog post ideas.  That way I could always find something to write about. 

After a few months, I had dozens of ideas and titles to work from.  Three years on, and that list has grown into the hundreds.

This seems to be common for bloggers.  We all have a long list of blog post topics.  Some bloggers I’ve talked to have over five hundred.  At some point though, you have to question the benefit behind having a list that long.

The overwhelming list

A few months ago I sat down to write a post, just like any other day.  I opened up my list to choose an idea and was struck by how long I’d let the list get.

I realized that most of those ideas were just being wasted.  I generally write about 400-500 words a day.  My blog posts are roughly 800-1000 words.  It would take me over a year to get through this list, and that doesn’t even include other ideas I would add throughout the year.

There are so many potential ideas I’m not using.

I decided to go through my list of blog post ideas and clear them out.  Think of it as a kind of spring cleaning.

Instead of writing 400-500 words, I sat down and typed 5000.  That’s ten times my normal amount for a day of writing.

As a result, I wrote enough to create six or seven blog posts.  All in one day!

Now I clean out my list of blog post ideas about once a month.  Usually, I block off about four or five hours of solid writing.  Often that means about 5000-6000 words in a day.  The last time I did this I wrote 10,000 words in one day, which was very challenging.

The number of posts you can get done this way is amazing.

Here’s what to do

It only takes a little preparation to clean out your list.  Set your date to write a couple of days in advance.  Make sure you can spend at least three hours writing.  It works best if you can write continuously; I’ve noticed my most productive time writing happens in the third hour.

A few days before you write, go through your blog post list and pull out about a dozen of those ideas.  For each of those posts, create a Word document.  Write the title at the top and create a general outline.  This should take about five minutes per post.  Also, as you go through your list, delete any ideas you have no interest in writing any more.

Create two folders on your desktop.  Put your unwritten posts with their outlines in the first one.  The second one is for all the ones you’ll finish as you write.  I named the first folder “Start Here” and the second one “Finished Posts”, but you can name them whatever you want.

When the day arrives to start writing, make sure to start right away so you have enough time to get as much writing done as possible.

It’s important to track your progress, so as soon as you start writing set a timer to go off in sixty minutes.  When it goes off, stop writing and count up all the words you’ve written to make sure you’re on the right track.  Then take a five-minute break to walk around a bit before getting back to writing.

Keep writing in sixty-minute chunks until you reach your word goal.  In my opinion, it’s best to set a high word goal.  The focus is to get as many words down as possible, so don’t spend too much time editing.  This day is about getting as many words down as you can so that you clear out your list. Edit later.

Also, keep in mind you don’t have to completely finish a post before moving on to the next one.  It’s about keeping the pace of your writing high to get through a lot of posts.  If one post isn’t working, move on to the next one.  It might just be an indication that the idea isn’t all that good.

Once you’ve written all you can on a post, save and move it from the first folder to the “Finished Posts” folder.  By the end of the day, this folder will be full of posts you’ve crossed off your list.

Your blog posts in the finished folder will be rough drafts so you’ll still need to edit and polish them later.  But now you’ll have a bunch of posts mostly ready to publish.  Plus, you’ll have several you can get ready to send off as guest posts.

You might be surprised what you can come up with when you clear out your list.  The last time I did some spring cleaning, I wrote about an idea I’d been sitting on for months.  After I finished it, I realized the potential behind it: that post turned out to be one of my more popular.  You just never know what will happen when you clean out that list once in a while!

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, personal growth and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest through his Facebook fan page and Twitter.

The ProBlogger Evolution: Our Halt on Guest Post Submissions

This week, I had a day-long blog strategy workshop with my team. We covered a lot of ground in that time and we have an exciting year ahead!

Among the decisions we made was one to shift the way we handle content here on the blog at ProBlogger.

Some years ago I opened up Problogger.net to guest posts as a means to give the blogging community a stronger voice, and help us gain from each others’ experience. I think that approach worked well, especially in the days before social media, when it could be difficult to find and connect with other bloggers.

Today, though, we’re in a different world. It’s much easier to find, connect with, and even meet other bloggers in and beyond your niche. There’s a plethora of information available on all types of topics related to blogging, and here at Problogger, we want to meet your needs as they evolve.

And that means a few changes in the way we present our content.

Guest Post Submissions Closed

Our strategy for 2013 means that we can no longer accept unsolicited guest posts on the blog. Our submission guidelines page  has been updated to reflect this change.

If you’ve been given a publication date for a guest post submission, don’t worry: that date stands. We’ll be publishing those guest posts over the next month or so.

If you’ve already sent us a guest post submission, but you haven’t heard back about it, Georgina will be in touch with you. We may be able to accept some already-submitted posts, but probably only a handful.

The reason for that is that we’re very excited to shift into a new gear for 2013, and while it’ll take some work, we’re keen to do it a.s.a.p. And of course there are plenty of excellent blogs where guest posts are well and truly welcome.

Looking Ahead

This change won’t meant that I’ll be the only person you’ll ever hear from on Problogger.net—far from it. But where we need content, we’ll be getting in touch with bloggers we’d like to feature on the blog and inviting them to participate.

