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25 Reasons Why Google Hates Your Blog

This guest post is by Belinda of The Copy Detective.

Your blog is a good read. Everyone says so.

Although “everyone” is really just people you already know. Like your Mum.

So why isn’t your blog being found by other people? The millions and millions of people hungrily consuming blog content out there in the global online space we call the Internet?

The cold, hard truth is that Google hates your blog. And it’s nothing personal. You just don’t have anything that Google wants.

Creating high-quality, relevant content is a must if you want your blog to be noticed by search engines but it’s only part of the picture. If you’re not sure if Google really hates your blog, or whether it’s just ambivalent, then step through these warning signs.

1. You don’t know which keywords your readers are using

The very heart of search engine optimization is understanding what people are searching for online and aligning your own content to those searches. When you use the same words and phrases that your audience members use, your blog posts can be matched to online searches. If you don’t? Well, you may as well be blogging in another language.

2. You don’t know how to find the right keywords

Google has a free keyword tool that will show you different phrases being searched on, the amount of traffic they get, and how many other sites are also trying to rank for those phrases. Spend a few moments before writing each blog post to find the most popular phrases for your blog topic, or use keyword analysis to think of new topics!

3. You don’t use your keywords frequently enough

Using your keywords as frequently as is natural will help Google understand what your blog post is about. Use an online tool such as wordle.net to produce a word cloud from your blog post. Your most frequently used words will be the largest ones you see and you can quickly see if you’re using the right phrases often enough. But beware of over-using your keywords and being labelled a spammer.

4. You are trying to rank for too many keywords in every post

Keeping it simple is definitely the best approach when you are optimizing your blog posts. Focus on a single theme and choose one main keyword to avoid diluting your SEO efforts.

5. Your blog headlines don’t even mention your main keyword

Strategic marketing aims your message like a laser rather than spraying it into the wind, and the same applies to SEO. Your headlines (h1 text) and subheadings (h2 text) are given more weight than regular text, so they’re prime candidates for your keywords and phrases.

6. You don’t bother putting descriptions on your images

You might include images to catch your readers’ eyes, or to help balance your text, but Google can’t see your images and unless you attach a description of some sort, your image will be ignored. Attach an image description using the ALT tag or caption, and don’t forget to use those keywords.

7. You never link to your old blog posts

Creating links between your blog posts makes it easy for your readers to discover other content, which naturally keeps them hanging around for longer. From an SEO point of view, Google pays particular attention to links, making them the ideal location for your keywords.

8. You never link to other bloggers

Although it sounds contrary, you will also get some SEO benefit from sending your readers away from your blog by linking to other blogs. You might do this with a “best-of” list post or with a blogroll—however you do it, but Google sees you sharing high-quality content with your audience, and rewards you for it.

9. You don’t fill out your page title and description fields

Meta data is the code name for the information you can use to advertise your blog post to Google. When you search on Google, the results are displayed as a post headline in bold and a brief description underneath. Search engines can work this information out but you are better off writing these yourself and popping those keywords in.

10. You don’t make your URLs search engine friendly

Using recognizable words, especially your keywords, in your blog post URL will help Google to make sense of your blog posts. The bonus, of course, is that your blog posts will be easier to remember for everyone else. So take a minute to edit your blog URL before you publish.

11. Your blog has broken links all over the place

Broken links occur when a URL points to a page that no longer exists. It might be that you changed the URL slightly or you deleted the blog post, but broken links give the impression that you aren’t maintaining your blog. Broken links also stop Google from crawling your blog posts and when you put the two together you get a big SEO cross against your name.

12. Your blog doesn’t have a sitemap

A sitemap is a website page that has all the links and pages of your blog mapped out. Sitemaps make it easy for Google to index every page on your blog, which can affect how quickly you appear in search engine results. Most content management systems will have a plugin that will create and submit your sitemap to Google, taking all the hard work out of the process.

13. You copy your content from other bloggers

Smart people don’t try to reinvent the wheel. They draw inspiration from the world around them. Google rewards original content but “original” refers to the wording rather than the concept. If you lift large amounts of content from external sources, and Google will mark it down as duplicate content and give you no SEO points. Adapt or attribute. Always.

14. You don’t publish blog posts often enough

Google loves fresh content and new posts on your blog are a great incentive for Google to come back and visit. Some bloggers publish when they are inspired. Some bloggers write every day. The question you need to answer is how often can you publish valuable and relevant posts to your readers.

15. You never use bullet lists in your blog posts

Google loves bullet lists. Not quite as much as headlines, subheadings and links, but a lot more than regular text. That, of course, means you should use lists to break up long passages of text and pop your keywords in, especially in the first couple of words of each list item.

16. You don’t have a presence on any social media platforms

Google is always looking for ways to return search results that are valuable and relevant. Social recommendations are becoming a huge influence on how search engines view your content and that’s exactly what active social media pages are. So go and get social, and build a community around your blog.

17. You don’t share your blog posts on your social media pages

Social media pages are fantastic for building a community—see above. They are also the perfect vehicles to share and promote your blog posts! Don’t be afraid to share your new blog posts across social media and ask your community to share the love. You are building social currency that Google loves to see.

18. You don’t invite blog readers to leave comments

Comments give your blog the kind of freshness that search engines just love. Comments also show that your blog posts are still relevant to readers. Invite readers to leave their thoughts and continue the conversation or blog about something a bit controversial to get the discussion started!

