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Top SEO “Services” That Are Actually Spam

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lotus823-integrated You could spend a few years of your life sorting through all of the blogs, whitepapers, and videos online offering advice on search engine optimization. Yet, so many users get convinced that certain SEO strategies are worth their time and money when these companies are really just touting spam services hidden behind smoke and mirrors.

For SEO specialists like myself (I never like to use the word expert, because Google is constantly changing), these spam services put a bad taste in people’s mouth about the industry.

Specialists do educate on what SEO should be and how it is constantly evolving to a focus on social media and content marketing, but it is still easy to get trapped by outdated methods when you have someone speak to you in technical terms that are hard to understand.

Don’t fall for these SEO services that are actually spam:

Excessive, Behind-the-Scenes Link Building

Due to the changes in Google, content creators tend to move in one extreme or the other in terms of link building. Link-building can help you, but it has to be in moderation. Think of links as the paths that both users and the search engine will travel to find your content.

If you outsource this, be aware of the types of link building done outside of content such as directory link building. It should seem natural and not done all at once with a flip of a switch. If you’re concerned, ask how many directories your site is being added to each month and ask to have the Page Rank pulled for each of those sites. No link building at all (remember, social shares are link building) doesn’t allow Google to connect the dots as quickly to what your website is about. It is still a robot, after all. But you have to be smart about it.

Landing Pages for the Sake of Content

Now that you’ve sprinkled in a few links here and a few links there, you’re doing SEO, right? Not really. Circle back to the previous mention that SEO is about user and the content. This means that a link should be relevant and the page the user lands on should also be relevant. If you link on the phrase “iPhone case” it should land on a page about iPhone cases. That is how Google begins to connect all of your content and ranks it in search for a particular phrase.

Focus on strengthening the landing pages you have now, instead of adding 100 new pages every month, and make them relevant through quality content and natural link building. If you outsource this, the vendor should be more concerned with unique content that engages users rather than a report stating how many pages of content was added to the site in a given month. Beware of any company focusing on quantity instead of quality.

Also, unique and relevant content means it was written for your brand, not repurposed content from elsewhere. That type of service should be a supplement to your content strategy, not your only means of content building. Which brings us to…

Cheap Content

I’ve had many bosses, clients, and co-workers who loved the idea of cheap content. Every time someone forwards me an email that talks about x amount of words for x cents, I furiously press the delete button and then have to talk a walk around the building to cool off. Content isn’t cheap and no, not everyone can write great content. Look up how much a seasoned freelance blogger charges for a blog post and set that as your new standard for content. It’s not $10.

When outsourcing content, read everything! Many times I’ve sent content to a client for review and it was never even reviewed by them. If you’re going to outsource content, ask for writing samples from the specific writer who will be creating content for you, and read everything before it goes live. Set your standards not only by price but by quality.

Someone Else Taking Complete Control

“We’ll build you that blog, create those videos, and completely run your social networks!”

“…but if you leave us they all come down.”

Anything built on your dime should be yours. In some cases, it is industry standard for a “secret sauce” to be proprietary information (such as with paid advertising), so always read your contract carefully with any type of vendor to see what you own at the end of its terms. This goes for agreements even outside of SEO companies – when was the last time you read the terms for Instagram or Facebook posts? Stay in control of your content and understand what is yours, what is for the public to use, and what is owned by a third party vendor you just hired.

Reports That Don’t Make Sense

Many times when a client would come on board, they would send me their SEO reports or they would send over emails from a salesperson from another company. I’ve seen quite a few examples of great reports and not so great reports. The not so great report never makes much sense.

“Congratulations, client, you are ranking number 1 for a search time that we made up to make the ranking results look fantastic!”

Reports should be focused on building awareness within your target market, and that takes time. Confused? Send it to an unbiased third party to review.

Hopefully, highlighting these common “spam” services sheds some light on SEO strategies that make sense for your business and for yourself. Listen to your gut above all, you know what is right for your brand better than any “guru” out there!

Looking to do more? Stay on top of these tips and tricks each week!

Blog Writing Tips: 5 Ways To Write Posts that Google (and Your Readers) Love

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3d person holding a megaphone forming the word blog. According to Jamie Stilgoe’s Guardian article, Google is on a mission to eradicate content farms and poor quality link building. Google is out with a machete to axe any web page with content that doesn’t measure up to the quality that was hitherto expected only from principal brands.

