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Are You Ignoring this Important SEO Strategy?

This is a guest contribution from Al Gomez.

So, you have a new business – a new product to market. So now what’s next? Perhaps you are thinking about getting traffic, or how to have more visitors to your website? If so, then expect that your mind will be abuzz with terms such as social media, SEO, AdWords, videos, banner ads, articles, etc.

Or, it will be empty and blank.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 2.09.20 pm

Focus.

Search Engines are what you need, despite all the buzz about social media. Google, Yahoo, and Bing remain a main source of traffic for many people. SEO can help you get there, simple as that. However, SEO is often confused with different technical tactics. If you are a search engine marketer,the tactic sounds technical, spammy, and secretive – it’s not worth your time. One great SEO strategy that works best in search engine marketing is making your website a valuable resource. But, before going into it deeper, let me discuss first the importance of having a good SEO strategy.

SEO Strategy and Its Importance 

SEO is the first concern when talking about traffic- despite the presence of social media. But what can you do and how are you supposed to do it to have the traffic you’ve been wanting for a long time?

It has been a common trap to get caught up in various tactics. These tactics, for the most part, may hurt your reputation, and worse – won’t work. If you focus on pleasing the people as your prime concern, you’ll end up ignoring SEO strategy and still be fine. But, this is not what search engine marketing is all about! Getting to grips with SEO the right way is a major help. There is no need to complicate things, just don’t ignore them. Among the many strategies that Search Engine Marketers employ to take the business higher, one of the most ignored is to make the website a valuable resource – making the website a one-stop spot for everyone and let users leave satisfied they found everything they wanted.

The Strategy: Make the Website A Valuable Resource 

The best SEO geeks at present focus on how they can please the people first, then, the search engine. The key point is that, you can actually do well in SEO by creating content that people would want to save, bookmark, share, comment on, and make as a reference. When you can make this happen, this would indicate that they see your content to be useful and they want it to be a reference for future use. This is what the search engine is looking for and in return, it will reward your content with higher rankings.

Custom Google Analytics 

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 2.22.04 pm

To intensify this strategy, you can make use of custom Google Analytics to give you an idea of your useful content and make a difference by serving as a reference material that will be of great help in solving your readers’ concerns and needs. Being reference material is good for ranking, given that it is likely to be shared, clipped, and linked to – a long-term value for your website.

Additionally, being a valuable resource will serve as a foundation for your content marketing strategy. Being a “valuable resource” may not sound as sexy as “engaging content” or “going viral”, but sure thing, it is a much better way to spend your time on, more so when you are just starting out.

Investing a significant amount of time on using SEO the right way is a must. There might be so many strategies around, but not all of them will be applicable to what you can offer to the people. It’s time to be picky – make sure that you’ll stay immortal on the web and people will always be craving what you have in store for them.

Al Gomez is an SEO Expert – working as an SEO consultant and strategist for the last seven years. He focuses on improving website visibility across different industries, including e-commerce websites, health and technology, legal and law, consulting firms, real state, SEO in Los Angeles, and many more. He has also acquired extensive experience in the field of Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Google Adwords (PPC), Email Marketing, Web Development, and other SEO strategies. Know more about Al Gomez by visiting his blog.

Blogging for Business – Why it Works

This is a guest contribution from Maria Mincey.

Based on study by HubSpot, the companies that run a business blog have 97% more inbound links. Now, that’s a statistic that should set rolling the blogging mills of enterprises – be them startups or multinationals. 

Official blogs have had proven benefits for businesses. The very fact that they jazz up the monotonous tone with which a brand is communicating to its audience, and replace it with a line of communication that is much core connective and personal, is what makes business blogs a priceless asset. 

There are several ways blogs benefit businesses, two of which are more than obvious:

It Maximizes Reach

A blog helps companies reach a much broader customer base than their website would. Let’s be honest, how many people bother going to the website of a particular brand or a product they have been using? The websites of companies have to be restricted to providing business-centric information and advertise the offerings of the company. Every bit of information provided on the blog is static, and that is the singularly most relevant reason for your visitors to be totally disinterested in the website, even if they liked to navigate through it on their first visit. Having a blog makes your site dynamic as you keep giving newer insights to the readers and tell a story about your brand.

It Boosts Incoming Traffic by Not just By Intriguing Readers, But also by Enhancing the SEO Aspects

Naturally, when the blog section of your site is offering your readers something new to read, you are bound to get more number of repeat-visits; not to mention the greater number of unique visits as the blog gets shared and liked across the web. But another contributor to this increasing traffic is the optimization of the SEO capability of the website. When you are making quality writers write content for the blog, they know how to write interesting articles while injecting the relevant keywords that is identifiable for your target audience and also let the search engines crawl your website with a greater degree of eagerness and direct a higher volume to the site. You can add only so much of keywords to your product website. 

Which Blogging Platform to Use?

There isn’t a dearth of highly popular and effort-worthy blogging platforms out there. However, if you wish the blog to click into the top gear right away, there is no need to look beyond WordPress. Acc. to more stats:

WordPress is the most sought-after CMS as more than 19% of the self-hosted websites are running on it. 

More than 17% of Alexa’s top million websites use WordPress.

Now Before You Start, Why do you want to Blog in the First Place?

There are also brands who fail to get the desired results they’d expected their blog to pour in for them. Reason: their blogging strategy was too haphazard and there was hardly a plan into the place regarding who are they targeting and how many numbers they hope to achieve. Apparently, the blogs were headed for doom from the very first day due to the lack of insightful approach.

Here are the questions you, as a company blogger or entrepreneur, need to as yourself:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What percentage of that blog audience is prospective buyers?
  • What do they really want to read (what should be the mix of company related info, the industry related info and the interesting bits that only remotely connect to your brand)?
  • What should be the frequency of your posts?
  • How good is your networking?

Unless you have a clear-eyed answer to each of these questions, it is advisable to wait

Know What You Have to Write

It is understandable if you find yourself scrambling for topics to write on or deciding on how to structure your posts. But there are several things to be tried out:

  • Create the “best of ….” style posts. Such posts do command attention and get a lot of clicks. If written in a qualitative manner, they also get shared over the social media.
  • Post reviews, but not just of your products. Let’s say you are running a blog for a job portal. You can post a review of some movie that has released recently that is themed around careers and accounts for some relevance to what you represent.
  • Interview the influencers in your industry. People love to read interviews, and they are going to do their bit to boost the traffic.
  • Crowd source your content. When you ask your readers to be your contributors, and if and when they contribute, they are going to boost the site visits by sharing their own content among their circle.

Have some really interesting titles and subtitles for the articles in order for them to take hold of the readers. There is a large section of Internet users who like to just scan the content by reading only titles and subtitles – and more often than not, they only segue onto the subsequent content if they find the subtitle intriguing enough.

Again, on the Internet, shorter paragraphs would mean more attention span.

Do make sure that you break your post into bullet points in order to make it more readable.

Get some Professional SEO Help

If you haven’t realized it yet, it’s seemingly impossible to attain high volume of traffic without resorting to SEO. The SEO professionals know how to make your website more visible across the web, how to create relevant backlinks and at which places. Getting a good page rank for your site is extremely important, and that’s one area SEO professionals are able to address successfully. 

Getting an appreciable number of organic visits a day is what dictates the success of your blog at the end of the day. When visits from Google start pouring in, you can be rest assured that your blog is one the right track to empowered traffic. 

Some of the keyword tools that can be used include:

Keyword Planner

Word Tracker

The keyword tools can help you know what are the keywords that get most searched by the audience of your industry. The meta tags and meta descriptions are arguable very important for any website to place its targeted keywords in a manner most reachable for the search engine crawlers. The meta descriptions can be up to 140 characters – so you have a fairly good scope of including the keywords into them. But what works bets is when you place the keywords at the very beginning of the description.

The Images of the Post

The images in your post not only make them more readable by telling a story and moving it forward, but images make a great SEO tool as well. Do not let your image files’ name sbe gibberish. When you name them appropriately, there is a greater chance of them cropping up in the Google image search results. Also, do fill out all the fields. There is a field, “Alternate text”. It will serve you well if you don’t leave it blank and write something in four to five words that describes the content.