19.You don’t know where your biggest referrers live

Google Analytics will show you where you have the greatest numbers of people sending traffic to your blog. It’s worth knowing who they are so you can give them the attention they deserve. Your analytics will also show you the keywords that led people to your blog, how many times they visited, and which other pages they clicked on.

20. Your blog content will age like a b-grade actress: badly

Blogging about topical subjects is a great way to start a conversation but it might also date your blog posts into irrelevancy. Creating helpful, educational content, instead of editorial content, is just one way you can create a library of blog posts that will be relevant again at a later date. Mixing different types of blog posts will also keep your readers interested.

21. You don’t write about topics people are interested in

If you ever ask yourself if your blog posts are interesting enough, you’re asking the wrong person. If your blog isn’t getting much attention from readers then Google isn’t going to give it a second look. You can discover a wealth of potential topics from comments on other people’s blog, surveys, keyword analysis, trending Twitter topics, and simply asking your current readers. Don’t be shy!

22. You have advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic

Paid advertising is more than ok but if you have a lot of advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic then it kind of makes you look bad. Google is getting really good at picking out poor poor-quality websites and lots of irrelevant advertising can give off all the wrong signals.

23. You don’t have share buttons so people can’t spread the word

Social share buttons let your readers promote your words of wisdom without ever having to leave your blog. Apart from the extended reach, the more often your blog posts are tweeted, liked and commented on, the more value they have … and the more Google will notice you.

24.Your guest posts are replicated on other sites, word for word

Opening your blog up to guest bloggers is a fantastic way to add depth and variety to your own blog topics—not to mention giving yourself a break from writing! But if your guest bloggers publish the same content, word for word, on their own blog, then you don’t get the kudos from Google for original information. Ask your guest bloggers to give you exclusivity or at least a few weeks’ head start.

25. You write about too many topics and Google is just plain confused

If you have a lot of different passions, that’s wonderful, but blogging about them all on the same blog will get you nowhere. In fact, from an SEO point of view, your blog will look like a big pile of books on the floor: too hard to categorize. Keep it simple and Google won’t get so baffled.

Remember that Google’s ultimate mission is to match online searches with the most relevant and reputable content. You will be rewarded when you create content that focuses on your readers’ needs and you build a strong network around your blog. It won’t happen overnight nor is it a one-off process but if you keep at it, people will find you (and it will be Google that shows them).

Belinda is a professional marketing copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. You don’t have to choose between them! Read her copywriting blog, The Copy Detective, and improve the way you write about your business.

10 Ways Multi-blog Authors Can Stay Creative and Generate Great Posts

This guest post is by Jo Gifford of Cherry Sorbet Creative.

Keeping fresh and creative is key to keeping on top of the game when writing different blogs across various sectors, and for various clients. Working with efficient workflows, time management and organization all help to keep that valuable information harnessed to be used when you need it, but how about making sure you can produce great content on time and on demand?

Keeping creative and informed means you are working efficiently to produce content that’s engaging, informative, and, of course, profitable for you. After all, time is money when you are managing a number of blogs and clients.

Here are my top ten tips for fueling that creativity, generating ideas, and managing your time and resources.

1. Make the info come to you—start mass reading

Working smartly is such a key part of working creatively. The brain loves to shoot out those genius ideas when it is free to do so, but cluttered working habits, information gathering, and idea dumping leave little space for those Einstein moments.

So, my first tip for working across blogs is to make the information you need for your different blogs or publications land on your doorstep with minimal effort. That means setting up Google alerts on your subjects of interest which are emailed to you as they occur.

Set up  journo request callouts on databases like Gorkana to allow PR pros to do some groundwork for you, and of course use #journorequest and #bloggerrequest on Twitter.

Use your groups on Linked In to source info, and set up specific RSS feeds grouped together in Feedly to get the blog posts and info you need at source. And of course, the old-school way of signing up for email updates from the right resources will see you right.

Speed up your fact finding, and you can concentrate on fueling great post ideas.

Okay,so now we have info flowing in, but an inbox filled to the brim. Well let’s sort that out too.

2. Filing it cleverly: Other Inbox

If you power your mails with gmail like I do, Other Inbox is your new best friend. I use gmail to ensure all my emails across blogs I write for and my design agency to come together in one place so I don’t miss anything.

OIB is an intuitive add-on app that actually learns where you file things over time, and does this for you. You can set up smart filing to send alerts and emails from certain sources, or containing particular keywords, to go where you wish. In this way, OIB makes that overwhelming inbox panic dissipate.

No creative genius can be cooking with gas when there’s a load of emails looking urgent. Get your inbox filed for you, check it when you need to, and carry on with the magic-making.

3. Dump it! Brain dumping for multiple sources

A wonderful part of working creatively to generate great posts is that those ideas can be trained to come. The problem is that we can’t always tell when they’ll hit.

Finding a brain dump system that works for you is key to keeping your ideas to hand for those moments when you can sit down and crack out the post that you need to.

Evernote is one of my favorite tools for mobile info dumping, and for grabbing info while browsing. I also use Simple Note and Google Docs to file useful ideas.

Designing a workflow that’s intuitive and works to your strengths makes life at work and—in the time away from it—so much more fun and a lot less stressful.

4. Getting creative

One of my favorite books around creativity is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book provides a 12-week, step-by-step process to unblocking creativity, and includes some fantastic tools and techniques for putting that grey matter to work.

I have gone though the process twice, both times with amazing results which have sent my business in unexpected directions that are aligned with my real aims and goals. Dip into the book. Even if you don’t do the whole thing, I’m sure you will find some of the daily tasks really useful to kickstart your creative thinking. Remember, innovation is just creativity and we can train it.