The content marketing scene has changed drastically through the years of the existence of the Internet. There was a time when nothing more than a cluster of words did well, but fortunately, it’s a new ball game altogether now. It isn’t just businesses and brands that are buckling under the mounting pressure; bloggers, individuals, and almost everyone else with written content on the web is feeling the heat.

While blogging – as an art, as a source of revenue for bloggers, and as a great medium for marketing and brand building for businesses – faces the brunt of Google’s policing, content marketing in all forms is set to change. It’s time to prepare for the future.

Here are five ways to make sure that your blog posts are left standing long after the bloodbath is over…

1. Choose Your Topic…Before You Start Writing

On the Internet, you do have space for rants, ravings, and ramblings. You can randomize your communication as much as you want. But this can’t be done when you are blogging professionally. As a blogger writing for yourself or for a business, random is out; focused is in.

Strong posts are not random, covering several scattered ideas. Create separate posts for each thought, instead. Stay focused as you are writing and even consider coming up with an outline first so you stay on topic.

2. Back Up Your Statements

When Paul Graham writes about startups, businesses, and anything to do with entrepreneurship, it tends to be a post that’s worth reading. When Warren Buffett talks on investing, you’ve absolutely got to bookmark the post. But that’s about Paul Graham and Warren Buffett, not everyone else, right?

For the rest of us, we have weapons called research and pointed justification. Present an opinion, but back it up with the words of an authority. Bring out a clear message, but tag it with observations others have made. State facts and then line up your thoughts based on them.

Write what you want to but pour credibility into your posts by using research, facts, expert opinions, and other references. Strong writing is adorned with specifics and evidence.

3. Be Passionate

Either you are passionate about your niche or you are not.

If you are writing with passion, it’ll show in your blog posts. Unfortunately, it’ll also show if you aren’t. One of the secrets of great commercial writing lies in the throws of passion and character. When you begin to write about something you feel strongly for, there’s no way your posts will begin to read like content-mill chaff.

Passion produces energy. Passion leads the way to clear, concise, opinionated, and strong articles – just the kind of fuel blogs need. Do yourself a favor and don’t blog if you aren’t passionate about your business, the niche you blog on, or the topics you write on.

We are talking about years of effort wasted. The Internet is not a dumping ground for useless bytes of information.

4. Write Confident Posts

Meek writing is weak writing. Blog posts with unsure and indirect “umms,” “perhaps,” “So, I’d like to conclude with,” are all signposts to your readers that they are on patchy roads without tarmac. They are reading looking at weak efforts that have no value to offer.

Strong writing is also often opinionated writing. It’s writing with facts and truth backing up every post, but it is also experience, knowledge, oddity, disposition, personality, and the uniqueness that’s “you” which shows through your writing.

5. Don’t Write if you have Nothing New to Offer

Mike McGrail pointed out in points out in Social Media Today that a blog is flexible, that it’s yours, and that it’s a perfect hub. I say it’s more than that—it’s a platform which enables you to provide value.

Every post you write should have a “takeaway” lesson. The value you offer to your readers is in the takeaways from a blog post: Was it pure information? Was it opinion? Was it insight into an in-depth topic? Was it entertainment?

Every piece of content must offer something. Your blog posts should inform, inspire, trigger a train of thoughts, engage with your readers, and point out a new angle to look at that old mousetrap.

Editor’s Note: The biggest lesson in this post, perhaps, is that if you write posts your readers love, Google will love them as well. If you want to survive every single Google update, win over your readers. You’ll always have the edge with SEO if you write posts that your readers want to share!

Want to learn more about writing posts that readers (and Google) love? Join us at NMX 2014 in Las Vegas to learn from some of the world’s leading content creators! Learn more here >

10 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Google In-Depth Articles

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Google In-Depth Articles

Google recently announced a new search feature: in-depth articles. This new feature allows your content to get found, even if it is older, when you create a top resource about a specific topic.

I wrote a little about Google in-depth articles last week. Today, I wanted to direct you to even more brilliant advice on this topic.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

ana hoffman Google In-Depth Articles: How to Rank for Them in Google Search Results by Ana Hoffman

This was one of the first posts I read about in-depth articles back when this feature was introduced. I think Ana does a great job of covering the topic and giving you some insight about how to rank in search results using this feature. More importantly, however, I love this idea from Ana: “I am very excited about investing in thoughtful in-depth content that will remain relevant for months or even years after publication – for my incredible Traffic Generation Café readers, not for Google.”