If you’re already working with us, we may well be in touch with you soon! But of course, we’ll also be looking beyond our existing pool of contacts to bring you fresh voices and unique ideas every week.

Watch this space…

Will our new approach work? Only time will tell. We may find once we put it into practice that our new strategy has room for more posts from guest bloggers, and reopen submissions.

We’ll be keeping to our regular publishing schedule for the next few weeks, but after that, you can expect some changes to the blog!

I can say that my team and I are very excited about our plans for the blog this year, and I look forward to sharing more of those ideas with you as they’re ready.

The Experts’ Views on Content Marketing

This guest post is by John Abrena of As the Ghost Speaks.

There have been a lot of discussions about what works in the realm of online marketing. Many say that massive link building and the quantity of links still matter, while others focus on optimizing their website to its fullest.

But after Google’s Panda update, there seems to be a talk of a “new” type of marketing which focuses on content.

Content marketing has boomed since Panda rolled out. Website owners looked for ways to build links, to promote their business, and to gain traction and traffic by having great content. But what baffles me is that it isn’t new. This type of marketing has been here longer than most online marketers realize. However, the belief that it’s a “new” system is ingrained in their heads only because, I believe, a lot of site owners haven’t really paid attention to their content until now.

A few weeks back, I asked a couple of online marketing experts about content marketing, and got some really interesting answers. My question? How do you see content marketing as the new face of online marketing?

Rand Fishkin

CEO of SEOMoz
RandContent marketing can accomplish much of what advertising attempts to do—earn the familiarity, trust, and positive sentiment of an audience toward your brand—and it does so without having the huge associated costs. Content requires and rewards creativity, effort and execution more so than strict dollars, but it also overcomes much of the natural bias modern consumers form against advertising’s motivations and “ad blindness.”

As online marketing evolves, more and more attention and awareness goes to the web’s content—to blogs, to social media, to search results, to videos, to news publications. But, only a fraction of this attention spreads to the paid advertising on these channels. Thus, it only makes sense that as ads become ubiquitous but low ROI, marketing efforts will spread to inbound channels.

Don Rhoades

Owner of The Gonzo SEO

DonContent marketing is a hell of a lot better word than “inbound marketing”. I would argue that content marketing has always been the face of online marketing. I know some people are tired of hearing the phrase, but it does best describe the intent of the campaign. It also supports the necessity for shareable content, and not just writing.

John Doherty

SEO Consultant at Distilled

John I don’t think it’s the new face of online marketing. It may be the new thing that SEOs have not thought about before, but it’s always been the most effective form of online marketing in ethical ways, ways that build businesses for the long term. As someone recently said, “Content marketing is not a shiny new toy.” It has always been around. We are just now realizing that old ways of gaming the system don’t work well anymore, and we need to find ways that will last.

Michael King

Owner of iPullRank and Director of Inbound Marketing at iAcquire.

MichaelIt’s not the new face of online marketing, content has always been what people are looking for. It’s trendy in online marketing right now at least to talk about. Not enough brands have embraced it as a more viable method than interruption marketing. The concept of Earned Media is definitely not new, and most brands only consider it a small part of what they do. They will continue to funnel the biggest dollars into advertising and the like, but I think as more big brands like Coca Cola and Red Bull see results more people will adopt it.

Jon Cooper

Consultant reachable via his blog, Pointblank SEO

Jon Content is giving someone a reason to link to you. In the past, you didn’t need much of a reason, just a website. But as time goes on, and like with any market that deals with an increase in competition, you have to set yourself apart in someway, and outside of the obvious ones like pricing, community, and product quality, content is becoming the main (if not only) way to do so.

James Agate

Founder of Skyrocket SEO, the content-driven link building agency

Content marketing isn’t a new concept. Joe Pullizi was recently talking about a form of content marketing which dates back to 1895; obviously it has moved online since then but the fundamental principles remain the same.

JamesContent marketing has and always will be an integral and vital part of online marketing. The name might change and the way we do it might evolve but fundamentally nothing has changed for over 100 years. It’s about “creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers.”

Content touches and drives every aspect of online marketing so if a business isn’t investing in content then they will be falling behind. As many businesses (and agencies in fact) have found out recently, link building for example without the production of solid content will really only get you so far and in some cases may end up pushing you backwards.

Tom Demers

Co-founder and managing partner with Measured SEM, a search engine marketing firm that offers paid and organic search marketing consulting services

TomContent marketing is really a great example of a new kind of marketing that a lot of people are talking about by a number of different names (inbound marketing, permission marketing, etc.) I think the reason content marketing is being adopted so quickly is that it has a cross-over set of benefits where it’s delivering a lot of the things direct advertising has (direct, measurable traffic and conversions) while simultaneously providing a lot of the same benefits traditional brand advertising has (thought leadership, brand building, etc.)

Cyrus Shepard

Former SEO at SEOmoz, owner of Above The Fold, his own blog

CyrusIt’s ironic that content marketing is finally seeing it’s day in the sun. In reality, good content marketing has been the primary tools of many good SEOs and online marketers for years. If you look at what some of the industry leaders were doing back in 2005, it was content marketing mixed with technical SEO—really no different than today.