Make Sure the Keyword Density is Just Right

When you are sure of the keywords you are including are relevant and will do their bit in bringing in the traffic, the next thing you need to be sure of how densely you spread them across the content. Experts say it should not exceed more than 2%, since Google might penalize you for forcing the keywords into the content. And when you are including keywords in any post, make it certain that those are visible within the first two lines of the post.

Banality may more often than not find a room in business blogs since they are presenting information about an industry that already has voluminous literature dedicated to it. But giving your writeups a spin that is unique – both in terms of technical bits and the language – is what helps you stand out from the herd. 

Maria Mincey is a blogger who loves to share everything about web development and new web design technologies initiatives. She currently works as a chief writer for WordPrax , a PSD to WordPress Conversion company and has a quantum experience to share. Follow her on Twitter: @mariamincey64

Top 5 SEO Techniques That Will Hurt Your Business

This is a guest contribution by Greg Whelan of RankExperts.

5. Relying on Backlinks Alone

The use of SEO has been on the rise for a long time, especially for people who venture in online business. However, while SEO is considered a core tool in enhancing online businesses, the same trend can trigger adverse effects if not implemented in the right way. There are certain limits that you must observe when employing SEO for your business – in other words, SEO for business should never be used blindly.

A great number of online businesses are established each day with most of them turning futile while others respond slowly. Note that some of these businesses make use of SEO strategies and still end up disappointing the founders. This implies that SEO should be used in a strategic and wise manner. It is the only way you will be in a position to make your business yield high returns.

To ensure that SEO works ideally for your business, certain techniques must be avoided. There are strategies which have been confirmed to be really alarming for online businesses hence the need to understand and avoid them now and in the long run. Below is a crackdown on five key SEO strategies which must be avoided for best gains in your business:

1. Purchase of Links

This happens to be one of the most profound habits among people who venture in online business. The good thing is that the trend has worked perfectly for most people in the past. However, the benefits attached to purchasing of links may be cut short in the long run.

It has been revealed that search engines are in the move to eradicate the trend of using purchased links in websites. Google for instance is working tooth and nail to ensure that the trend is stopped completely. It will surprise you to know that Google and other search engine companies have a great team of workers whose sole obligation is to trace purchased links and flag them. This implies that people who are used to buying links for their websites may get hurt in the near future after the fight against the link purchase is fully implemented.

At times, even the untrained eye can detect purchased links in any content. Some patterns formed by a set of links may not make sense at all hence they create suspicion. In addition, you might come across a set of unrelated links which do not even tally with the content in question. This is a pretty clear indication that the links are purchased. The bottom line is that search engine teams will easily know if you have used purchased links or not.

2. Focus on Quantity of Links Rather Than Quality

While use of a huge number of backlinks is considered a perfect SEO strategy, the same can go a long way in ruining your online business. One of the worst mistakes that people make is placing their focus on incorporating a bunch of links in their websites not knowing that quality overrules quantity.

Link building is pretty simple since most people consider it so. Actually, it might not take you long to have a lot of links built for your site. However, most people fail to consider the quality of links they get. Instead, they get excited with the number and forget the quality.

Any link created should be authoritative and attractive to ensure that surfers follow it without a second thought. It is always advised that you refrain from links which are characterized by low DA. This is one of the core recipes behind failure in online business.

3. Keyword Stuffing

For a long time, the threat behind keyword stuffing has been emphasized. It has been confirmed that use of many keywords in website content may trigger adverse effects to your business in terms of ranking. The sad part of it is that most people tend not to drop the practice of stuffing keywords in their content.

Keyword stuffing might have been working perfectly in the past couple of years but it no longer does these days. If you must elevate your business with the help of keywords, then optimization is paramount. You must focus on reaching the recommended density of keywords in your content and avoid stretching further. In most cases, keywords are expected to hit 2% density and nothing more.

Instead of using a lot of keywords in your website, it will work best if you focused on creating quality content. If keywords must be used, the appropriate application and fitting is necessary. The keywords must also be in context to ensure natural flow.

4. Use of Duplicate Content

This is one of the most dangerous SEO strategies that any online businessperson can implement. In most cases, businesses with more than one site tend to recycle their content. You might come across similar articles in different sites. It is also possible to follow a certain link and find similar content from that of the mother website.

If you have the tendency of implementing duplicate content, then your online business is possibly not doing so well. It is important to note that search engines are always on the lookout for unoriginal content, regardless of whether or not the site is owned by one person. Normally, search engines do not rank two copies of similar content. In fact, a penalty may result from using duplicate content. This means that the mission of elevating your online business won’t work.

5. Relying on Backlinks Alone

If you have the perception that use of backlinks is the only avenue towards achieving best ranking, then that is not so at all. There are other tools that must be employed to ensure best SEO for your business website. A lot of people have the delusion that many links in a website will remarkably boost traffic which in return elevates the ranking in search engines.

On the contrary, you must team up a number of SEO strategies and techniques for great results to be achieved. Depending on back-links alone will only boost SEO to some extent but not completely. You must ensure that the use of backlinks is balanced with other suites in the SEO sphere. Content marketing, use of social media, as well as onsite optimization can work as a perfect SEO blend.

The five strategies highlighted above are actually things that can be easily snubbed yet with very drastic and adverse effects in the end. They techniques must therefore be avoided at all costs since it is the only way you can move your business to a better level.

The RankExpert’s  Head of Marketing Greg Whelan holds a degree from the University of Austin’s Mccomb School of Business and a MBA in Marketing. With his unique insights into the world of digital marketing, Greg oversees strategic planning for large to enterprise-sized companies. 

How to Create Massive Value Content & Blow Your Readers’ Minds

HOW TO CREATE MASSIVE VALUE CONTENT

This is a guest contribution from Pooja Lohana.

Let’s face it. Your readers are selfish.

The moment they land on your blog, they look for “what’s in it for me?”.

And that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Knowledge is power. Once you know what they are looking for, you can serve it to them.

At the time of writing this, there are 152,000,000 blogs on the Net. That means every half a second, a new blog is created somewhere in the world.

It’s getting harder and harder to be found in the blogosphere and this is not changing in the future.

If you’re passionate about your topic, perhaps you won’t mind blogging without traffic. But eventually, you will end it all in frustration.

You want people to share your message and to have great conversations with.

You want to stand for something.

The only way out is to stand out by writing unforgettable content or as I like to call Massive Value Content.

What is Massive Value Content?

Jon Morrow calls it an “epic” post and prefers writing one epic post week rather than writing one mediocre post every day.

It solves you readers’ specific, burning problem.

You become a mind-reader. They relate with your post, thank you and leave tons of comments.

Here are some examples:

  1. 39 Great Ideas to Beat the Dreaded Writer’s Block
  2. 102 Quick Recipes to Prepare Your Meals Under $10
  3. The Ultimate Guide to Building a Business from $500
  4. The Reason Blogging is Dead & What to Do Instead

Get the gist? Good.

When done right, it has good chances of going viral and bring you new eye balls.

Your blog gets back-linked, a lot. Influencers in your niche love to talk about you. Other bloggers invite you over for guest posts and webinars.

Perfect, isn’t it?

There is only one question: How.

I am not going to leave you high and dry or ask you to “go create epic sh*t”. I’m actually going to tell you how to do it and get noticed big time.

The Ultimate Cheatsheet to Create Massive Value Content on Your Blog

STEP 1. Keep Calm & Create a Plan

Ever get a killer idea for a post in the shower? It hits you like a brick, and you cannot wait to run to your desk to complete your post.

You sit down, compose a cool post, add a stellar image and boom – you hit Publish.

And you wait for the comments to pour in. For a long time.

Slowly you realize that your “killer” post is actually a dud.

I’ve had that experience in the past. It still happens when I don’t pay attention to what I’m creating.

In fact, I’ve set a timer for 60 minutes in the past to write, format, and publish a post with a featured image.