After reading Ana’s full post on her blog, don’t forget to follow her on Twitter at @AnaTrafficCafe.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

(Please note: There are literally hundreds if not thousands of news stories about there about in-depth articles. My intention here was to post interesting views and how-tos on this topic, rather than just announcements of the new feature.)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about Google in-depth articles? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Facebook Storybumping

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

A Hard Truth: Google Doesn’t Care About Your Awesome Content

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Recently, Google introduced a new search feature called “in-depth articles” The idea behind this feature is that mid-way down on the first page of search results for more popular keywords, you’ll find older, but extremely relevant, content that serves as a “guide” to the topic at hand.

Google wants good content, not necessarily new content. When you hear bloggers talk about “pillar” evergreen posts, this is what they mean.

Learning More about In-Depth Articles

Ana from Traffic Generation Cafe wrote a really great piece about this announcement, which you can find here. I really recommend giving it a read if you want to get started writing content for Google’s new in-depth article feature. In this post, she also points to another interesting and extremely helpful post on the topic, from Mark Traphagen. In one of the comments, he writes,

 

We tend to think of Google as being really, really smart and almost omniscient. And compared to other data retrieval systems, it is leaps and bounds ahead. But the reality is that properly indexing, evaluating, and ranking the billions upon billions of pages on the web is more enormous than most people think. And at the end of the day, even Google ends up taking easy short cuts.

We have to face the reality that Google doesn’t care about “surfacing the little guy” or “reduced access to legacy content.” Their business model is built upon getting something useful to the searcher withing the top few results or ads. They may say they want to rank the “best,” but at the end of the day, how can they even successfully judge that, and if users are happy with what they are getting in the top few positions, then it works for Google.

What really struck me about this statement was how right Mark is about Google not caring about “surfacing the little guy.” In fact, I would go as far as saying that Google doesn’t care about your content at all, even if it is awesome. They aren’t some altruistic being whose job it is to find great content and make sure the world sees it. They’re a business performing a service, and that service is giving people answers to their questions based on whatever keywords they type into that little box.

Google doesn’t care if your piece was more well-written or insightful if the search results are already full of relevant, quality content. Their aim is to consistently show good results, even great results, but they don’t care about showing the best results.

This post sounds a little bitter, but I promise it’s not. What I’m trying to get across is this:

Awesome content is not enough.

At least, it isn’t for Google, especially for their new in-depth articles. Awesome content will make readers love you, but search engines care about relevant more than awesome.

So, What Can A Blogger Do to Get Some Google In-Depth Article Love?

Actually, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Google might always cater to large sites they know and trust, but just because you’re not The New Yorker doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live on page two or three of the search results.

I’ve never given much thought to SEO. I always thought that writing great content was always the best SEO tactic I could use. And I still think that’s the case. But recently, some SEO experts taught me a little about basic keyword research (shout-out to the team at DragonSearch!) and it has made all the difference. In addition, here are a few tips Google has given us about getting your content flagged as an in-depth article:

And ALWAYS write awesome content, even if Google doesn’t give a rat’s patootie. At the end of the day, people matter more than Google. Google will help you get found initially if you cater toward their algorithm, but people will share your in-depth content if it is the best they’ve seen.

 

Small Business Blog Tune Up: Turbo Charge with SEO

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SEO turbo charge for your blog

Let’s face it: small businesses blog for one reason: to get noticed and eventually lead to some sort of sale. Whether demonstrating expertise on a topic, promoting your services or brand, or interviewing someone in the industry, you are encouraging people to come to your site, share your content, and ultimately do business with you. Paying attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can fuel your blog with more horsepower for relatively low effort.

Surprisingly, many small businesses have never heard of SEO or are intimidated by the acronym and what it means. But in reality, basic SEO takes little time and budget–you just need a little extra TLC every time you publish a post. I’m a big believer in the oft-repeated mantra, “The best SEO is good writing,” but imagine if you enlist the powerful combo of great content and some SEO tricks? Unstoppable.