The difference is that many of the “tricks” SEOs have relied on for so long have finally been devalued, too many companies have been burned by Penguin and Panda, and so marketers with an eye towards the long term are waking up to the benefits of producing content with actual value. Take it for what you will, but the shift towards content marketing is a direct result of Google’s war against low quality websites.

Neil Patel

Marketing Guru at Quick Sprout

NeilI don’t see it as the new face. I just see it as a piece of the bigger picture. I don’t think there will be one thing that is the “face” of online marketing as what works for one company won’t work for another.

Ryan Clark

Head Strategist (and all around awesome guy) at Linkbuildr

Content marketing is the “old but new face” of online marketing perhaps, and it basically means lazy marketers are going to have to become creative in their efforts. Being creative will do the one thing I love the most, making your brand stand out from the rest. If everyone likes what they see those coveted links will come in naturally … and yes, that actually does happen. Being creative with your content will also bring in more social followers who will help spread your next masterpiece so keep that snowball rolling.

The other huge benefit of content marketing is also putting a face to your brand, not just a funky logo. Your customers will appreciate experiencing your brand with someone they can relate to and content marketing is the perfect weapon. This is advice myself and our team actually needs to get better at which is why I’m getting forced into doing more videos in the near future.

What do I love the most out of all of it? The fact that you’re not trying to trick any search engines or really care about them at all. It’s all about the user experience here and if you start by pleasing their needs and wants first, the search traffic will soon follow.

Hugo Guzman

Owner of his own title site, HugoGuzman.com

HugoI actually don’t see content marketing as the new face of online marketing. It’s been one of the foundations of my approach—and that of many colleagues—for many years. What I do think is that its popularity is rising, especially among SEOs, because Google has done a good job of muting other techniques like reciprocal linking, article submission, and paid linking.

Wayne Barker

Online Marketing Consultant at Boom Online

WayneTo be honest, content marketing isn’t that new but there is always a buzz when something starts to getter wider recognition. The more people ‘get’ it the more it spreads. I think people are definitely getter smarter at measuring it’s worth and defining real strategies – and that is where the success lies.

Bonus!

So there you have it. Now, you ask, how will you shape your content marketing efforts? Which types of content should you focus on? If you are a small business and plan to scale your content marketing efforts, read my previous post about truths in content marketing scaling for small businesses, answered by the same people I mentioned above.

But here’s what you need to know if you want to get started on content marketing:

  1. Focus on being a brand: whether your business is a small one, or if you are aiming to be a large enterprise, always (and I can’t express how important this is) focus on your branding efforts first. You want to be known as “that awesome company that provides great content,” not just “some random source of good content.”
  2. Develop a unique value proposition for your business: know what makes your business sell, and what makes it unique. From there, you can build additional content that will be bought by your market. For instance, the other day I was searching for car rental comparison websites and I stumbled upon CarRentals.co.uk. As a would-be customer, I really liked how the home page was set up, and for me, it’s the business’s unique value proposition. Have a look:

    Car rentals home page

    Note the following elements:

    1. They already know what I’m looking for, and make finding it straightforward. They make it easy to choose the date, pick up location, drop off location, etc. They don’t bother with asking your name, address, and other essentials yet. You came to their website to find something, and they help you do it.
    2. You can choose which currency you will be using.
    3. Country of residence can be chosen as well.
    4. You can get a free quote!
    5. A list of the best suppliers of car rental services to choose from is also provided.

    I took the bait. That’s how good the service is (for me). Learn which part of your business/blog is your most valuable asset, and harness it. From there, and with tons of creativity, other forms of content can easily be produced.

  3. Know your audience: after you identify your unique selling proposition, another very important factor is to know what type of content your audience and would-be customers want. Assess your website assets (current articles, videos, presentations, etc.), then from there work out what content types your audience would enjoy. Some people do not like reading long posts, while others enjoy interacting with you directly. Study your audiences’ demographics to help you decide which content to build.
  4. Businesses should know how the conversion funnel works: this is important if you wish to really convert your content marketing efforts into something profitable.
    1. Top-of-the-funnel content should be for promoting your site/business, which works well in forms of guest posting.
    2. Middle-of-the-funnel content can either be blog posts on your own site or a solid and interactive page with good call to actions.
    3. Bottom-of-the-funnel content can be your product pages, etc.

Content marketing isn’t new, but as we know, it works. Add your content marketing advice in the comment section below.

+John Abrena writes on his own blog, As the Ghost Speaks about search marketing, blogging, and all the random things on his mind. He is also a marketing consultant for UPrinting.com, a top of the line offline peripherals printing company.

Redefining “Quality Content” … And Writing It

Sometimes, I think that if I hear the cliche “content is king” one more time, I’ll scream.

…Okay, maybe I already have. Everyone’s talking about content marketing now that Google’s put (more) emphasis on “quality content”, but no one really seems to be talking about what “quality content” actually means.

Is it content that converts? Content that’s shared? Content that ranks well in the search engines? Content that “resonates” with readers? All of the above? Something else entirely?

And: where can we start creating this “quality content”—if, that is, we’re not doing it already…?

Enough with the cliches! What we need are some answers.

Quality content: a new definition

I think quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Something that has value for me may have no value to you at all. So quality is closely linked to audience, to the idea being communicated, and to the way it’s communicated. But ultimately, I think it’s a pretty subjective description.