The result? Only a handful of readers.

What’s missing is a concrete plan to stick to. I love how Jon stresses the importance of having a calendar. That was, all you have to do is “blindly” follow it!

Your editorial calendar is one of the simplest and most effective productivity tools out there. It’s a roadmap.

Here’s an example of a calendar for your blog:

DATE TYPE TITLE STATUS
June 02 Massive Value Content (MVC) Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 09 Regular posts/Podcasts/Interview/Opinion/Video posts Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 16 MVC Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 23 Regular posts/Podcasts/Interview/Opinion/Video posts Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 30 MVC Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP

Give yourself at least 7-8 hours to churn out each MVC post because you will need time for research and writing.

Then there’s external linking, sourcing images, social media so that that into account.

You can alternate MVCs with “regular posts” that can be shorter, quicker and easier to create. The frequency of both these posts and how you schedule them is totally up to you, but as a thumb rule, for every 3 regular posts, write at least one MVC post.

Now I know what you’re thinking – that looks like a lot of work in a month.

And I’m not going to lie to you. It is a lot of work.

If you rush a blog post, you will see mediocre results. The best advice if you’re serious about it is to be patient and focused.

STEP 2. Pick Your Type

1. Long Lists Post

People are lazy. Top it with the millions of results available at our finger tips from Google and you ought to love a shortcut.

A lists post gives your readers just that. It makes a specific promise and delivers.

How can you ever get a list post title wrong? Only when your content is not high-value.

If you are giving great value upfront, this type of post can never go wrong.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the right hand sidebar of BBT. You’ll find it is full of list posts.

Why? Because list posts build authority. They are easy to relate with and promise juicy benefits to your readers upfront.

Here are a few tips to make your list posts even more effective:

  • Steer clear of fluff. Deliver value straight to the point. You can do this by staying focused on creating a list of steps that are fresh, effective and in-depth.
    Tell them how. For example, in this post I’m not just saying “write massive value content” but I’m also sharing how.
  • Add references. Just because you’re creating a long list post doesn’t mean you have to cover everything. Link to external sources where necessary.
  • Write more than 7 items for more eye-balls. One internal test done by HubSpot proved that list posts with less than 6 items weren’t as popular as their longer counterparts.
  • Know when it’s not a list post. Don’t try to convert every single piece of content into a list-based post. Some are better off a tutorials or “ultimate guides”. A good example is when the list is less than 6 items.
  • Use odd numbers when possible. According to a study conducted on students, odd numbered grouping worked better than even-numbered one.
    I wouldn’t take this too seriously though and I encourage you to come up with your own findings.
    And if you have 12 unique bullet points to share after multiple re-reads, by all means go ahead and share them!
  • Use fine adjectives. Strategic adjectives work like a charm.
    Think “29 Killer Exercise Rituals”, “53 Magnetic Headlines” or “10 Easy Recipes Under $10”.

2. Case Studies

If you have clients, you can use case studies and use it for dual purposes.

One, you’re creating MVC because case studies are much in-depth piece of information.

Two, you’re promoting your clients along the way.

KISSmetrics blog does this very well. They are known for rich case studies that solve a problem or deliver value.

Here’s one that explores industry-wide gender bias by WordStream.

A case study focuses on a specific example (WordStream in the above example) or a company as opposed to a white paper, which is more generic.

Using a case study boosts your credibility manifold. It shows your readers what’s possible and all they have to do is follow the exact steps you’ve listed.

Again, the magic of telling them how to do something, instead of telling them the what, is at work.

3. Tutorials & Guides

Ever seen an “Ultimate Guide”?

Perhaps the most common ones have to do with social media or marketing.

“The Ultimate Guide to Using Pinterest” or “The Ultimate Guide to Successful Email Marketing”.

A quick search for “ultimate guide” on Google returns 439 Million results on my end. Refine the search for your industry or niche to get more specific.

For example, “ultimate guide blogging” returns more than 2 Million results.

This type of MVC is a full-blown tutorial on the topic, complete with screenshots, infographics, real life examples, steps, external reference links and calls-to-action. Anything that adds value goes.

In short, as a classic MVC, your ultimate guide will detail step-by-step instructions on how to do something.

Here’s another tip: Since these posts tend to be long, sprinkle visual elements in the form of infographics, video and memes to keep your readers engaged.

83% of learning happens visually. Contrast this with people remembering only 20% of what they read every time so a visual guide along with supporting text works great.

You can always create infographics and other visually engaging content to support your articles with online apps such as Visme.

No matter what niche you’re in, you can still make use of an ultimate guide and do a few things with it.

  • Give it away to your subscribers as a PDF in exchange for their email address. (Also known as lead magnet.)
  • Split it into a series of articles and send it to your mailing list in the form of an e-course.
  • Publish it on Kindle platform (You can list it as free or paid).
  • Record it in your own voice and sell it as an audio.
  • Create a course on Udemy and give it away.
  • Hold a webinar on the same content and give the guide away to listeners after the webinar.

4. Collaborated Posts

Want to tap into other people’s audience for free?

You can. Except for the “free” part.

You see, there is no free lunch, so you have to put in some planning and effort in the mix before you can leverage an influencer’s reach.

  1. The first step is to create a list of influencers in your niche.
  2. Then split the list into tiers 1, 2 and 3 according to their popularity. The bloggers with a slightly larger email list or reach that yours will go under “1”; a more popular one will occupy “2” and so on.
  3. Start with the low-lying fruit, tier 1. (Although not absolutely necessary, you start here because that way you will be more confident when approaching more authoritative blogs.)
  4. Build a relationship with these people.
  5. When the time’s right, pick their brains on one specific question relevant to your blog post and bring all answers together for your next MVC.
  6. When the post’s live, send the contributors a link and thank them. Let them know you’d appreciate if they can tweet or post about it.
  7. Once you’ve worked with tier 1, it’s time to reach out to tier 2.

5. Curated Posts

Do you know why authorities like Oprah are famous? Because they know well to curate.

Curators are people who bring the best stuff at one place – in your case, that “place” is your blog.

Think about it – if your readers can get the best of all worlds, all well-organized, structured and ready to be served, wouldn’t the love you for it?

Curated posts, such as round-ups from the Net or resource pages listing out the best content others have spent hours creating, scream “authority”.

Here’s one: 63 Blogging Tools that Will Make You Insanely Productive.

Do you see how it’s got 171 comments? Also, it’s one of the most popular blog posts BBT’s hosted as you can see in the right-hand sidebar.

It’s actually a resource post listing everything you need for your blog to be up and running (and making money too).

6. “Start Here” Page

Although this is technically a page, you can still count it as MVC because of its nature.

Think of it as a mini-about me page. Your visitors may be finding you from literally anywhere — Facebook, Twitter or another website.

When they land on your page, they need to be held by the hand and shown around.

The Start Here page will do just that and your visitors will thank you for it.

Most of all, this page gives you a chance to gain familiarity and likeability from visitors.

The purpose of a Start Here page is twofold:

  1. Tell them why your blog exists (the benefit)
  2. Spoon-feed them your best content.

So it’s a good idea to organize everything into categories and make it easy to check things out.

And while they’re here, why not ask their email in exchange for a juicy lead magnet (a free report, an audio clip etc)?

In a pistachio shell, here are some things to consider putting on your Start Here page:

  • Why your blog exists
  • What’s in it for them
  • How can they access your content nicely tucked in one place
  • A welcome message with your photo
  • A video of you (optional)
  • Your vision, mission and values (don’t make it boring)
  • What you promise to offer
  • A reminder to join your mailing list

STEP 3. Do It Already!

It’s time to start creating Massive Value Content and claim your authority as a blogger.

Whatever your goal from blogging, the above steps will get you noticed, talked about and attract tons of eye-balls if you combine it with strategies like guest-posting and social media.

Every serious blogger wants to know when they will hit “the jackpot”.

The first 1,000 subscribers.

The first time when they hit 5,000 visitors a day.

The first mention by NYT.

The first $10,000 month from blogging.

What they should be asking instead is how to become a better writer and generate unforgettable content.