5. Find your zone and stay in it

In addition to getting your creative juices going, finding your zone to work in is so important. I wrote a post about it, the basic message being: whatever works for you, do it.

If you know that eating a banana and having a cup of coffee gets you in the zone, great, off you go. If it’s a run followed by two hours of great writing, replicate that and there you have a successful recipe. For me, it’s Daft Punk on the headphones, a coffee, and a set time limit to write with the reward of a run at the end. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage.

6. Map it!

Mindmapping is one of my favorite ways to get ideas out in a non-linear way that best expresses my thoughts. I use Mindmeister on my computer and iPhone to brainstorm business ideas and blog posts using imagery, colored segments and links, and all sorts of fun things.

I am even happier when brainstorming in real time with other colleagues or associates—it’s amazing to see ideas develop visually in a way that can be shared and presented so well.

7. Reach out

So often bloggers and freelancers work in isolation—in the ubiquitous PJs, of course. Make a point of having a few friends, colleagues of associates that you can brainstorm with, over a coffee in the big wide world, or using Facetime or Skype if you need to be surgically removed from your dressing gown.

Every genius needs to bounce around some thoughts from time to time and it’s a healthy way to get perspective, see things from a new angle, and just to ensure some human contact.

8. Step away from the machine! Illumination needs you

One of the best ways to let ideas flow is to step away from the screen. Illumination, one of the steps in the creative thinking process, needs space to happen.

I often have ideas when I step away to make a cup of tea, or to do some cooking; a process that isn’t taxing your mind or filling it with yet more information will let the ideas come for the next brilliant post you can write.

9. Unblock yourself on time

Despite our best efforts sometimes that white page or screen just catches out out. The cursor blinks, you try your best workflow habits, but nothing.

A good technique for creative thinking in a time managed manner when a deadline looms is to slice that time up into chunks of 15. Set your phone timer or computer gadget to a 15 minutes and make yourself write just a little.

You will often find if you start off, however clunky the writing is, you will get there. I wrote my MA thesis in a similar way, making myself do 500 words a day whether I felt like or not, was tired, slightly tipsy after work drinks, or just plain not in the mood. Slice it up and it will stop the panics from setting in and quashing any creativity even further.

10. If you are really stuck, go outside the box and freestyle

Try some creative thinking techniques such as random word association: auto-generate a word online or pick a dictionary page and see how that word or object makes you see your brief in a different light.

For example, a car: think of wheels, motion, driving, journeys … do these spark any ideas for your subject? Keep some tricks up your sleeve for the days when your genius is running a little slower than usual and you won’t fail to deliver.

Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, and founder of Cherry Sorbet Creative. Working primarily in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle industries her work spans graphic design for print and web, social media management and training, copywriting and editorial for on and offline publications. You will find her blogging as Dexterous Diva, and on Twitter bot ahs Dexterous Diva and Cherry Sorbet.

Un-dull Your Blog Posts: Four Fiction Techniques to Try

This guest post is by Harry Bingham of Writers’ Workshop.

Most blog posts are dull.

They might be well-informed, offer interesting insights, teach useful things—but they can do all those things and still be dull.

Although readers do come to blogs to learn, they are only ever two clicks away from rival offerings, which means you’re under constant pressure to retain those eyeballs.

And eyeball-retention is a learnable, replicable skill. I’m a novelist, after all. People don’t come to my books in order to learn anything: they come for entertainment and will desert me if I don’t satisfy their expectations. So I—and my peers—made darn sure we satisfy them. What’s more, the approaches that work for books are eminently transferable to blogs.

Story

One driver that always works is story. Let’s suppose you’re writing about an SEO technique which yields, on average, a 30% traffic increase over a three month period. Clearly that technique is, in principle, going to be of interest to your readers.

But isn’t that presentation dull? I mean, don’t you feel your heart contract just a little when you hear those stats? You know you need to read the post but, gosh, it doesn’t excite you.

Contrast that with a post that starts with a story. Jed Edwards is a fishmeal seller who’s struggling to make a go of his business in recessionary times. He hits on a new SEO technique that doubles his online traffic in the space of three months. He renegotiates a bank loan on the back of a new business plan and for the first time in years, things start to look up.

Now that snippet still feels a little poor. We want more detail, more personalization, more that is specific to Jed and his business. But enrich that one paragraph to, let’s say, three and you have a human, empathic connection. Your reader is hooked.

Of course at that point, you’ll need to backtrack. You’ll need to say that the Jed’s experience is unusually positive, that 30% increases are the norm, not 100% ones. And you’ll need to get into the nuts and bolts of the technique. But all that doesn’t matter. You’ve got the reader into your article. You’ve won their trust. Your task isn’t finished—but it’s very well started.

The trick to this approach is to start (and ideally finish) with the personal, the specific, the detailed. You can see one example of this approach on our blog here, but you can also view countless examples of it in the newspapers. If a journalist is writing about the Japanese tsunami, for example, they’ll likely start by picking out the experience of one particular family, or one particular village. Start with the particular, move to the general, and move back to the particular with your close.

Controversy

Another good alternative is to go for controversy. You don’t necessarily need to believe 100% in the position you are presenting. Obviously, you need to have some real belief what you’re saying, but it’s okay to allow yourself to express things more strongly than you truly believe. That’s not about lying: it’s about helping to clarify things for readers. By making strong statements, you can let your readers test out what they do and don’t believe on a subject.