Start Your Engines (Search Optimization that is)

Getting your site to rank high and often on search engines like Google and Bing is considered both an art and science, but still remains a mostly mysterious formula that mere mortals like us don’t control or understand (unlike Google). To make matters more confusing, search engines change and update their algorithms often, like the much-talked about Google Panda. But there are regular, basic steps you can take to increase the chances of your blog getting noticed early and often on search engines.

Get into Gear

If you have a WordPress.org site (that you pay to host the content), there are all-in-one SEO Plugins that will help guide and do the work for you out of the box. (Important and sometimes confusing distinction: Many small businesses use the free version of WordPress.com, which does not offer SEO plugins).

For the many small businesses on WordPress.com, the company stands behind its SEO in that “80 to 90%” of SEO mechanics is done automatically, which builds confidence, but we can can top 100% with just a little extra work.

Blogger.com is generally not considered particularly SEO-friendly (and ironically owned by Google) but has a page devoted to the practice. You can also find some tips here and other resources on the web about SEO on Blogger.

Move into the Fast Lane

For the majority of bloggers that are on WordPress.com, take these easy steps before publishing each post. The order you do them is a matter of personal preference: planning up-front versus optimizing at the end, just so long as you do it.

  • Use keywords for turn signals.

Once you have your topic and content nailed, think about potential keywords for your  post. For instance, if you’re writing about mortgage trends in your local real estate market, include all associated words at least once and think about other ways to say them sprinkled in your blog, typically this will happen organically anyway. The Google keyword search tool offers a comprehensive view of how your chosen keywords will fare. Be aware that there are different schools of thought on keyword density and “formulas” for the best results,but I advocate authenticity above all, meaning your post should sound natural, like a human communicating, not  a word-repeating robot. In fact, search engines have sophisticated tools that route out black hat seo practices like keyword stuffing and mark as spam.

  • Move the headline to front seat.

Sometimes in our quest to be clever or get attention (myself included) blog post titles can be obtuse for search. As with keywords, take the time to make  your headline  searchable. For instance I recently did a post on outdoor billboards and the headline was “Sex, Religion, Politics (and a Hitler teapot): Controversial Billboards Revisited”. Not exactly SEO-friendly. So I at least changed the “slug”, after the date, to “controversial-billboards-2012”. That earns me a more regular hits and I can still maintain my self-proclaimed witty headline.

  • Images ride shotgun.

As bloggers, we know the value of adding images and graphics to tell our story and it’s also a proven fact that content with images get more hits that those without. In a few easy steps, graphics can be a powerful SEO tool by reducing the file size (search engines dislike slow loading sites), renaming the file name to something specific and meaningful, and adding a title. There are other steps you can take.

  • Make Pit Stops for Categories and Tags.

Even if you’re pressed for time, “Categories” and “Tags” is worth the effort to do some of the SEO work for you, especially knowing the difference between the two:  Think of “Categories” as the bucket of content type versus “Tags”, which are more detailed words and phrases about the post. For the outdoor billboard piece, the Categories might be “outdoor billboards” and “advertising.” Tags would be more specific, like “Hitler teapot” or “J.C. Penney”.

  • Create your own traffic.

As a standard practice, linking to your own related posts, other blogs, or external content add value and insight, and also work to boost your SEO. As with keywords, link strategically and where it makes sense. No stuffing allowed!

  • Honk Your Own Horn

Most bloggers use their social network to get the word out for each new post. This is just good old self-promotion, but a reminder you can also increase your SEO with every share and reaching your extended network. A quick way to do this each time is by using the WordPress publishing feature that automatically sends to all social media outlets, or you can manage this process yourself. I opt to share manually to target different messages to my audiences, but nice to know I can use publishing in a hurry.

… Never Hit the Cruise Button

Once you’ve taken these primary steps to SEO-ize your blog, keep the wheels in motion for long-term good habits and practice. And remember, it’s not just good content that helps build organic SEO, but posting on a regular basis is just as important. Last but not least, pay attention to your stats: what are people searching on to find your blog? Use that data to fine tune your content continually.

What SEO practices work best for your blog?

Social Media vs Search Engines for Blog Traffic: Who Wins in Content Marketing?

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I have posted previously about an ongoing MBA class on content marketing called Marketing with Social Media that I am teaching at a university in Silicon Valley. We just wrapped up our 7th of 11 weeks. And I have some numbers regarding the social media versus search engine debate.