In the words of Brian Clark, here’s how:

  1. Write.
  2. Write more.
  3. Write even more.
  4. Write even more than that.
  5. Write when you don’t want to.
  6. Write when you do.
  7. Write when you have something to say.
  8. Write when you don’t.
  9. Write every day.
  10. Keep writing.

What exactly are you waiting for? Go create that piece of awesome content and make someone’s day!

Pooja Lohana is a freelance writer, ghost writer and online marketing mentor featured on Problogger, Firepole, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and more. If you’re an aspiring writer and want to become self-employed, create wealth and live a better life by launching your online writing biz, steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home.

How to Write Smart Content on Days You’re Feeling Dumb & Distracted

This is a guest contribution from Pratik Dholakiya.

It’s Wednesday morning, you barely slept last night, missed your morning coffee because you were running late, and are now sat in front of your computer staring at a blank Word file wondering what on earth you’re going to write about. You know you should get on with the task but your hands don’t move and your brain refuses to boot up. You’re longing for Saturday already, but it’s only the middle of the week. 

Yeah, the world is a cruel place.

Especially for writers who need to hammer out reams of authentic material every single day of the week. 

The good news, however, is there are ways around even the worst of the situations. I should know, I write for a living. I must have written thousands of articles so far, many of which were produced on days I was struggling.

Along the way I have devised quite a few mind hacks to tackle the problem of focus and motivation. One of these always bails me out on the days focus is a scarce commodity.

Do Some Dumb Stuff

Well, you’re feeling dumb already, so this shouldn’t be a toughie!

Dumb isn’t always bad, especially if it’s the humorous kind of dumb. Humor is good. It cracks you up, brings you back into the moment, lightens the mood, and suddenly the morning doesn’t feel so bad anymore. 

When you loosen up and connect to the moment, ideas aren’t so hard to come by. 

The best part about this is that it helps you think out of the box.

So you have to write about synthetic carpets and you are bored as hell at the mere thought of it?

Your best bet is to let your imagination run wild. Think of everything one can do on carpets. Imagine a huge carpet flying up in the sky with Calvin and Hobbes sitting on it.

That’s your idea – best cartoon strips featuring carpets. 

Listen to Chants or Any Music That Helps You Focus

Here’s one brilliant suggestion, which really melts the distractions for me. 

Create a playlist for all moods. If you choose the right kind of music, you may find it easier to get your mind on the task.

Put on Earplugs

No, really. The kind that go in deep and drown out your surroundings. You will be surprised at how beautifully they work. 

This is a tried and tested measure which goes back to my university days. Any time I feel scatter-brained and unable to focus, I get out my earplugs (have gotten into the habit of carrying them with me). It’s eerily quiet when your ears are plugged. You don’t go deaf, but all noise loses its edge. Even the sound of your colleague on steroids jabbing away at his keyboard feels like it’s streaming in from somewhere far away. You can hear yourself breathing. You can also listen to your thoughts and follow them without any effort. The writing that this frame of mind produces, regardless of whether you have slept the night before or not, is surprisingly sharp.

I don’t exactly know why this works, but here’s my guess – shutting down one of the senses makes the rest perform even better. With earplugs on, the noise around you does not register, which means you automatically listen to yourself loud and clear. 

Unless you have tried this you will never guess just how much of our energy leaks to sounds and noisy distractions, even in seemingly quiet places. On days you are not feeling bright, this neat trick could make all the difference.

Watch a Stimulating TED Talk

One can feel distracted and foolish for a number of reasons. Sometimes it may have to do more with a lack of creativity than with your energy levels. If your enthusiasm for life is wavering or you need a dose of inspiration to fire up, a good TED talk may work better than coffee. For someone I know, watching old Seinfeld videos does the trick. It’s up to you to figure out what inspires you and refer to it when the need arises.

Create a Bank of Go-to Blogs 

Reading some brilliant writing (especially that which is full of play on words) gets me in the mood each time. My phone is loaded with apps that bring to me the choicest of writing from a variety of sources. You can create your own database of inspirational blogs (not necessarily the most popular blogs) and watch the magic rub off on you.

Pick Topics That You Can Write on in First Person

If you have the choice to pick your subjects, pick up the ones that present a greater scope for personalization.

It’s always easier to write something based on your experience, or even narrate a fictional episode, if you already love writing. That kind of stuff just flows because it comes from your heart, not your mind (which you don’t think is working), and before you realize it you have already put a few hundred words on the doc file.

Leave the research-heavy stuff for days you have slept well and are actually having a bearable morning.

Lay out a Structure for Your Posts

If you don’t have the luxury to choose your topics, and calling in sick is not an option, use your limited energy wisely.

Spend some of it in creating a solid structure for your post, something you can rely on to guide you through till the end. 

Let Things Come to You

Trying too hard is a recipe for failure. It’s worse on the days you are already suffering. Let go of laboring over ideas. Instead, take a 5-minute break to collect your thoughts. Just wait patiently, with a calm mind, no hurry at all. The ideas will come to you, and sooner than if you were to chase them. (If you make meditation a part of your life, it will prove priceless during such times.)

Get Moving

When the mind is stuck, moving your body can make it come unstuck. Go on a short walk and walk with a spring in your step. Tap dance in the bathroom for a couple of minutes. The mind-body connection is deep, and the rhythm of one rubs off on the other.

Create a Mind Map

Images come to rescue when words fail us. Take out a pen and paper, or your smartphone, and start drawing. For something related to home décor, draw a home, then a garden, the windows, and the like. 

Alternatively, create a mind map with a pen or a stylus in your hand; I find this works better than doing so on the computer. Both these methods will very likely give you a few breakthroughs, which will make your assignment easier for you.

Finally, get a perspective.

If nothing works, it’s all right. You are allowed to have a bad day.

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, a digital marketing agency and OnlyDesign, a creative design firm. He’s passionate about start-up marketing, entrepreneurship & all things digital. You can find him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik to discuss on any of these topics.

How to Optimize Your Content for Authorship Success

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.35.19 amThis is a guest contribution from Jaclyn Freeman.

Who are you?

Don’t fret – this isn’t philosophy class and no, we’re not trying to steal your identity.

One of the most important things you can do in 2014 as a content creator, is identify who you are as a personal brand by monitoring how you come across online. As a writer, it is essential that you are taking advantage of every opportunity you have to turn yourself into a developed brand. 

Twitter, that always-on social network that is constantly abuzz, and Google+, a social network claimed to offer incredible SEO benefits, offer two incredible ways that complement each other to solidify your digital presence. But how, you ask?

Through digital authorship.

Introducing Your New Best Friend: Google Authorship

Everyone is talking Authorship, and with good reason. Google Authorship is a revolutionary function of Google that allows you to identify content you’ve produced, as well as the publishers you’ve produced content for.

The purpose of Google Authorship is to help segment out true quality content from the plethora of content living on the web. Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt wrote in “The New Digital Age” that the true cost of remaining anonymous may be detrimental one’s overall search position:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in the in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Google Authorship helps to further the notion that all content is not good content; rather, writers must have a) verified content and b) a solidified niche subject matter that they consistently produce original content about. Google Authorship helps to bridge the gap between the casual writer, and the professional content creator.

AuthorRank – Myth or Legend?

While AuthorRank is tough to concretely define, its origins can be traced back to 2005 (pre-historic in digital terms) and as Brian Clark puts it:

“Author Rank is the idea – supported by patents filed by Google – that who creates a page of content (and links out from that page), based on their historical reputation for creating content people actually like, would become one of the signals Google relies on when ranking relevant results of a particular topic.”

While AuthorRank hasn’t officially been implemented by Google as a ranking factor, the idea behind it has already been implemented across digital marketing platforms universally. How do we know? One such sign that has the digital world up in arms is the removable of the pictures next to bylines with Authorship correctly set-up. Some are foolishly associating this cosmetic tweak with the demise of Google Authorship – which couldn’t be farther than the truth. It actually represents the opposite! Google is continuing to acknowledge content produced with semantic markup as higher quality content than content without Authorship, pictures or not. Change isn’t always a bad thing.