As a freelancer, I’m sometimes asked to write content that I’m not exactly excited about. Obviously as bloggers, we would never publish something we’re not proud to put our names to on our own blogs. But if you’re paid to write, sometimes client desires can see you writing copy or content that bores you to tears, or worse: makes you cringe.

Well, if “quality” is subjective, then I think our most basic definition of the term should entail a level of interest that captivates us as human beings. If your writing doesn’t intrigue you, how will it ever intrigue someone else?

So my new year’s resolution for writing is: don’t write what you don’t want to read. (Easier said than done with some clients!) To me, that’s the basis for quality content.

The elements of interest

There’s a lot that goes toward making a post interesting. Topic, writing style, angle, and presentation are just some of the keys to keeping readers reading, and minds cranking over.

Of those, topic and presentation are probably no-brainers for most bloggers and blog posts, most of the time. But if you see blogging like that, you’re probably headed for writer’s block and a blogging rut. If you decide you’ll only ever use text and images, and you won’t look at certain topics in your field because they’re not really “you,” you’re already cutting of your options for creating real, genuine interest among your readers. And, most likely, for yourself.

As for angle and writing style, these are two areas that I think can interact really well—two aspects that can help each other to develop if you let them. How? With the help of the Golden Rule for Better Blogging.

The Golden Rule for Better Blogging

That Golden Rule is: try something you’ve never tried before.

It sounds deceptively simple, but in practice, it can be daunting. Here’s how it might play out for your blog writing:

  • Never written a sales page before? Write one. If you don’t have a product, imagine one of your competitors’ products is yours, or dream up a product you’d like to offer and write a sales page for that.
  • Wish your writing was more sensitive/dynamic/powerful? Study an author or blogger you feel has this talent, work out what they do, then try to apply those techniques in your own writing.
  • Scared to pen an opinion post? All the more reason to draft one. Now.
  • Been putting off making approaches to other bloggers about teaming up on a project? Open up your email and start writing … from the heart.

Better blogging is about pushing the boundaries of what you know you can do. Better blog writing is a variation on that theme. Pushing the boundaries of your blog writing capabilities can be hard when you feel you’re not sure where those boundaries are, or you’re overwhelmed by the amount of advice that’s available to help you overcome that particular challenge.

The answer is to take it one step at a time.

An example: my writing style sandbox

Toward the end of last year, I realized there were certain bloggers and writers whose styles I really admired. At first I wished I wrote more like them, but I soon realised that what I actually wanted was to develop a more engaging writing style of my own.

I studied their techniques, but instead of emulating them, I wanted to use the feeling it gave me as grist to my own creative mill.

So I developed an idea for a blog, wrote a couple of posts, and launched it. The idea is to experiment with personal narrative as a vehicle for deeper connection with readers.

For someone who’s more used to writing other people’s product sales pages and email autoresponders, this is a bit of a shift. It’s outside my comfort zone. It’s beyond the boundaries of what I usually do. And the whole point of it is to experiment with writing techniques—to have a sandbox in which to play.

Your writing style sandbox doesn’t need to be a blog—it doesn’t need to be available to the world, and regularly updated. You could have your sandbox take up an hour every Thursday night, and a new folder on your desktop. Your sandbox could comprise a mutual writing critique session with a trusted friend once a month. It could be whatever you want.

No aim, no gain

The objective of this post is, first, to get you thinking about how you define “quality content” and second, to encourage you to set a goal to reach for better quality content every time you put fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper).

The important step is for you to look at writing that you believe reflects the qualities your own content lacks, and from there, to set a goal to work on those elements in whatever way suits you.

Without an objective, you’ll find it hard to improve. While we could look to our traffic analytics, shares, and so on for “proof” that our writing “quality” is improving, since the measure of quality is to write something you want to read, the best measure of your “success” will probably be a feeling rather than a figure.

What does “quality content” mean to you? And what are you doing to move toward it? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

How Interview Blogs Work [Case Study]

This guest post is by Janelle Allen of The Grand Life.

In September 2012, I launched my latest online venture, The Grand Life, where I interview creative professionals and entrepreneurs, and quickly realized that I had a lot to learn about building a successful interview site.

Although there are a few resources on interviewing, what I really needed was to chat with other interviewers who were willing to share their strategies and thoughts on generating traffic, converting subscribers and attracting revenue.

Fortunately, I secured interviews with the founders of three different sites, each with varying levels of success: Shelia Butler of Successful Women Talk, Tim Jahn, co-founder of Entrepreneurs Unpluggd, and David Siteman Garland of The Rise to the Top.

Each of these individuals shared tons of insight and helpful tips, which I now share with you.

A little background

Can you give us a quick intro about your site and it’s mission?

SB: The premise behind Successful Women Talk is to interview successful women and share their stories. About two years ago I started following some of people like Andrew Warner, David Siteman Garland, and I thought, “You know what? I needed a mentor and I didn’t have one. What better mentor for a woman than to have another successful woman that’s walked that path before her?” I just wanted to give someone else the idea—to show them that you can do it.