All 73 students started their websites out from zero. No domain. No hosting. No idea of the difference between tagline and ‘tag, you’re it’. No nothing.

Some of them have been posting very faithfully, using specifically the SEO guidelines I gave them for each post. Well, sorta kinda. As much as people, especially students, follow rules in general that is. We also have a great back linking strategy. And and and …

Question: What performs better? Sending people to sites via your social networks or just writing good stuff and letting the search engines do their thing?

Answer: The course is 45 days old. I took three screen shots from Google Analytics. The reader can compare Facebook referrals to Google organic traffic. (I know. I know. There are other social networks. There are also other search engines.)

Compare the following three 15-day time periods.

Feb 17 – Mar 3

MBA1

Click to see a larger version of this image.

The students worked their Facebook networks and in the end social network traffic outperformed organic search. It makes sense. The sites were still finding their feet and search was still finding them.

Mar 4 – Mar 18

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Facebook referrals remained constant, but search results more than doubled as well as outperformed social networking.

Mar 19 – Apr 2

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Facebook referrals dropped a little but organic search continued to increase – another 13%.

At the risk of overwhelming you screenshots and numbers take a look:

Facebook traffic dropped 33% from 617 visits the last week of Mar/Apr compared to 415 the last week of Feb/Mar.

Organic traffic increased 58% from 697 visits the last week of Mar/Apr to 1100 the last week of Feb/Mar.

One more thing – organic traffic grew by itself. That is my students wrote something and turned off their computers, while with social networking, traffic requires the student to write something and do something else, login elsewhere and promote, interact, build, smooze.

I may be wrong, but after a time, the promotion of content elsewhere = on social networks, gets cumbersome, tiresome, and loses its effectiveness. However, with search traffic, as long as the content is meaningful, follows the rules of good SEO, will continue to grow.

Who wins in the social media vs search engine debate when it comes to content marketing?

Blogs win.

Unless, that is, you have a different experience that you would like to share in a comment below.

32 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Keyword Research for Bloggers

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Keyword Research for Bloggers

No matter what your blogging niche, you probably get at least some of your traffic from Google and other search engines. By doing a little keyword research and implementing some good SEO practices, you can pull in even more readers from search engines.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week

Onibalusi_Headshot The Definitive Guide to Keyword Research by Bamidele Onibalusi

This post on YoungPrePro is perfect if you’re just getting started with keyword research for your blog. Bamidele writes about why keywords matter, and how to get started with your research. After doing keyword research, I also recommend checking out his post, The Ultimate SEO Guide to Dominating The Search Engine Rankings, which will help you take optimization even farther so you can reach more and more readers via Google and other search engines.

After checking out this brilliant blogger, don’t forget to follow him on Twitter at @YoungPrePro.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 5 Best Ways Bloggers Can Do Keyword Research by Nida Zaidi (@NidaXaidi)
  2. 5 Unexpected Keyword Research Sources by Sujan Patel (@sujanpatel)
  3. 7 Most Powerful Best Free Keyword Research Tools by Rakesh Kumar (@notebinary)
  4. 10 Free Keyword Tools for Your Blog Title Tag Research by John Saddington (@saddington)
  5. 16 Killer Keyword Research Resources For Total Niche Domination by Tommy Walker (@tommyismyname)
  6. A Beginners Guide to Keyword Research by Bill Germino (@BillGermino)
  7. An Introduction to Keyword Research Using Free Tools by Adam Whittles
  8. Blogging for SEO Part 1: Keyword Research by Claire Atwell (@claire_atwell)
  9. Headsmacking Tip #3: Run Your Blog Post Titles Through Keyword Research Before You Hit Publish by Rand Fishkin (@randfish)
  10. How to Do Basic Keyword Research by Marion Jacobson (@searchqueen)
  11. How to Do Keyword Research for a WordPress Site by Karol (@carlosinho)
  12. How To Do Keyword Research For Your Website, Find Hidden Keyword Gems by Maria Calanchini
  13. How to Do Keyword Research in 10 Minutes by Aviva Blumstein (@AvivaBlumstein)
  14. How to Do Keyword Research, On-Page SEO Your Blog Posts by Julian Wong (@julianhwong)
  15. How to Find the Keywords that Work for Your Content Marketing Goals by Beth Hayden (@bethjhayden)
  16. How to Improve Your Keyword Research with the Help of Google Trends by Amrit Hallan
  17. How to Research Keywords: Tips, Competition and Squirrels by Andy Crestodina (@crestodina)
  18. How To Use Keyword Research The RIGHT Way – Are You Doing It Wrong? by Andrew Wang
  19. How to Use Keyword Research to Supercharge Your Blogging Strategy by Frank Dickinson (@FrankDickinson)
  20. Importance of Conducting Keyword Research for Your Blog Posts by Chris Melfi
  21. Keyword Research for Web Writers and Content Producers by Brian Clark (@copyblogger)
  22. Keyword Research For Your Blog Content – Use People’s Problems For Your Market Research by Michaelangelo Flores (@mflores87)
  23. Keyword Research: How to Find Long Tail Keywords by Philip Alex (@philipalex08)
  24. Keyword Research is Critical to Your Success with Niche Sites by Sunil (@extramoneyblog)
  25. Keyword Research to Optimize Your Blog Posts by Matthew Allen (@matt76allen)
  26. Performing Keyword Research for Blog Posts by Blog Hands (@bloghandsseo)
  27. The Expert’s Guide to Keyword Research for SEO Copywriting by Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert)
  28. The Value of Keyword Research for Blogging by Chad Goulde
  29. Top 5 Keyword Research Tips by Charles Dovbish
  30. Using Google Keyword Research for SEO by Lisa (@wealthmission)
  31. What Metrics You Need to Understand For Keyword Research by Kyle