In the end, a controversial stance is simply a way to keep the reader interested in what follows. A recent guest-blogger on our own writing-related website made a big splash with an argument that alcohol could be used to promote creativity. It’s a controversial position—but that post scored almost three times as many hits as one of our regular posts. (His post can be found here.)

Facts

You wouldn’t think that novelists spend much time wrestling with facts, but we do! Historical fiction, for example, nearly always relies on a novelist finding some extraordinary aspect of the past and bringing it to life via story. But if the background material weren’t compelling, the book wouldn’t be either. Philippa Gregory’s international hit book (and movie) The Other Boleyn Girl worked primarily by bringing an extraordinary aspect of King Henry VIII’s colorful life to public view.

You can do the same. Most pro bloggers recycle the same old facts. You need to avoid that. You need to locate the specific, unknown fact that throws a new light on the issue you are commenting on. You don’t need to embellish that fact or wrap it in fancy packaging. If your fact is strong enough, you can hook a post to it without any of that.

Take, for example, Amazon’s launch of the Kindle Fire. Countless commentators regurgitated Amazon’s sales statistics—to such an extent that no blog advertising this fact could be of real interest. So Clint Boulton did some original research (which he discusses here) and transformed a dull post into a value-added one.

Style and humor

A fourth—difficult—approach relies on writing style and humor. It’s hard, because you need real writerly skills. You can’t just bolt them on, the way you can with the first couple of approaches. And humor that falls flat is much worse than no humor at all.

On the other hand, there are replicable skills here too. Economy, for starters. Are you saying something in 12 words that could be said in eight? If so, your blog post risks being 50% longer than it ought to be. Pedantic micro-corrections to your text can build into a large macro difference in interest.

Cliché is another grievous sin against good writing. Every cliché kills—just a little—the reader’s interest in your text. If you spot examples of cliché in your text (and that means remembering to look for them!), you can correct the problem in one of two ways. Either come up with your own original striking phrase or choose a simple but accurate replacement. So you could change “She was grasping at straws” into either of these alternatives:

She grew desperate, a drowning woman in search of a lifebelt.
Tiny facts now filled her with unreasonable hope.

Both of those options are a big improvement on the cliché.

Examples

Finally, humans aren’t particularly rational creatures. Logically, it makes good sense to state general principles and let readers figure it out from there. But readers want examples. They make those general principles leap to life.

The joy of hyperlinks means that you don’t even have to slow your prose down with reporting those examples: you can just point to them and move on. The better written and more joyous the posts you point to, the more joy you bring into your own post too. It’s like love: you create more by sharing.

Have you used any of these techniques to un-dull your writing? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Harry Bingham is a novelist. He also runs the Writers’ Workshop which offers help with all aspects of writing a book.

How to Write Irresistible Blog Intros

This guest post is by Andrea Wren from Butterflyist.com,

Did you know that I like to have sex on roller coasters? Yes, there’s nothing that does it for me more than wondering if my partner will puke at the point of, um, no return. Okay I’m fibbing. I can’t even imagine how difficult big dipper hanky panky would be, but I got you listening, didn’t I?

While I was being a little devious, and you’re now going to be a tiny bit disappointed that I’m not going to talk about my fetish for fairground frolics, I’ve demonstrated two things:

  • A strong hook in the introductory paragraph of your post is crucial to grab the reader’s interest.
  • Your hook should be linked to what you’re actually writing about, otherwise the reader will feel like they’ve been duped once they continue.

But then, seeing as the title already told you what this post was going to be about, I can be excused. You knew I wasn’t going to be talking about my fictional amusement park passions, so I haven’t hoodwinked you after all!

But I did gain attention.

First impressions…

They count, don’t they? Unlike networking events or dinner parties, where we may be forced to stay making small-talk with a person we’ve decided we don’t like, when we’re reading blogs, we have a choice. And we don’t have to stick around. Once you’ve got your title, you have to think carefully about the all-important first impression that will follow.

So how do you write a winning intro that will make your reader read on?

Find a relevant hook

This is key. A “hook” has that name for a reason—it’s designed to capture the reader as an angler would a fish. You lay the bait with your title, and then your hook (the first sentence or two of the opening paragraph) should snatch hard enough that even the wriggliest of wrigglers won’t get loose.

How outlandish you can afford to be (a la the tabloid press) depends on the context of the writing, and how confident a writer you are. But even the most conservative of business blog posts can be strongly hooked.

Whether you begin with humor or with a serious quote, a good hook will intrigue the reader, or challenge them, and draw them into finding out where your opening gambit leads.

Therefore, it’s useful to start with a curious or unusual fact connected to the post, a question, or something that tests the reader’s beliefs. You could even try all three. For instance:

“In a new report, small businesses say they cannot afford to employ women of child-bearing age who may require maternity pay-outs. Should financially struggling SMEs be entitled to refuse to recruit women in certain age groups?”

Controversy, of course, often works well. And juicy revelations can do the trick too. Here are three other tips to make note of:

1. Set the scene

Your hook could potentially be the first paragraph in itself, depending on how succinct you are. But within the introduction, the reader should know what the post will be about.

Setting the scene is about defining reader expectations—he or she needs to assess whether the time they are about to invest in reading your post will be worth it.

In the above example of a hook, the writer might go on to say which report their information comes from, what their own position is (you will generally be shown which way the writer leans from the start, but a clever writer will make it seem that they could have their mind changed), and which arguments they are going to tackle in the rest of the piece.