TJ: At Entrepreneurs Unpluggd our goal is to help early stage entrepreneurs move forward with their business idea or whatever it is they’re working on. Entrepreneurs Unpluggd provides advice and resources to help solve the problems that new entrepreneurs, and those thinking about taking the leap, experience in the early stages.

DSG: We work with online entrepreneurs. I call them mediapreneurs. A lot of times they’re creating some kind of media related to their business: a web show, a blog, a book. Some kind of form like that. We deal with a lot of experts and people that have a passion that they’re looking to turn into an online business—that’s really the types of people that come hang out with us.

When did you launch your site?

SB: I started the show in March (2012), so it’s a relatively new site.

TJ: We launched the site portion in the Spring or Summer of 2011, but we started with events in the beginning of 2011.

DSG: I started in 2008. When I started it was a different approach from a lot of people because my site started out as a local website. So 2008 and 2009, it was really for local entrepreneurs in St. Louis, Missouri, where I’m from.

Strategies for growing your site

How much traffic do you currently generate per month?

SB: I’m at around 1000 unique visitors each month.

TJ: I don’t know the numbers offhand. Right now our numbers aren’t anything huge. So that’s a goal going forward.

DSG: Our onsite traffic is somewhere around 100,000 to 125,000 unique visitors a month.

What are your top traffic sources?

SB: Organic is still my number one, then Facebook and then probably Stumbleupon or Pinterest; but Facebook and organic traffic are the biggest ones.

TJ: Twitter is the highest.

DSG: Google is number one, Facebook is number two.

What strategies did you use to attract readers when you started out?

SB: I had previously built a website and I knew I wanted to optimize the site for SEO as much as possible. I wanted the site to be clean; I wanted an opt-in option and to do video because it’s another way to market yourself. So those strategies and also trying to be different by interviewing women. I’m slowly but organically putting myself out there. I have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. That’s been my strategy: putting it there and trying to be as SEO friendly as possible.

TJ: We focused on three things: Producing really good content. Everybody says that, but to us that means we produce videos for our events. We also have the interviews that I used to do.

And we also like to produce really good written content. So when it comes to a blog post, whether it’s one of our team members writing it or it’s a guest post, it needs to fit certain criteria and be useful in our eyes to be considered good, quality content.

Also, we’re constantly working on ways to promote our content in a higher way. We’ve been focusing on social media, in addition to constantly tweaking our email newsletter.

DSG: I’m one of those who likes to share everything transparently—everything that I’ve tried, attempted, worked, failed … whatever. When I started it was a different approach from a lot of people because my site started out as a local website. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have people elsewhere, but my focus was local interviews with interesting entrepreneurs. So I went on a local tirade to try to get people’s attention. Besides using social media channels and things like that, I made sure that I networked with all the major media sources in St. Louis at the time. St. Louis Business Journal and Small Business Monthly of St. Louis, St. Louis Magazine and Alive Magazine, radio, TV—anything local that would listen to me.

I was doing TV interviews and radio interviews. And honestly the way that I did it was no magic formula: I just emailed people or called them up [and said], “I’m 24. I’m starting this show. We’re interviewing entrepreneurs. Here’s the website. The mission is that I’m trying to encourage young entrepreneurship in the city.” And that led to a lot of early traffic. That was, believe it or not, one of the first of many, many strategies that I used to get it off the ground.

What have you learned from some of the strategies that you’ve used? Are there any unsuccessful strategies that you would advise people to avoid?

SB: I think the biggest thing is not to focus on the number of followers you have, but the quality with those followers and how much engagement you truly have with them.

At first I would beat myself up because I didn’t have ten thousand Twitter followers. But it doesn’t really matter because I’ve found that the people who love what I do continue to respond, continue to comment, continue to watch and continue to spread my stuff. I think that you need to put more value in the few quality people that you have and when you do that you gain traction.

I also started putting themes around my content each week, with the interviews I’d do. I think that helps because then I’d also link to articles that were related to my theme of the week or the person that I’m interviewing. Just trying to be more strategic about it.

TJ: What I’d recommend other people to work on is to figure out which channels apply to their audience. You mentioned things you shouldn’t do: a while back we were promoting to sites where our audience wasn’t hanging out, so it was pointless for us to take the time to share our content there. So take the time to figure out which sites are actually worth your time and have an audience that will actually be reading your content.

DSG: A thing that worked really well was we did live events. We did 85 live events in two years in St. Louis. Not big ones, but getting 30 entrepreneurs together for dinner and discussions or Rise Lunch, as we called it. These little branding opportunities were great because it gave people the touch and feel of the brand.

I think that if I were to start again from scratch, I don’t think I would focus as much on the local as I did in the beginning. I would focus on [building] critical relationships with other influencers in the space, which has always been a success strategy and that’s part of interviewing. I would do more book reviews on video and give credit to authors, for example. I would do more ways that you can connect with people. That’s really the best way anything spreads, not asking people, “Can you promote this for me?” It’s better to ask “How can I promote and help other people?”

Another thing that I want to emphasize is that I’ve always been obsessed with the design of the site. I love a high-end design. I’m not talking about spending millions of dollars here, but spending time and money and effort to really get that brand down. Everyone says content is king. I agree, but it’s really about what it looks like and how it makes people feel and your connection with a person and the audience.