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about keyword research for bloggers? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Landing Pages

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

5 Beginner Steps to Creating a Blog that You Can Monetize

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Last week, I wrote Follow 50+ MBA-level Case Studies in Content and Inbound Marketing about a 48-hour class that is happening at a university in Silicon Valley.

In the first week, my students wrote a combined 750-ish posts of varying length and purpose – daily posts, guest posts, link bait posts. At Top 10 Content Marketing Sites in the Social Media MBA course I listed up the best performers. You’re welcome to take a look to see just how many unique visitors, total visitors and page views that much effort can produce in sites that are starting from zero.

In this post I want to articulate the 5 first steps my students and I had to take BEFORE they could think about making money with content marketing and the challenges I faced to get them there and how I, ahem, overcame those challenges just to get the students online and writing.

Step One: Get a Domain Name and Hosting

More than 2 weeks out my trusty TA (teacher’s assistant) and I started sending emails to the whole class via the school’s learning management system. No response. What do you do when you can’t get a response and the only way to contact the students is email? You spam them until they figure out they had better do something.

About half of the 60+ students showed up with a domain name and hosting.

Another one fourth showed up thinking, “What’s the difference between having a domain and hosting? Aren’t they the same?

And still others said, “You emailed us? When? You want us to do what?”

There was no easy answer. My trusty assistant, Kevin, came to class and they drove him ragged getting everyone a domain and hosting. It wasn’t pretty. But over the course of the first 2 days and 16 hours of in-class time and a ton of emails, we got everyone in the class online with a domain, hosting and WordPress installed.

If any reader here has a better solution to this problem…by all means let me know.

Step Two: Get the Right Plugins and Set Up the Back End

With a group of students who don’t even know what WordPress is, much less a plugin, there was no easy answer to this either. Throwing something up on the giant screen and having everyone follow along just wouldn’t work. Besides I had to spend a LOT of time on Steps 3-5 and couldn’t afford the time.

I nearly killed my local and overseas staff. They were spending about 1-2 hours per site setting the permalink structure I like, getting the right plugins in place – SEO, sitemap, etc. Creating webmaster accounts for each and installing Google Analytics so we can track the results. 60+ websites at various stages of coming online x 2 hours each = a LOT of time.

Again, I knew of no simple way to do this other than throw food under the door to keep my staff happy, or at least well fed, while they brought all the sites to an equal footing. Suggestions?

Step Three: Decide What to Write About

Unlike the first two steps,  at this point I finally had everyone on the same page, in the same room, doing the same thing. I could get all 60+ students to look up and follow along.

I had all students create a tagline. My specific instructions were for them to tell me what they were going to write about in 10 words (not a magic number, but definitely less than 12) or less what they planned to write about. They were NOT to use adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions or articles. They were to come up with 3 different iterations and show them to five other classmates for feedback and pick the best one. Focus for a site from the get go is critical

Other instructions:

  • Write about something you are interested in
  • Write about something you can create an interest in
  • Write about something you have a lot to say about.