You give the reader the gist, without giving it all away in the first few sentences.

2. Cut the waffle

So you’ve got the hook, and you’ve set the scene. Now read over your introduction aloud.

If it trails off around the houses and then does a few thousand miles across the world and back before it makes its point, your reader will be away with the fairies before you know it.

Like with the continuing blog post, all writing in the intro should serve some purpose. It should make the reader laugh, offer a fact, provide an opinion, make a challenge, concisely explain something, or ask a question. If it does none of these things, get rid of it.

No reader wants to wade through the ramblings of your mind if they aren’t going to lead somewhere, or if you’ve already said it. You need to convince the reader you have a good story. Waffling will not do this.

Don’t say anything that doesn’t need saying.

3. After a strong beginning…

With a good hook and a pithy opening to your article, your reader should, we hope, commit to finding out what else you have to talk about.

Writing compelling introductions takes practice, but it goes without saying that this is only the beginning. You then have to keep your audience enraptured throughout.

However, that’s another blog post waiting to be written.

Andrea Wren is an experienced freelance journalist, travel writer and blogger based in the UK. She blogs at Butterflyist.com, a site which inspires people to have the confidence to push their comfort zones and see the world. Here you can also get her free eBook ‘Travel More, Work Less and Live Life’. Find Andrea on Twitter via @thebutterflyist

3 Lessons On Blogging from My Son… the Artist

Our kitchen table is in a perpetual state of creativity.  L1001438.jpg

Marker pens, sketch books, glue sticks, and paint sets are make their permanent home there because my five-year-old son (X) is a self-declared Artist.

While there are some challenges with living with an Artist… (last night I almost broke my ankle tripping on a glue stick) there are a lot of good things about it too. Not only is there a constant stream of art work to hang on the fridge, I’ve also seen a lot of parallels between the ways he’s developing artistically and how I think bloggers could develop their own craft.

The more you do it, the better you get

Young X is prolific. There’s no other word to describe him.

When I get up at 7am he’s usually hard at work on a project he’s been dreaming up in bed the night before (he literally gets up and draws his dreams).

When I go down to the kitchen for a cup of tea mid morning, he’ll be there drawing or crafting up some new “sculpture” (out of an egg carton, some blue tack, a chocolate box, and his Mum’s earrings).

When I collect him from kindergarten in the afternoon, he’ll leave the room with any number of paintings, pastings, and works of art, while other kids walk out with one at most.

The fruit of his constant practice of his artistry is a remarkable improvement in what he’s producing. While it’s all still very childlike (he is five) we genuinely marvel at his creations—they’re really great! Last week I even found him sitting down with a book about Picasso and trying to emulate one of his famous paintings.

The same is true for blogging (or any form of writing)—the more you practice, the better your writing gets. In fact it’s pretty much the only way to learn. You can study writing techniques all you want, but unless you actually experiment with putting them into practice and work on developing your own style, you’ll never really improve.

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Experiment with new media

X is constantly trying new ways of constructing, drawing, painting, and creating. While drawing with pencils used to be his thing, he’s moved through a variety of “phases” in his artistic development as he’s explored different media.

I still remember the time earlier this year that I suggested he use his pencils only to be told that “I used pencils when I was 4 but I have been maturing. I prefer paint!”

He’s also gone through different phases when it comes to subject matter. Faces were and early phase. Then houses. Then robots. Then Toy Story characters. Then fire. Then rainbows….

Interestingly, his latest phase is something of a fusion (or mashup) of different media and subjects. It’s almost as if he’s tested and tried a variety of techniques and has now got his own little style, taking things he’s learned along the way and putting them together into his own little way.

The same is true for bloggers. I strongly advise bloggers to experiment:

  • Experiment with writing in different styles and voices.
  • Experiment with writing posts of different lengths.
  • Experiment with writing informal and formal posts.
  • Experiment with writing in a more personal and engaging tone, and writing a more academic-style essay post.
  • Experiment with different media—video, audio, written.
  • Experiment with different formats—list posts, interviews, how-to posts, stories.
  • Experiment with different topics.

The list could go on. As you experiment, you’ll find yourself drawn to repeat some and leave others. You’ll also find your readers resonating with some experiments and ignoring (or even reacting against) others. In time, your voice develops.

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Train your mind to think like a blogger

When X is not making art, he’s thinking about his next creation. Quite often we’ll be driving in the car or out for a walk and he’ll have a contemplative look on his face, or he’ll be examining something with real intent. I’ll ask him what he’s thinking about. More often than not, he’ll say something like:

  • “I’m thinking about how to draw that traffic light.”
  • “I’m imagining what that man riding the bike will look like being attacked by a dinosaur so I can paint it.”
  • “I’m working out what color to draw our house in when I get home.”

X is always on the lookout for inspiration for his art work. He’s painting his next painting before he’s even sitting down to do it. He’s looking at life though the eyes of a five-year-old artist—working out how to translate what he sees and experiences into his creations.

Again, there is a lesson to be learned here for bloggers. While I don’t advise letting your whole life be taken over by thinking about blogging, over time you begin to see life through blog-colored glasses. As you experience life, there will be some things that jump out at you that could impact your blogging (or even be written about).

This post is an example of that. As I watched X draw today and began to ponder how he was developing, I began to see the parallels and analogies emerge—but they only came because I guess I’ve got into the habit of looking at life this way.

What Has Blog SEO Got to Do With How Your Readers Feel?

This guest post is by Dr. Mani of Internet infopreneur.