How has your site evolved over time and how have the changes impacted your growth?

DSG: When I started, I didn’t know who it was for. I was going for young but I didn’t know the demographic that was going to happen. The way that I learned to evolve it was just from doing the interviews. I would interview people and think “That guy wasn’t that cool. I’m not feeling this.” So slowly, I would narrow and narrow [my target audience] down over time and I think that’s one of the keys to success. I’m not afraid to say “We’re going in this direction,” even though it may piss some people off.

Here’s the funny mistake that happened too: first [the focus] was entrepreneurship, then it naturally evolved to online entrepreneurship and where it’s at today is what I call mediapreneurship or lifestyle entrepreneurship. Between the shift from online to mediapreneurship, I knew something was missing. So a shift that I made very quickly was to go more broad and interview successful people in all types of industries. I did that—and honestly, I love those interviews—but it was off-brand. I knew something had to change but I should have gone narrow, not broad.

Then I figured it out and realized I was right about needing to change, but wrong on the direction. When I went narrow, that’s when I really started honing in on the topic and the types of people who were tuning in. That’s when it went to the next level in terms of everything: revenue, business model, traffic, community buyers–everything went in the right direction once we went that way.

Strategies for converting readers to subscribers

How many email subscribers do you currently have?

SB: I just looked and I have about 175 email subscribers right now. It’s a start. But it was more than what I thought, so I got really excited!

TJ: We have a little over 5000 or so. That’s something we’re always thinking about. We’ve found that people who are on the email newsletter are the most engaged and into what we’re doing.

DSG: One of my fun mistakes early on was to not focus solely on email. Now on my site you won’t find social media buttons or anything. We push everything through email. If I had done that when I started, we’d be doing this interview from my yacht.

Our email subscribers right now are somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000, and going up exponentially each month. By the end of next year, it could be close to 100k.

What strategies do you use to convert people to subscribers?

SB: I try to have a really clean site and focus on my opt-in box [locations]. At the bottom of every post, I have an opt-in. I also included a “free updates” page and I’ve gotten quite a bit of subscribers from that.

I’ve also started asking people to share, which is something that we as women have a hard time with: asking for things. I just launched my podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, so I put a Facebook post up asking people to subscribe. So, I’m going to ask and I think asking is really important.

TJ: We’ve played with different calls to action on our site. At the moment we have a welcome mat, which is a full page that you see when you first come to our site. If you’ve never been to our site before, you’ll see it and it will encourage you to sign up. It doesn’t force you (there’s a Skip this button), but it works very well.

There are some sites that implement that technique on only the home page, but we implement it on every page. We also have calls to action at the bottom of every post and at the top of every page.

DSG: First and foremost, you will notice if you go to my site—boom—right at the top there’s an email signup. I’m a big believer in using your real estate well. There’s also an email signup on every page and some of the hidden pages that people don’t use, but they should, like the About page. A couple other ways I do it: it’s always under every episode and I always verbally say it in each episode.

Another thing is that once you start putting things for sale and you start getting some really awesome customers, they start spreading the word. You end up with more word of mouth conversion when you start charging people for things. It’s a good thing.

Have there been changes or events that spiked your conversion rate or has it been slow growth?

SB: I think I’m too new to say. So far it’s been slow growth. But I have interviewed some well-known people lately and I get more followers from that. I’ve noticed that if I interview someone with a bigger following, if they share it, that makes a big difference.

TJ: The welcome mat definitely made a huge difference in terms of conversion rate.

DSG: Here’s a little lesson that definitely increased email subscribers: I used to say “Hey guys, you like this … you want more … blah, blah. Join The Rise VIP list and you’ll have more.” Now here’s where it gets interesting! I realized that’s annoying because people could be on another site, or they might be on iTunes or listening to it on Stitcher Radio. They’re going to look below and say, “What are you talking about?” So what I did was very simple: I just made a URL to therisetothetop.com/vip. The URL is just a sign up for the email list. So on episodes or anything that I’m doing where I’m talking or doing an interview, I just say go to rise/vip, where you’ll hear about new shows, etc. As long as they remember that URL, you don’t have to be as concerned about where people are watching or listening.

Another thing that helped was I changed from sending out a very generic automatic email when shows went up. It was an RSS autoresponder that went out whenever there was a new post. I completely changed that. Now I do a straight-up email like it’s coming from a friend. I send every single one myself and I get more emails back from people now. I include something funny about my day or weekend or whatever. That was a huge shift. It sounds small, but what ends up happening is people share that email. They’re like, “This is funny. Have you seen this? You should check it out.”

Strategies for building revenue

Are you currently able to fully support yourself financially from your site?

SB: I am not, but it is a goal. I do have another business, so I do a couple of things. I have gotten several consulting clients from the site.

TJ: It’s definitely something we want to make regular revenue from, and we are but we’re not making full-time revenue.

DSG: Absolutely. I just hired my dad who is a full-time employee.

How much annual revenue do you generate on your site?

DSG: We can’t release it fully but I can tell you that it’s over $300,000.

What revenue models did you use for your show when you started out and what lessons did you learn?