Even if AuthorRank never officially occurs, it really doesn’t matter in terms of SEO. Why? Because quality content will continue to reign supreme, and those with their authorship set up, who continuously produce content in their particular field will become obvious authorities. We don’t need AuthorRank to tell us that.   

While Authorship may have lost that visual touch, this minor change was done in an effort to improve mobile search results. Your authorship markup still lives, even without a face, and still has a heavy role in distinguishing you as a credible author on the web, so take advantage.

Set Up Your Authorship

Setting up your authorship is relatively easy, and requires a few lines of code in the backend of your posts, as well as a link to the publication on your Google+ profile. Google provides a step-by-step guide to authenticating your authorship here and as outlined below:

You can link content you publish on a specific domain to your Google+ profile.

  1. Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognizable headshot.

  2. Make sure a byline containing your name appears on each page of your content

  3. Make sure your byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.

  4. Verify you have an email address on the same domain as your content. (Don’t have an email address on the same domain? Use this method to link your content to your Google+ profile)

  5. Submitting this form will add your email address to the Work section of your profile, which by default is viewable only by your circles. You can keep your email private if you wish. It will also add a public link to the domain of the email address to the Contributor to section of your profile.

  6. Sign up for Authorship.

Cross-Checking Your Google Authorship Code

Once you have your authorship set up, you’ll want to ensure:

  • Your content has true semantic Google authorship <a href=”https://plus.google.com/G+ID? rel=author”>Google</a>

  • Your content’s  @href contains a G+ profile link and @rel=”author” or @rel=”me”

  • Your content’s @href contains a G+ profile link with the [?&]rel=author query parameter and @rel DOES NOT contain nofollow.

  • Your readable author bio pages inlcude<a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”>Joe Smith</a>

While you’ve likely heard more than enough about how to optimize your Google+ profile, have you given any consideration to your Twitter account for personal branding and authorship success? If not, you should.

Twitter for Authorship? YES!

In the same way that Google+ and authorship serve as an indicator of your online brand, Twitter works as a constant source of credibility via conversations.

Appearance: Twitter recently unveiled a new design that is big on content and visuals. Much like the Facebook design, the new Twitter profile boosts a larger header image and profile photo. In order to have a uniform appearance across the Internet, make sure you choose a profile photo that displays your face clearly, looks professional, and is used across your various personal social properties.

The new Twitter layout also highlights your tweets that get the most engagement, which brings me to our next point…

Verbiage:First, create a Twitter bio that is filled with your subject matter expertise — and hashtag them to create added virality in your profile. Next, add your website, LinkedIn profile, personal blog, and tag any publications that you frequently contribute to.

Beyond the content you post, your website is the only direct lead-generation tool that exists on Twitter profiles. Leave that field blank, and those viewing your page will not have an easy way to learn more about you and your content.

Another great new feature is the ability to pin tweets to the top of your page. Choose a pin that not only received a good amount of engagement, but that personifies you as a brand. Keep it fresh by switching up your pinned tweets every few days!

Sharing is Caring

Who you follow is almost as important as what you post. Find people that are influential to your particular field, as well as publications or companies that you admire, to follow. Engage with the people you follow by commenting and retweeting, in addition to posting relevant, new information.

Convince and Convert suggests that the sweet spot of curation (non self-promotional) vs. self-promotional linking to your site 25-50% of the time generates the best results. Always socialize the content you produce, but make sure to include a healthy mix of re-Tweets of informative, inspiring, and relevant content.

Metadata on Twitter

Twitter Cards enable you to attach media to Tweets that link your content: It’s social’s all-important metadata. Whether that be a summary, a summary with a photo, gallery card, app card, player card, a product card, lead generation card, or website card – Twitter cards enhance the appearance of your Tweets and add to your overall prominence on social.

To set up your Twitter card, add a few lines of HTML to the backend of your site, and voila! Popular content management systems like Hubspot and WordPress offer social plugins, making this step even easier.

Users who share your content will have a “card” automatically added to said Tweet, that will be visible to all of their followers.

Twitter offers more information on how to set up your very own Twitter card here:

  1. Review the documentation for the type of card you want to implement.

  2. Add the pertinent meta tags to your page.

  3. Run your URLs against the validator tool to be approved.

  4. After approval, tweet the URL and see the Card appear below your tweet.

  5. Use Twitter Card analytics to measure your results.

Content Attribution

Lastly, you’ll want to look for the following metadata on each piece of content you produce to make sure it’s properly attributed to you:

  • Authorship is valid if: meta[@name='twitter:creator'] tag (@content is a valid twitter handle [0-9A-Za-z_]{1,15}).

  • Authorship is valid if: <a> tag @href is a Twitter profile URL and @rel is “author” or @rel is “me”.

  • Your readable author bio page on Twitter includes an on-site rel=”author” link in your author bio.

Why Social Optimization Matters for Writers

So, why am I yelling at you about everything from your philosophical identity to coding? Well, because, as a writer, this stuff matters.

Establishing credibility as a content curator in an aggressively digital age is tough, and while you may have your authorship and Twitter perfectly optimized, there is no sure-fire way to know that you are an influential writer to your particular niche… Or, is there?

Recently launched, ClearVoice is a new metric for your voice. It acts as a representative of your content’s authority and showcases your publication’s power. By using a first-of-its-kind algorithm, Clearvoice generates a score for writers based on:

  • Your Twitter and Google authorship markup

  • Where your content lives

  • How many articles you’ve published

  • How many domains you’ve contributed to

  • The social virality of your content

Beyond the funky look and ease of use, ClearVoice offers the ability for writers to claim their profile. Once claimed, writers will have a unique URL that will act as a constantly updating portfolio, chronicling not only all the content you’ve produced, but how well it performed socially. In addition, authors can cross-check proper authorship implementation and troubleshoot with engineers if there are any issues.

ClearVoice can also organically help you score jobs, as publishers can search the platform to discover writer’s who are qualified in a particular field.The ClearVoice score offers an unique view into individual writers influence, as well as offers an unprecedented way for writers to be discovered.

Jaclyn Freedman is the Community Manager for ClearVoice. She promotes and market brands by identifying and representing their unique voices across digital platforms.

10 Vital WordPress Security Tips

This is a guest contribution from John Philips.

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10 Vital WordPress Security Tips

Security should be of paramount concern to any blogger or website owner. It may seem like a tedious task, but it could protect your website from becoming a hacker’s playground. If your site has a revenue stream, then some time invested into security could also protect your livelihood. This article overviews a few key security tips for WordPress blogs. There’s an ever growing collection of useful plugins, but it’s dangerous to think that there is a single solution to website security. It’s important to maintain an ongoing interest in security to provide a reliable defence against hackers.

1. Secure Hosting

If you unknowingly opt for a provider which is infamous for its hosting vulnerabilities, you’ll be cursing your decision at a later date. Research is the key, so allocate some time to find a reputable company with a strong security strategy. Price is likely to be the main comparison point between providers, but sometimes paying slightly more can prove to be a sensible long-term decision. 

2. Work on a Secure Network with a Clean PC

One of the joys of web-based software is ease of access. It might be seriously tempting to amend a blog post when you’re enjoying a coffee in your local café, but accessing WordPress on an unsecure network could seriously compromise your security. At home, where you probably have a more robust network, you should also be sure that your machine is free of malware, spyware and viruses. A sneaky key logger could undo all of your other security measures.

3. Keep Updated

Ensure that your themes, plugins and WordPress itself are all updated regularly. There are developers out there working to protect your site, so don’t miss out on crucial updates that patch the latest security vulnerabilities.

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4. Strong Passwords

Passwords consisting of mainly names and correctly spelt words are extremely susceptible to brute-force attacks. Use characters, randomly mix up your capitalisation and avoid names and words. If ‘petname1’ is memorable for you, why not use ‘P@naMe01!’ – it might seem silly, but having some kind of association in your mind will enable you to remember it. Alternatively there are software solutions that store and encrypt your passwords; Roboform and LastPass are both great options.