My blogging has evolved. Since 2003, when I first started blogging, the style and nature of my writing has changed to match trends, experience, and personal growth.

One thing however has remained constant. I write for my audience—and about things that matter to them. Or at least, I try to.

And, from what I’ve seen shared by many successful bloggers, that’s one of the keys to enjoying rich rewards from blogging. I read this snippet in an article about gaining social media influence by Haydn Shaughnessy:

“Writing stopped being a megaphone a long time ago and is now a journey where you meet a few of the same people regularly and a whole lot of new people all the time.”—Haydn Shaughnessy

So the key to blogging success is to attract a relevant, clearly defined, and in some way ultimately profitable (to you) readership—and this begins by knowing what to share with them in order that you may reach out meaningfully.

Listen, no one cares about you. Not in the beginning. Maybe never. They only care about how much you care for them—and how you can help them.

It helps when you genuinely care about them, because then your blogging will automatically align with ways you can help them meet their most pressing needs, get rid of their most worrying problems, and take them closer to their most desired dreams.

In order to reach the largest possible audience of such prospects, you need to rely upon tactical approaches like blog SEO. For many years, I blithely ignored that and wrote ad lib. In the early days, it worked because a. there was little, if any, competition, and b. the writing still appealed to readers, who then helped amplify the signal to others like them.

This last point is still in effect, except that the playing field has grown unbelievably more crowded. Everyone is an author. Everyone has a blog. Everyone is out to find more readers. Everyone is clamoring for your attention. Everyone is getting frustrated at not finding it.

Everyone wants a magic wand to wave at their computer screen and attract blog visitors.

Blog SEO can become yours.

Search engine optimization is partly the art of weaving into your content specific keywords and phrases which are used by people seeking information on search engines. Google and Bing get a humongous number of visitors every day, all of them in pursuit of more information. By positioning yourself in front of this crowd, you can funnel a few folks to your blog.

But you’ve got to know the right words to use.

Blog SEO is, in that respect, unique and special, because it speaks to the way your audience thinks and feels. When you’re in synch with your viewers, you already know intuitively what keeps them awake late into the night. You sense what things might get them bounding out of bed each morning, eager and excited.

You know because you care.

You care enough to ask people in your niche. You care enough to monitor your blog metrics and follow trends. You care enough to engage in conversations with your loyal readers. You care enough to take time to read other blogs, network with other bloggers, and keep up with industry developments that fuel these fears and dreams.

And then, you care enough to write (or speak or record a video) about these things—things which speak deeply, intimately, personally to each individual member of your tribe who favors you with their attention and time.

Blog SEO involves using that insight about your audience, matching it to time-tested principles like keyword density and anchor text for links, and optimizing each of your blog posts in such a way that they not only rank high on search engines, but also resonate with those who visit and read them.

Your keywords aren’t always those with the highest search volume—they are the ones closest to your readers’ hearts. Your on-site optimization isn’t all about seeding the text of your blog with the right density of phrases, but sharing value that your market craves.

Because blog SEO is no longer influenced by purely on-page factors, but also depends heavily on social sharing, this approach maximizes your impact. Your blog readers will happily share things they find helpful and interesting with their friends and contacts, growing your blog’s ranking ability and attracting new readers into your fold.

That’s why the craft of SEO for bloggers has morphed into a fine art that hinges more upon how your special people feel—and why. Understand that, apply it intelligently, and you’ll crack the secret code to blogging success—even in this over-crowded and cluttered marketplace.

Dr. Mani is a heart surgeon and Internet infopreneur. His information business helps fund treatment for under-privileged children. He has taught thousands of entrepreneurs “how to earn a steady online income doing what you love”. Learn more about information marketing at his blog, or get his book Think, Write & Retire!

A New Linking Strategy: Out is the New In

I’ve been thinking a lot about my linking strategy lately. Trying to get incoming backlinks, making sure I have good inner links…

But one area that I think is too often overlooked is outbound links.

Hello, it’s called the “web”

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

When HTML was initially designed (and yes, I’m old enough to remember those days), the resulting conglomeration of pages was called the World Wide Web. Why? Because the structure of the pages resembled a spider’s web.

There was no central starting point. Each page contained hyperlinks that referenced other pages that were relevant.

There were no search engines and directories were fairly small and specialized. The only way that you could get to a page was if you knew the URL, or followed a link from another page.

In those days, the idea was to provide access to information. The internet was not a commercial place back then.

But then things changed…

The nature of links has changed drastically in the past few decades. Instead of being a helpful way to share relevant content with our readers, we’ve come to view them as a way to increase our SEO. We’ve become stingy with links because we want to keep our readers on our own pages, viewing our AdSense ads and buying through our affiliate links.

We allow links in the comments, but we nofollow them so no link juice escapes. We’ll put the odd blog in our blogroll, if we even have one. But how many of those are owned by us as well?

No, our focus is all on how we can get links back to our own site and build ourselves up in the eyes of Google.

It has to change

All of us need to change our mindsets about linking. We need to get back to the original mindset of the web.

That’s not to say that getting backlinks is bad (provided you’re not spamming to do it—that’s another article altogether). Nor should you ignore the SEO benefits of internal links.

But we need to get back to the idea of sharing links simply because the information is of value to our readers.

As the search engines get smarter, and the value of comment links, forum links, and social media links drops, the value of in-content links (i.e. links from within an article itself) will rise.

Who else thinks this way?

Am I the only one thinking about this? Not at all. Some A-list bloggers have written about this topic.