TJ: Sponsors and events. [In the future], we’re going to experiment with different ways of doing sponsors, maybe sponsored content or some sort of interactive content between the sponsor and our community, which only works if you have the right sponsors. The sponsors we seek and will continue to seek are those who have products and services for our community.

My co-founder and I are very data driven. We like to make decisions based on the data, so we pay close attention to which types of posts work and what kind of content works. When I say “work,” what it really boils down to is what your goals are. If your goal is to make money, there’s no point in doing anything that’s not going to make you money.

It only makes sense to do things that support your goals, right? So start experimenting with things. Try list posts. They traditionally work well in our industry, so try it and if it does well, try another one. If it doesn’t, try a different type of post until you start to build data on what works. We did videos for a long time. My interviews were about twenty minutes long. We’re going to experiment with cutting up the videos to see which lengths work. Will people respond to a five minute video versus a fifteen minute video? If so, then we’re going to make five minute videos.

DSG: When I was starting out it was all based on local ads and sponsorships and I learned that local ads and sponsorships suck. It kept me afloat, so I can’t rip it, but it’s not a sustainable model, because if you’re going to do advertisements and sponsorships, you’re now in the media mindset versus being an educator.

When you’re in the media mindset, it’s all about volume. You have to get more people in; you have to do more shows; you have to get more advertisements, but there’s a cap on how far you can go with that, especially if you’re in a niche. The more niche the better; however, you have a smaller potential audience. So, when you do sponsorships the challenge is that your revenue is controlled by someone else. If they wake up on the wrong side of the bed, if they’re going out of business, if they get bored and move on to something else–that could be a massive revenue hit to you if you don’t control it.

I still have sponsorships and advertising, but I can tell you that it’s not a sustainable business by itself. It just isn’t. You’re going to end up having pressure to grow more audience when that may not be the best way to go about it.

Let’s put it this way: I have made six figures from my first online product launch with an audience of less than 500 people who bought it. The reason is because I get all the revenue. I created it and it’s $495 dollars. If I went to a sponsor and said: “We’ve got 500 awesome people. Do you want to sponsor this?” They’d say no.

That was a huge shift because my goal at the beginning was that I was going to grow this and have sponsorships and that was the model. I can’t remember the moment when I had the awakening, but I think when I started learning more from other people I realized that my business model was flawed. Not in terms of revenue, but for long-term growth and potential. Now, I see us as a show and products and online events–which have been hugely successful—and we’re also going to move into having a membership component as well. It’s going to be a multi-faceted approach.

I think the number one takeaway is that people think that they’re just going to do a show and have these sponsors and advertising come in and sprinkle you with happiness. It just doesn’t happen. Once you get into that creation mindset and begin to charge people, I think that’s where it’s at.

Final thoughts

When it comes to hosting an internet radio show or having a site that focuses on interviewing people, what are two or three key lessons that people should absolutely do when starting out, in terms of successfully growing an audience?

SB: I think the best thing is that you’ve got to be authentic. I’ll give you a good example: I almost didn’t start a talk show because of my Southern (American) accent. I was really embarrassed by it and I thought that people would think I was uneducated or whatever the stereotype is, but I get the most positive compliments about my accent than anything. So be yourself and don’t be afraid to go out there and try something new.

Secondly, having a good look, design and brand is important.

Thirdly, be consistent. Sometimes it’s hard to post when you say you will. Even though I have a small following, they are a dedicated following and they expect something to happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I think being consistent is huge.

TJ: First, don’t do what doesn’t work. The argument there is that if I’m just starting out, I don’t know what doesn’t work. Well, that brings me to my second point: do it and iterate as quickly as possible.

We’re constantly iterating. It’s not always something big, sometimes it’s small tweaks. Go out there and just start doing it. You’re going to make mistakes and screw up and figure things out but that’s when you’re going to start building data to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That’s when you’ll be able to begin only doing things that work, because you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. You’re never going to get to that point if you don’t start.

My co-founder and I, when we want to do something, we just do it. We don’t sit down and think about it for a week and have a big meeting, we just do it. We get on chat and say “Should we do this? What’s the data?” If it doesn’t work, we learn that pretty quickly.

DSG: First thing: You have to spend some time and a little dough on the brand. One of the biggest secrets to getting people to say yes is that you actually look like you know what you’re doing.

Second, is not to start with the top of the mountain. Don’t try to reach out to A-lister type people because you’ll get pissed when they don’t respond. Start with people you know, people you can practice on. Build up your portfolio a little bit before you start reaching out to [A-list] people.

Third tip: When you start reaching out to people that are bigger, the best time to get someone is when they’re promoting something. A book is the best possible thing because the publishers pressure everyone to go promote their book. When people have something to promote, they become much more likely to be interviewed.

Bonus tip: I’ve done hundreds of interviews and I’ve never once asked someone to promote my interview. I know people that do it and they like to send a link and say “Please promote this,” but I like to come from a place that’s more about gratitude. When I interview someone, after the interview is up, I send a link, thank them and that’s it. Good things will happen from that.

Every time someone sends me a link and says “Can you promote this?” I don’t want to do it. Interestingly, anytime someone sends it to me and doesn’t tell me to promote it, I promote it. You don’t want to make people think that you only did the interview because you want them to send it out. You want to throw a party for the guest. It should be fun and easy.