5. Enable Secure SSL Login Pages

Logging into WordPress through an encrypted channel will provide another layer of protection. Be sure to check with your hosting provider to see if you have an SSL certificate, or are utilising Shared SSL. Then add this line of code to your wp-config.php file:

define(’FORCE_SSL_ADMIN’, true);

If you want an easier option, then there is a plugin that allows SSL control of your site: WordPress HTTPS (SSL)

6. Don’t Use ‘Admin’ as a Username

From version 3.0 onwards you have been able to update your WordPress username, so you’re no longer limited to using the default of ‘admin’. There have been widespread attacks in the past, which have exploited the fact that millions of users still have ‘admin’ as their username. The easiest way to do this is to create a new user account in WordPress and give it admin access, you can then simply delete the old account.

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7. Hide Your Login from the Author Archive

It’s possible to find out a WordPress user’s login, simply by viewing the author archive page’s permalink – i.e. http://www.example.com/author/username/

However, it’s fairly straightforward to remove this. The simple solution is to use the WP Author Slug plugin. 

8. Limit Login Attempts

Limiting the number of login attempts from a single IP address can thwart some hackers, especially if your site has been targeted by a brute-force attack. Thankfully there’s a handy plugin – Limit Login Attempts.

9. Disable File Editing

It can be really useful to edit your theme’s files within the dashboard. However, once you’re happy that you no longer need to edit these files, then it’s sensible to remove this functionality. This will prevent hackers from changing these files. All you need to do is access your wp-config.php file and add the following line of code:

define( ‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, true );

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10. Create Regular Backups

It’s a mundane task, and one that is often neglected. Backing up could potentially save your site from the website graveyard, it’s a vital step even if you’ve taken all the appropriate security measures. Thankfully, there’s a fantastic plugin that automates the task and removes the mundaneness – BackUpWordPress. It’s a very popular plugin that’s famed amongst the WordPress community for its simplicity and ease of use.

Summary & Other Security Plugins

No single plugin will completely protect your site, therefore the above steps shouldn’t be ignored. It’s also important not to have plugins installed that you don’t use. Feel free to try out some of the plugins below, but if you’re not using them it’s best to uninstall them. Some of the multi-purpose plugins are fantastic, but they might aim to correct certain things you may have already fixed, so assess their features to decide if it’s worth installing.

Login Lockdown – blocks IP addresses for a given time after repeated failed login attempts.

Lockdown WP Admin – hides WordPress Admin (/wp-admin/) when a user isn’t logged in.

Sucuri Security – checks your site for malware, spam, blacklisting and other security issues.

Acunetix WP Security – checks your WordPress website/blog for security vulnerabilities and suggests corrective actions.

iThemes Security – Formerly Better WP Security, this plugin offers over 30 ways to secure and protect your WordPress site. 

Still want to know more about WordPress security? If so then check out: http://codex.wordpress.org/Hardening_WordPress 

John Philips is from SSLs.com. SLLs.com resells SSL certificates from the likes of Comodo, GeoTrust, and VeriSign. 

How to Use Content Themes to Make Blogging a Snap

This is a guest contribution from Sonja Jobson.

This might sound familiar: you’re staring at a blank screen, panic slowly rising, headache setting in, mind blank. You’re due to publish a blog post but you have absolutely no idea what to write about. Again.

The “writers block” cycle can put a serious cramp in your blogging style, but contrary to popular opinion, it’s not a mysterious ailment with no known cure. In most cases, writers block is a direct result of poor planning.

This is good news, because it means that with correct planning, you can skip right over the blank screen and save loads of time and sanity when blogging.

First Things First: Your Editorial Calendar

Before we dig into using content themes, you need to have some tools in place to hold the whole process together.

The editorial calendar is like a blogging secret weapon – except, it’s not so secret. Most successful blogs – across all sorts of niches and industries – use editorial calendars to give structure and consistency to their blogging.

If you’re not already on the editorial calendar bandwagon, now’s the time to jump on. 

If you’ve been putting off starting an editorial calendar because it sounds too time consuming, complicated, or technical, don’t worry about it. Starting an editorial calendar can be as simple as grabbing a cheap wall calendar from the store and penciling in blog posts on the appropriate dates. Or, you could go digital and use an app like Google Calendar or start a simple spreadsheet.

What are Content Themes?

Coming up with an endless stream of fresh blog post ideas can be exhausting. But, like most tasks, it can be made simpler by building on your momentum instead of approaching it in a scattered, ununiformed way.

Say you get an intriguing question from a reader that sparks some inspiration, and you spend some time figuring out how to transform that idea into solid blog post. It takes a bit of time, but you finally find a good angle and the perfect way to tie the topic into your overall blog theme. Next week’s blog topic: check.

Now you go back to square one and begin coming up with an entirely new blog topic to add to your editorial calendar.

Starting the idea process at square one over and over again is time consuming. There is a simpler process that requires you to complete step one just once, and then build on that same foundation to create weeks or months’ worth of content ideas all at once.

That’s where content themes come in: it allows you to pick a broad topic and build off of it with a bunch of hyper-focused topics, making the planning process quicker and more organized.

For example, take a look at ProBlogger’s product creation theme week

 Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 2.50.30 pm

For an entire week, each post focused on creating products, diving into sub-topics like what to do before you create a product, what type of product to create, and launching a product.

How to Create and Plan Content Themes

You can structure content themes in several different ways.

Some bloggers find that themes save them so much time and hassle that they use them on an ongoing basis for content planning (each theme beginning right after the other one ends).

You can also use themes for a set period of time (say, one week or one month) scattered throughout your editorial calendar whenever you want to create a focused burst of content on a specific topic.

Regardless of whether you choose to use themes on an ongoing or selective basis, the steps for creating and planning your theme will be the same.

Step #1: choose your topic

You always build a theme on a base topic. For example, a health blog might create a theme based on the topic of ‘eating raw foods for weight loss’. Or, an entertainment blog might create a theme around the topic of ‘80’s movies that are still going strong’. 

The two keys to coming up with theme topics are 1) choosing a topic that is broad enough to support several sub-topics (in other words, you shouldn’t be able to sum it up it just one blog post) and 2) the topic needs to be something your audience cares about.

Step #2: choose your timeframe

After you know your topic, you’ll need to decide how long you want your theme to run. A week? A month? Several months? There is no hard and fast rule on how long a theme should run, so make the decision based on how much content you think you’ll need to create to cover the topic, or simply how long feel like talking about the same thing.

Step #3: Choose and schedule your sub-topics

Now that you know your main topic and the amount of blog post slots you want to fill, it’s time to sit down and plan your individual blog posts. Coming up with a calendar full of ideas should be much easier now that you have a base topic to work off of. A great way to get started is by asking yourself “what are the most pressing questions my audience has about this topic?”

As you decide on individual blog post topics, schedule them into your editorial calendar.

And that’s it! You now have an organized group of blog posts and, for the duration of your theme, you’ll never have to wonder “what should I write about?”

Bonus: Use Your Blogging Themes to Simplify Your Other Marketing Outlets

Saving all that time when planning out your blog content was pretty good, but it gets even better.

You can use the themes you create for your blog to streamline all your other content marketing efforts as well.

Use your theme to help you come up with social media updates, live event (like webinars, live steams, or Q&A sessions) topics, email marketing or newsletter content, or whatever types content you create to market your blog or business.

Using one theme across all of your online platforms will help you to create consistency, structure, and a lot more free time.

Your turn:

How will you use themes to simplify your blogging life? Or, if you’ve already used themes, what were your results? Share it with us in the comments below!

Sonja Jobson helps entrepreneurs grow their audience online in a way that fits their schedule, style, and personality. Want even more advice on simplifying your marketing life? Take her FREE 5-Day Marketing Dare.

Why You Have a Better Chance of Landing a Guest Post Than You Think (and How to Do It)

Image via Flickr user Freddie Peña.

Image via Flickr user Freddie Peña.

This is a guest contribution from writer Ali Luke.