Brian Clark of Copyblogger wrote Why Linking to Other Blogs is Critical back in 2007. He even suggests linking to your competition—you’ll have to read his article to find out why.

And if you look through the list of trackbacks, you’ll find Linking Out Instead of Link Building to Rank in Google as a recent entry by Tad Chef at SEOptomise. I especially like one thing that he said: “Linking out is a strategy you have to embrace holistically.” Read the article to see what he means.

Dawud Miracle wrote on Lorelle on WordPress Why You Want to Link to Other Blogs where he explores more than just the page rank/traffic benefits.

And to help you find interesting stuff to link to, check out Ben Yoskovitz’s Blog Hack: Link to New Blogs and Get More Readers.

You’ll also find articles here at ProBlogger that talk about how to use outbound links. Kimberly Turner’s Monthly Trends + 10 Tips for a Flawless Linking Strategy touches on the subject, for example.

And don’t forget Darren! He wrote about this back in 2009 in Outbound Links—An Endangered Species? [And Why I Still Link Up].

Explore the trackbacks and links found in those articles and you’ll find lots of people writing about how important linking out is for your blog.

So, what’s a blogger to do?

Excellent question! I’m glad you asked.

We all need to adopt a mindset that includes outbound links in our articles—not necessarily every article, but I think it should be 25% at a minimum. I think you’ll find that as you intentionally look for and link to quality articles, you’ll be able to link out in almost every article you write. This one has six (if you don’t count the blatant plug back to my own site in mu bio!).

I’ve actually come up with a list of six guidelines for outbound links. You can find the list at the end of this post. Maybe you can think of some other guidelines to add — feel free to share!

Above all, remember that Out is the new In when it comes to links.

Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson is a programmer, web designer, trainer, writer and all around nice guy. He has several blogs on the go and loves to tinker with plugins and themes (more than he should). You can see what he’s learning about blogging and online marketing at LoneWolf’s List Marketing Adventure.

3 Traffic Generation Tactics from an Ordinary Human Being

In two and a half years, David Cain of Raptitude.com has built a large and lively audience for his blog, which takes a “street-level look at the human experience.”

He says the most important fuel for this growth was writing quality content. You already know about that, yeah? So in this interview, I dug deeper to find out the specific tactics David uses to make his content interactive, clickable, and sharable.

Here are three tricks that help Raptitude get more visitors.

1. Join a small group of bloggers

This was probably the smartest thing I ever did with my blog… I found a little group of beginner bloggers, there were six or seven of us that had all started in the last couple of months.—David Cain

During our interview, David twice emphasized the importance of joining a peer group. He says that not only does it hold you accountable to continue and give you a forum to bounce ideas off, but also provides a “starter community” to comment on and share your work. This is especially useful early on when the small inner circles of your peers can magnify your efforts. Once your community has this lively base, new visitors can participate by commenting or sharing as well.

Here are three suggestions for finding your support group:

  1. Google Groups: try searching at www.groups.google.com for “blogging”, or “beginner blogging”
  2. Facebook Groups
  3. Ask around: new bloggers are lurking everywhere, so see if you can find allies within your existing network.

Action Step: Join a group of bloggers at a similar experience level. Have a loose rule that if you like each others’ work, you’ll share it with your circle of family and friends.

2. Make your post titles clickable

Every headline has to say “if I read this post, then what’s in it for me?”.—David Cain

David stressed the importance of a good title for your posts. He says that on the internet there is so much information, someone could read it their whole life and never get a fraction of it done. That means that your potential reader might encounter hundreds or thousands of links in a day, and it’s only your few select words that affect whether or not they click on yours. You can leverage that decisive moment by having a headline that you yourself would click on.

Check out how David names his posts:

  • Literal: Raptitude’s most popular post of all time is a list of 40 quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche. They are pretty powerful, like #33: “A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.” A literalist might have named this post something like, 40 Quotes by Nietzsche. Kind of boring, yeah?
  • Clickable: What did David actually name this post? 40 Belief-Shaking Remarks From a Ruthless Nonconformist. Here, “belief-shaking” poses a challenge to readers, “remarks” sounds cooler than “quotes”, and with “nonconformist” being a little bit of a buzzword, many potential readers already identify with it. Another advantage is that when you search Google for “nonconformist quotes”, David’s post is on the first page of results.

Action Step: For your next post, brainstorm a few titles, and decide which one stands out as the most clickable.

3. Post link bait

It’s worth including posts geared towards people wanting to share them.—David Cain

David admits that sometimes he mixes list posts into his work because they are more sharable on social media. He says posts like 7 Ways to Do X or 88 Truths I’ve Learned About Life are easily digestible. This means that a wider variety of people can enjoy this writing, than say posts with a long discourse about human suffering.

Alright, the term “link bait” may have negative connotations, but it doesn’t mean you have to deprive your blog of dignity. On Raptitude, list posts are still very much in line with the pursuit of understanding the human experience. Do your best to ensure that your link bait maintains the quality of your blog—and yeah, people will share it!

Action Step: Try posting link bait. Maybe a list post, photography, or other work that expresses creativity.

What about you?

I’d love to hear from you: are you proud of a particular post title? Created some link bait you can share here?

Michael Alexis is the producer of WriterViews, where you can learn the specifics tactics and strategies that worked for successful writers. Follow him on Twitter at @writerviews.

What Motivates Readers to Share?

This guest post is by Dan Zarrella of danzarrella.com.