In my world, if a blogger doesn’t have a 1,000 things to say about their topic they will have a hard time making money with their site.

Step Four: Use SEO to Ensure Posts are Found

What is SEO anyway? Search Engine Optimization. But what is that?

I define Search Engine Optimization as content that appeals to real people (first) and to search engines (second). But it must appeal to both.

If a blogger only considers readers they might get read but only by the people the blogger tells to go their directly. They will not be found as well by search engines. If the blogger considers only the search engines they are likely to come up with stuff that is just unreadable. There is an ideal balance for the content. Ideal balance = optimization.

I have learned that there are some 220+ parameters that can go into an ideal post/page. I have also learned that pages can be overly optimized. But what I find of particular value is that I have also learned that there are about 20 ‘things’ you can do to a blog post that will get you 90-95% of the results you want. I will write about them in a future post.

If you can’t wait, you can buy the book – Marketing with Social Media. It’s the text book, first draft, that I wrote for this course.

Step Five: – Make a Plan and Work the Plan

For every hour of classroom work, I can require 2 hours of work outside of the class.  I am requiring my students to write 600-750 words DAILY. How hard can that be? They are permitted to adapt to their own style.

Some like to write multiple short posts.

Some like to write one long post each day.

Some like to do a combination.

It doesn’t matter to me.

Additionally, the students are required to guest post weekly at my home site about their progress (you can read their posts at Bill Belew Guest Writer AND guest post at one classmate’s web site that is relevant. Lots of link love happening that will only get better and of more value as the sites mature = get more content. Lastly, they are required to write one relatively higher quality post – link bait style.

Ongoing:

All 5 of these steps were done in the first 2 days of class, each a full 9-hour day, counting lunch. The students are off and writing at this point. Some get it, some don’t. Every educator knows that just because you tell somebody something, it doesn’t mean they learned it.

In the meantime, in about 10 weeks, this class will wrap up with some 15-20,000 posts being written over a large variety of niches and at various paces and different lengths and with different intensity and interlinking. How cool is that?

What do you think I can learn from this?
What would you like to learn?

What you can do:

Step 1 – Subscribe to the Bill Belew.com/blog to get more immediate updates from me at my home site. You will also be able to read the inbound and content marketing student experiences first hand

Step 2 -Subscribe to this NMX blog to get updates when they come out here.

Thanks for reading.

How to Use Long Tail Keywords to Grow Your Blog Audience

Author:

If you ever felt like you’ve hit a wall with your blog content or audience reach, focusing on long tail keywords might be one of your best options.

Something way too many people focus their efforts on is trying to rank for generic keywords, which usually results in a lot of wasted time and effort in an area that simply has way too much competition.

What are Long Tail Keywords?

Before we get too far into how to find and use long tail keywords and how they work, let’s first cover the differences between what they are.

Generic keyword: blogging
Long tail keyword: make money blogging

While both of these keywords are very attracting and have a wide audience, one of them will be much easier to rank for, while also focusing clearly on it’s niche audience.

If you do a search for “blogging,” you can really be looking for anything. If someone is going to search for “make money blogging,” they are obviously interested in learning how to make money with a blog of their own. To get one step further you could even do “make money blogging with affiliate marketing,” which would be even more specific and give you a tighter niche audience with even less advertiser and search competition.

How to Find Long Tail Keywords

Knowing what long tail keywords are is one thing, but actually knowing how to research and find the winners is another.

There are plenty of free software tools out there for you to use, such as Bing AdCenter tools and Google Keyword Tools. Both of these will allow you to plug in a keyword, find related search terms and also provide you with advertiser competition and how many people are searching for each phrase per month.

If you would like to save a lot of time and get a premium piece of software, I highly recommend Long Tail Pro (full review). Not only will the software do everything that Google Keyword Tool can, but it will also give you a “Keyword Competition” score that will give you an idea of how hard it would be for you to rank for a specific keyword.

Using Long Tail Keywords to Grow Your Blog

With all of this mentioned, there are two key ways that you can start growing out your blog with these methods.

The first is to use long tail keywords in your pay per click marketing campaigns, which will improve your overall costs and conversions.