What is one piece of advice that may be unconventional or that we just don’t usually hear that you would recommend people follow?

SB: I’ve been told and I’ve read that you can’t be too broad, but when I do interviews outside of my niche, they are sometimes my most popular ones—so try not to be too close-minded and think outside the box. Give people the benefit of the doubt and learn how to pull something out of the interview that speaks to your audience.

DSG: It’s not about bringing in as much traffic as you can. What it’s about is: At some point you’re going to start to get a little bit of love. You might have two fans, but you’re going to get a little bit of love. A comment. An email. A Facebook like; something like that. These early adopters become your superfans—take care of them. What do I mean? Respond to them. I respond to everything that I possibly can, even now. This engagement builds fans that spread the word for you.

Let me give you an example: a lady named Debbie. I didn’t know Debbie but she was having issues subscribing and she sent me an email saying “I want to subscribe but I can’t figure it out.” So, very simply, I went in and subscribed her and sent her an email saying “Hey, Debbie. I’m so excited to have you in and I want to apologize for the problems. It’s all set. You’re in!” I got the warmest, kindest email back, thanking me. I just did this because I wanted to help her, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff that Debbie has spread for this show since then. She’s our number one fan. She spreads everything. She buys everything. She attends everything. When I hosted a live event one time, she couldn’t make it so she sent a bottle of wine. People often wonder how you create these kinds of super fans; it’s by treating them as individuals.

Conclusion

Building a successful interviewing site takes more than just finding interesting people. You have to combine savvy interviewing skills with technical know-how and strategic marketing. Hopefully the strategies shared in this article will help you build a successful site. If you’re new to interviewing or thinking about starting, there are a few resources you should check out, namely Andrew Warner’s How to Interview Your Heroes guide and David Siteman Garland’s Create Awesome Interviews training videos.

Beyond that, I can only suggest you follow the advice you’ve read here: set clear goals, don’t be afraid to change directions, honor your fans and, above all, just start.

Do you do interviews for your blog? Share your own tips and advice with us in the comments.

Janelle Allen is the founder and author of The Grand Life, where she interviews creative entrepreneurs about creativity, freedom and work, with a focus on telling stories about work that matters. Learn more about her here and connect with her via Twitter.

How Embedded Social News Grew My Content, Traffic, and Engagement, and Saves Me Time [Case Study]

This guest post is by Brian Lippey of Guitar Shop TV.

Every blogger wants to offer the best content to his or her audience.

With Guitar Shop TV (GSTV), I set out to create an online community for passionate guitar fans and music lovers around the world.  My goal was to offer the best guitar-related content to my audience.

To achieve this, the GSTV team has filmed over 200 hours of original online TV content. We update our blog regularly—with everything from live performances and backstage interviews, to commentary on upcoming album releases and the latest guitar gear. We tweet. We post on Facebook. We even have an on-site guitar shop.

But audiences today have a large appetite for content! With over 100 million guitarists and countless guitar music fans in the world, it’s important that our content’s fresh, entertaining and timely. Guitar news happens fast, making it difficult to churn out blog posts on everything out there.

Our audience is also very vocal about guitar-related content, as is evident on our Facebook page.

As creator of GSTV, I was looking for a social news platform that could deliver top guitar content from across the Web directly to our blog and allow users to participate on a social level. We want to engage music enthusiasts, not talk at them.

Our research led us to new social platform, ROCKZi.

A social news platform

ROCKZi is a social news platform that helps us deliver a fun community experience and share relevant content with our users. Unlike other social platforms that draw your readers to their networks, with this one, the traffic is directed to my blog, which gave me increased opportunities to attract more music fans and expand our community.

The platform lets you customize the content so that it really speaks to your blog’s audience. It let us pick a news category that was relevant specifically to our blog. For most websites, a category probably already exists, but if not, you can create one yourself.

Easy to install

We literally embedded the platform on our News page in three easy steps.

I was relived I didn’t need a developer to completely redesign our website—we had it up and running on our blog in about five minutes. The platform allowed us to alter the appearance of the content, so it fit nicely on our news page and matched our web design.

The platform in action

Since embedding the platform in August, we have seen traffic to the site increase by 25%. The average time spent on the page has also increased by four minutes.

Our readers started to come back to our site more often to educate themselves on guitar-related news that had been shared by otehrs in our community. And when they are on our site scanning the headlines, they do more than just read.

The platform comes pre-loaded with social tools that let readers post comments on stories, vote the best stories to the top, or submit their own stories they’ve discovered on the Web about the latest musicians or guitar gear.

So you can see what I mean when I say that this tool gives our site more than just good content.

It’s adding a social experience to the site that is bringing readers back more often to engage with other readers around content our audience cares most about.

We’re getting more traffic than Sturgis in August! And readers can pin, post, Facebook or tweet stories right from the page on our site, allowing them to feel more like a part of the community.

All the interactions between your users and the content that’s shared on your site (votes, shares, comments, etc.) will generate direct links through their social networks that will point directly back to your blog.

Do you use a social news tool on your blog? Have you tried ROCKZi? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

Founder Brian Lippey has a background that combines music and business. In Guitar Shop TV, Brian combines his passion for and knowledge of guitars with his strong business acumen.