Do you ever think about guest posting but worry you’re not ready?

You probably already know that guest posting is one of the most effective ways to build relationships in the blogging world, get writing credits, and grow your audience … 

… yet you might worry that no-one will take your posts, because you’re too new to blogging, your own audience is too small, or you’re not (yet) a great writer.

Maybe you’ve heard bloggers say that they get dozens, even hundreds, of guest post pitches each week, and you feel certain that the numbers will be against you. 

It’s true that a lot of people are pitching guest posts: as Editor of DailyBlogTips (Sept 2013 – July2014), I got a huge number of pitches.

The truth is, though, that many of these pitches are just awful. And you could easily do much, much better.

Here’s an all-too-representative sample:

Hi 

I am [name removed]. I wanted to guest blog on your esteemed site under SEO section. Here by i  am sending doc conatining article named ” Secrets to improve your page rank” .

Kindly do the needful action

Thanks & Regards

Dear Webmaster,

I have come across your website and found it very informative.

I am currently the webmaster of (a specialist Email Marketing Company). We are interested in writing a “guest blog” for your website.

Please kindly let me know if this is of interest to you, with any terms/conditions of posts. I will then send over some fresh and inspiring content for you to review.

On another note, please could you also give details of any link exchange opportunities?

Looking forward to your positive response.

Yes, in that second example, they really did write “(a specialist Email Marketing Company)”.

Drowning in emails, I soon started deleting pitches straight away if the would-be guest poster didn’t even bother using my name.

I sent brief “no thanks” emails to anyone who pitched something clearly off-topic, or whose email suggested they had a poor grasp of spelling and grammar.

(Yes, that might seem a little elitist, but when I’m offered one nearly-perfect guest post and one that’s going to take hours of my time, it’s an easy choice to make.)

Even the slightly better pitches made some annoying mistakes, like:

  • Telling me they wanted to write a guest post, but not suggesting topics.
  • Acting as though their post was sure to be accepted (e.g. “Tell me when it will be live on the blog.”)
  • Getting my name wrong and starting “Dear Luke”. (Ali is my first name, short for Alison; Luke’s my surname. I know it’s weird!)

I agreed with Daniel (who owns DailyBlogTips) that I’d publish one guest post every two weeks – we wanted the blog to be mainly our own content – and I rarely had much difficulty deciding who to accept. It was rare that I got more than one decent pitch in a two week period.

So you probably have a far higher chance of success than you think. You don’t need to be the world’s greatest writer, and you definitely don’t need a big audience. In fact, I gladly published guest posts from people who were just starting out. All that mattered to me was that they could deliver useful content.

Here’s how to maximise the chances of your guest post being accepted:

Read plenty of posts on the blog before you begin: at least five. You need a clear sense of what’s on topic, and what the audience is like. One of my biggest reasons for rejecting reasonably good pitches was because they weren’t on topic enough (e.g. pitches about running an “ecommerce website” when DBT focuses on beginner bloggers).

Offer a topic or perspective that the host blogger can’t easily provide. I’m definitely no expert on SEO or blog security, for instance, and I was always particularly interested in posts on those subjects. I’d also have been interested to hear from bloggers at a very different stage of life from me (e.g. teen bloggers, people in their 70s, or bloggers with six kids…)

Plan out your post before you start writing. Some of the posts I saw had decent information, but they rambled all over the place. I did accept one or two that needed quite extensive editing, but there’s no guarantee an editor will do this. Having a good plan, and thinking through your post structure, makes it much easier to create a strong piece.

Don’t make obvious, generic points. I saw a few posts that weren’t badly written, but that didn’t say anything much. They gave very obvious advice, and didn’t offer examples, quotes, screenshots, or anything similar. There wasn’t anything new or interesting there for readers.

Edit your post carefully before sending it. I strongly suggest you look at the “big picture” first – do you need to cut any paragraphs, or add in anything new? Once you’re happy with the post overall, do a close edit to make sure your sentences all read smoothly, and to fix any typos.

Get to grips with formatting a blog post well. I loved having guest posts with subheadings, bold text for key sentences, lists in bullet point form, images, and so on. Too often, though, I had to add these things myself when editing. No-one wants to wade through a mass of long, dense paragraphs … and that includes blog editors.

Follow the guest post guidelines. I bet you’ve heard that before! I know it sounds obvious, but so many bloggers ignore guidelines – and that’s often enough to get your post rejected (or at least send it to the end of the queue). If you can’t find any guidelines, take a close look at recent posts to at least get a sense of how long yours should be and what sort of style it should be in.

Include links to posts on your target blog. Some guidelines ask for this, but even if they don’t, it’s good practice. It shows you wrote the post specifically for that blog, and it adds extra value for the host. If you include plenty of links like this, you can usually get away with one or two to your own website as well (so long as they’re relevant).

There aren’t any guarantees in blogging – but if you can write an interesting, well put together post that’s on-topic for a large blog in your niche, there’s a pretty good chance it will be accepted.

(But if you never even try – it definitely won’t!)

I know that pitching a guest post can be daunting, but the worst that can happen is the host blog says “no thanks” – and you can always rewrite the post a little and approach someone else instead.

Is it time for you to write your first guest post? Choose a blog today to target, dig into some of their posts, and brainstorm some topics you could write about. If you get stuck or have a question, just pop a comment below. Good luck!

Ali Luke’s ecourse On Track is a free seven-week program for bloggers and writers, designed to help you get motivated and moving again on your blog (or ebook, or any other big writing project). It’s packed with practical tips to help you move forward week by week, and comes with a free ebook, Seven Pillars of Great Writing. Find out more and join here.

Stop Writing for Free and Launch Your Own Profitable Blog

You’ve spent countless hours crafting article after article. Your articles have generated thousands of page views. You feel pretty successful in terms of exposure, but large media companies are not knocking down your door to hire you. That paying gig you have been dreaming of still seems just as far away as it always has. Your writing hasn’t earned you a dime, and your exposure hasn’t done anything but bring you momentary comfort. Sound familiar?

There has been a long-raging debating about the merits of writing for free. Some have spoken out heavily in opposition of doing so, saying it devalues the writer’s work. Others have supported it on the condition that the writer is either getting somewhere or is comfortable writing as nothing more than a hobby. In reality, a writer must make the decision that best fits her circumstances. Does she have time to write for free in addition to her paying job? Does she have a clear goal in mind and a path toward a full-time, or part-time employment in the writing field? These are all tough questions, but the decision to write is often one made from passion as opposed to logic. Passion is funny like that, driving us to do things that often don’t make sense.

There’s a way to have the best of both worlds, though. While there is no shortage of sites that will give a blogger the potential for exposure, not many offer pay. Even if some do offer pay, the money is insignificant. The allure of being read is strong, but writers can get the same (or similar) exposure while generating far more income. All they have to do is launch their own site.

Simple, right? Set up an account with Blogger or WordPress, throw up some ads, and start making some money. Not quite. Launching a blog, whether it be in sports, fashion, technology, or any field is difficult. You have to have a clear understanding of the market, of the steps necessary for success, and of the resources at your disposal. In my guide to launching a profitable sports blog, the focus is clearly on sports, but the steps to go from unpaid writer to founder of a site generating a profit can be applied for just about any other topic.

To see the traffic and the success necessary to justify launching your own site, you’ll need to focus on a few key areas:

  • Content Quality
  • Costs
  • Promotion
  • Quantity

Each area, if handled properly will ultimately lead to a blog that generates enough traffic to make a good amount of money. The sites I launched using these strategies have generated thousands of dollars. So, let’s get into it.

Content Quality

The most common pitfall in blogging is poor quality. For some reason, this is overlooked by those just starting out. It may be the rush to get thoughts out in the form of a blog, or it could be a lack of education in proper grammar and style, or it could be any number of things driving the quality of the content down the drain. If that’s happening with your blog, you’ll never build up a traffic base that will sustain any sort of revenue stream. Focus on quality first.