The next and best way is to use long tail keywords as the focus of your blog content and title.

Instead of using “How to Install WordPress” as your content and title, go more direct with “How to Install WordPress with 1 Click Install.” Not only will this help you rank better in the results, but it will also give you an exact audience of people who are searching on that exact topic/task.

If you aren’t currently building out your blog with long tail keywords, now it a great time to start!

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Working with Guest Bloggers: The Secret to Your Success

Author:

Guest bloggers? Isn’t your blog supposed to be your voice, representing your view and perspective on business, life, parenting, family matters, your hobby, or even products you’re selling? Well, yes, it is. But it can be more…

Actually, there are lots of reasons why inviting people to write guest posts on your blog can be a great idea, including adding a bit of variety for your readers, gaining visibility through more popular writers, offering slightly different perspectives on your topical area and giving you a bit of a break from the daily grind of blogging. There’s also this thing called SEO and people who are willing to publish guest articles might just find themselves more frequently invited to write guest posts on other people’s blogs. Those guest posts you write that include a link back to your own site are great for your own site’s visibility. A win-win!

Even on the most personal of blogs, embedding a dialog with someone else that perhaps started out as an email exchange can be a powerful entry to write, or you can even frame a guest article by introducing it to your readers in the opening paragraphs and then add your own concluding paragraph after, reacting to the main piece and ensuring that your own voice isn’t lost in the process.

To have your guest bloggers be successful and to make the process as easy as possible, here are my hard-learned tips:

Agree on a theme or topic in advance — This saves a lot of hassles and misunderstandings, when the guest blogger sends you an article that’s just not relevant to your audience. Rejections are never appreciated, even if they’re appropriate, so sidestep it by asking them for a sentence or two summary of what they want to talk about.

Specify your writing style — Do you like publishing obscenities? Do you want long, complicated sentences that are suitable for your audience of research scientists, or short, easily understood grammatical constructs perfect for a busy parent to understand? It’s your site, I encourage you to ask the guest writer to try and match your own writing style while still honoring their own voice in the process.

Long or short? Give ’em a target word count — This is one that always seems to be a challenge, but if your audience is used to substantial articles of 400 words or longer, a guest post of 135 words will seem insubstantial and pointless. Avoid that by specifying “target word count: 400 words” or, in the opposite situation, “please don’t exceed 250 words.”

Pictures? Video? — Just about all blog posts are enhanced by including some sort of media content. Are they responsible for this content? If so, make sure you tell them, and also ensure that they obtain the rights to the content (easily done if it’s their own photo or graphic, of course) so that they don’t put you in potential legal hot water due to rights violations. Your blog, your problem, even if the original was sent by a guest author.

Those are the key factors to ensure success working with guest bloggers. It’s easy and it’s fun!

I also asked a few other popular bloggers what their parameters are with accepting guest blog articles, and here’s what they had to say:

Jenny Ford: I have contributors and accept guest posts. it’s one of the only ways you won’t get stuck writing every single recipe!! (and getting grossly over-weight on my site! HA!). My tip – have a format, give clear details and expectations, let people know your deadline, make sure they have terrific photography.

Mary-Frances Main: I only take local “voices” and then they have to be relevant to the topic (which seems like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed!). Personally I like people I know – but will accept a recommendation of another connection.

Elizabeth C. Lewis: Make sure that before you ask for a guest blogger, you have read some of what they write! You don’t want to ask someone to write something to find out that they are terrible at writing and have to find a reason that you can’t use it.

Amy Gahran: Have a process: offer clear guidance on length, format, topic. Tell them how to submit a draft: text file? Word doc? HTML doc? Only do this for evergreen topics that can run anytime. Guest posts often don’t happen on deadline.

So there you have it. Not just my enthusiasm for guest bloggers showing up on one of my blogs — and I have four that I publish, ranging from my AskDaveTaylor tech support site to DaveOnFilm, where I share film reviews and the popular GoFatherhood site where I write about my experiences as a single dad — but the view of some other savvy bloggers who also invite submissions from friends and colleagues to mix things up.

Now, what are your thoughts on this? Do you accept guest submissions and, if so, what are your parameters?

Editor’s Note: For those who want to learn more from Dave, check out his session at NMX called “Quick and Dirty Video Production Workshop for Your First YouTube Video.”

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