In my research into sharing, I realized I needed to develop a framework that would serve as a model for the decision-making process that takes place before someone spreads an idea.

This framework describes the three criteria that must be met before someone will spread an idea in any format:

  1. The person must be exposed to your content. This means that the person has to be following you on Twitter, be a fan of your page on Facebook, subscribe to your email list, and so on.
  2. The person must become aware of your specific piece of content (the idea you want to spread). S/he has to read your tweet or open your email message.
  3. The person must be motivated by something (generally in the content itself) in order to want to share the idea with his or her contacts.

Every piece of content, social network, and campaign has a vastly different conversion rate at each step of this process. For you to understand the scales involved, it helps to visualize a hypothetical set of percentages. If you email 900 people, and 20% of them notice and open the message, and then 10% of those readers forward it to a friend, your email message was shared 18 times.

At each step, you can change the numbers in your favor:

  1. Increase the number of people exposed to your content. Get more email-list subscribers or Twitter followers.
  2. Create attention-grabbing content. Do lots of testing on your subject lines to increase open rates.
  3. Include powerful calls to action.

The keys to real science are data and experimentation. I’ve spent nearly five years conducting research into the why, how, and what of contagious ideas. In the three middle chapters of ZarrellasHierarchyofContagiousness (“Exposure,” “Attention,” and “Motivation”), I present some of my most important findings and describe how you can use them to optimize your ideas for maximum spread at each step of my hierarchy. This is an excerpt from the chapter “Motivation.”

The bottom level of my hierarchy of contagiousness is motivation, and it’s the trickiest to achieve. Once someone is exposed to your idea and it catches her attention, she has to be motivated by it to want to share it. This is where you can find the most superstitious advice.

People claim that they spread ideas only when those ideas are good, are funny, benefit the world, or conform to some other nebulous standard. So how do we really motivate people to share our ideas? That question is best answered in two parts: Why do people share ideas? And what kinds of ideas do they share the most?

What do people share?

Now that we’ve got an understanding of the real reasons people spread ideas, let’s talk about what kinds of ideas they share the most.

Uncomplicated language is contagious

Readability tests are designed to measure the reading grade level required to understand a specific piece of content. The higher the score, the more complex the language is. The most popular readability test is called the Flesch-Kincaid test and is built into Microsoft Word.

While studying Facebook sharing, I gathered a database of stories published in a variety of popular news sources, including geeky places, like Mashable and TechCrunch, and mainstream outlets, such as CNN and The New York Times. I measured how readable each story was and how many times it was shared on Facebook. I found an inverse correlation between the complexity of the articles and the number of times they were shared. As stories became more challenging to read, they were posted to Facebook less often.

I also explored the parts of speech in the titles of those same articles. I determined that the use of flowery, adverb- and adjective-laden language was related to lower sharing rates. As Strunk and White told us decades ago in their book, Elements of Style:

“Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place… it is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.”

The most and least retweetable words

Perhaps my favorite data set is my giant MySQL table of 100 million retweets. A while ago, I pulled out of that table a list of the most “retweetable” words and phrases. I found twenty words that occurred more often in retweets than they did in non-contagious tweets. I also pulled out the least retweetable words, or what I call “viral kryptonite.”

I’ve presented these lists at events probably a hundred times, and at nearly every event, someone will come up to me afterwards with his phone out and show me how cleverly he smooshed all the words together to make the world’s most (or least) retweetable tweet. It is invariably meaningless. The funny part is that when I tell the person to check his mentions, he often finds that he has actually gotten retweeted.

The list of the most retweetable words is topped by the word “you.” People don’t want to hear about you; they want to hear you talk about them. Tweets that tell people how they can do things and learn things do very well. The list also contains phrases like “how to” and “top 10.” These phrases indicate that the content they point to is broken up into manageable chunks rather than being huge blocks of intimidating text.

The best phrase on the list, however, is “please retweet.” You should see the unicorn folks freak out about this one. They tell me that it sounds too desperate, demanding, and downright wrong. But it works. Try it out right now. Irving Kirsch, a researcher at the University of Connecticut backed me up in a recent experiment. He gave some subjects hypnotic instructions to mail thirty postcards, once a day. And just nicely asked another group to do so. “Please mail these.” The second group complied with the request more often. Social requests are just as powerful as full-on hypnotic trances.

On the flip side of the coin are the least retweetable words. Drivel like “tired,” “bored,” “watching,” and “game.” Words that indicate people narrating particularly boring parts of their lives. Of course I’m not going to retweet those.

The most and least shareable words

To come up with similar lists for Facebook, I looked at words in articles shared on Facebook and found the words that correlated most strongly with those articles being shared more often or less often. There are some significant differences between these lists and the Twitter word lists because the Facebook audience is a much more mainstream one.

The list of most shareable words is headed by the word “Facebook.” Yep, Facebookers love talking about Facebook. The rest of the list was mostly stuff you’d hear on the nightly news. Political words and phrases like “Obama” and “health care.” Most interesting, the words “why” and “how” do very well. Online, people want to get deeper into stories than they can with the thirty-second sound bite they heard on TV.

The list of least shareable words is full of social media dork words. Stuff like “apps,” “social,” and “Twitter.” Everyone is on Facebook. Both your mom and your college roommate are, and most Facebook users aren’t into every bleeding-edge new media website like you are.

This is an excerpt from Dan Zarrella’s latest book, to read it in it’s entirety, buyZarrellasHierarchyofContagiousnessonAmazon. It’s less than $10 for the Kindle version (which will work on any computer or device).