You can do so by taking your time. Read your articles out loud. Have others read them. Read them again yourself. Only after multiple reviews should you hit the publish button. But what if you don’t feel like you have the writing background or skills to ensure top-notch quality. Don’t worry, there are plenty of resources at your disposal. Some will cost you a bit of money (like Coursera’s class on Crafting Effective Writers), but others are completely free (a Google search will yield plenty of free results). If you struggle with your writing quality but want to run an effective blog, you should seriously consider classes. The improvement in your writing will pay dividends in the long run.

When you are launching your blog, trying to attract readers, and trying to get people to share your content, the quality of your blog will set you apart. Invest in that quality, and you won’t be disappointed. Ignore quality, and you’ll be just like the vast majority of blogs out there – ignored.

Costs

Blogging can be very inexpensive, but the costs can rack up fast depending on what you’re looking for. The most likely cost you will incur is hosting. If you use Blogger, you will not have to worry about hosting. All you’ll pay is your domain registration costs. Those are generally inconsequential. However, if you decide to use a content management system (CMS) that requires you to pay for third party hosting – WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are good examples – you’ll want to make sure you monitor your costs closely.

Hosting providers will generally offer three types of hosting; Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Servers, and Dedicated Servers. Each comes with an increasing monthly cost. Let’s start with Shared Hosting.

Shared Hosting simply means you will be sharing a server with numerous other websites. If your blog is not attracting a ton of traffic this should be a perfectly acceptable option. In fact, if you are just launching, I highly recommend starting with a Shared Hosting plan. If you end up needing to upgrade, that should be easy. However, if you spend more money up front, you can never get back those wasted expenses.

A Virtual Private Server is similar to Shared Hosting in the fact that you will still be using the same server that other websites are using. However, unlike Shared Hosting, your site will be given a partitioned section of that server which helps improve performance. That improved performance means your blog can handle more traffic and will likely be more secure. This service will come with a steeper cost than Shared Hosting, so upgrade wisely.

A Dedicated Server should only be considered once your blog has reached the big time. If you are doing millions of unique visitors per month, you may need to look into a Dedicated Server. This set-up is exactly as it sounds. Your site will have its own server to itself. No sharing, no partitioning just to get a little privacy. A Dedicated Server will also offer the most security since you won’t be as vulnerable to attacks on other websites that may share a server with the other plans. The cost for a Dedicated Server is hefty, so make sure you truly need it before going this route.

Managing the costs of hosting is just one part of managing your blog’s overall costs. Running your site should be inexpensive, but you can gradually scale spending up as you’re generating more and more revenue. I would not recommend immediately going out and paying for advertising on social media or any other channel. Keep costs down to improve profits early. Reinvests those profits for future expenditures.

Promotion

Speaking of future expenditures, you may want to spend a little money on promoting your site once you’ve laid the early groundwork. While Google AdWords is the go-to method for advertising other types of websites, your site will be generating revenue from ads. Spending money on normal pay per click advertising just to generate traffic that may or may not stick doesn’t make much sense. If you decide to spend money on promotion, social media advertising may be your best option.

With the sites I launched, Twitter was my best friend. Twitter referral traffic often ranked in the top-three of all traffic sources. It can be difficult to build a following, but it’s possible to do so without spending money. First though, I’ll explain the paid route. By paying for promotion on Twitter (or Facebook for that matter), your site’s account will show up in the feeds of those who do not follow you. This can generate some quick follows, and those follows are likely to stick. However, beware of non-Twitter services. There are sites out there offering to get you thousands of followers for just a few dollars. Those followers will be robots and they will do nothing to help drive traffic to your site.

If you decide not to spend money on social media advertising, that’s perfectly fine. You can do so pretty easily with Twitter. In order to build a following without spending money, you’ll have to give up the notion of “being cool” on Twitter. If you look at most brands and plenty of individuals, they will have thousands of followers but will be following very few. Don’t worry about being cool. Connect with your potential readers. Follow back anyone who follows you. Seek out those who might be interested in your content, and follow them. Most people are willing to follow back, but be careful how often you do it. Twitter has a policy against “aggressive” following. They don’t explicitly define this, but if you are not following hundreds of people per day, you should be fine. This process takes commitment, and it takes time, but it pays off. The Twitter accounts for the sites I launched now have over 70,000 followers combined. That was the result of almost exclusively non-paid promotion.

You want real, engaged followers. You want those followers to click on links to your articles. Use a service like TwitterFeed or Dlvr.it or something similar to automatically post your content to Twitter as soon as you publish. If you build up a solid following and automate the delivery of your article links to your social media profiles, you’ll see social media suddenly become one of your top traffic referral sources.

While social media traffic is a great source of readers for your site, it’s not the only option. Perhaps the topic you’re covering has a network you can join. For example, in the sports blogging world there are networks like Bloguin and Yardbarker. By joining, you carry some of their approved ads and split revenue with them, but you more than make up for the revenue split with increased traffic viewing your non-network ads (think Google AdSense ads). If your topic of interest does not have a network like this, fear not. You can network on your own. Reach out to similar sites. Share links, offer to share their links, build a connection. While it all seems minute initially, these types of connections build up over time.

Finally, running contests and forging partnerships is a great way to promote your site and see an increase in traffic. With the sports sites I launched, I reached out to other sites who were not direct competitors that I knew I could drive traffic to. We arranged simple link deals where I would put a call to action at the end of each article sending traffic their way, and they would either do the same or promote my site on social media. Contests worked even better, though. If you can afford the cost of a giveaway prize, you’ll be amazed at how much interaction you’ll get with a giveaway. Make those who want to participate share your site’s link, follow you on Twitter or Facebook or do something else that helps build a long-term following. Then, you can randomly select a winner. As long as it’s fair, people will love it, and you’ll see a spike in traffic.

Quantity

We already discussed the importance of quality, but another driving force for your blog’s traffic will be quantity. Quality is far more important that quantity, but the amount of content you produce can usually be directly correlated to the volume of traffic your site sees on a daily basis. The articles all still need to be of a high quality, but you should strive to produce as much content as you possibly can.

Think of it this way, if each article maxes out at 500 views and you produce one article per day. That equates to 182,500 page views in a year. If you double that production to two articles per day, you might see a leap to 365,000 page views in a year. What happens if you produce 10 articles per day or more?

10 per day = 1,825,000 page views in a year

15 per day = 2,737,500 page views in a year

20 per day = 3,650,000 page views in a year

Obviously, there is no guaranteeing you’ll hit 500 views or more for each article, but it seems like a reasonable goal, doesn’t it? When you break it down by views per article, you can focus at a granular level that should help keep you motivated. But wait, you can’t possibly write that much, can you? It depends on the topic you are covering. If each of your articles is a 2,000 word in-depth analysis of something, you’re probably not going to hit 20 articles per day no matter how much help you have. However, if your articles are more quick-hit, you can certainly recruit a staff of writers to help you and easily hit 20 articles per day.

With my sites, we routinely hit 20 to 30 articles per day. It wasn’t always like that, of course. My co-founder and I were originally the only ones writing. We didn’t want to recruit a staff until we could pay them something. We were able to pump out quite a few articles per day, but it wasn’t until we brought on additional writers that we started really producing a lot.

If you choose to bring on a staff, just keep in mind the reason you started this blog in the first place. You were tired of writing for free. Don’t make your writers writer for free. Even if you can’t pay them much, pay them. It will help you build long-lasting relationships, and you’ll be able to bring on quality writers that will help you maintain the quality you worked so hard to enforce early on.

Conclusion

Launching a blog is easy. Launching a profitable blog is hard. If you follow the guidelines above, you won’t be guaranteed success, but you’ll certainly have a leg up on most other people launching new blogs in the area in which you’ll be focusing. The key to making sure your site is profitable is making sure you dedicate yourself. This is not going to be passive income. You’ll have to write, promote, recruit, promote, write some more, and hustle all around. If you do, you’ll love the results.

 

Justin Hunter co-founded Sports Injury Alert and Sports Rumor Alert. He is also co-authoring The Guide to Launching a Profitable Sports Blog. If you enjoyed this article, the guide will provide far more information and go into far more detail.