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May 2013

What Happens to Your Traffic when You Stop Writing at Your Blog?


I taught a Marketing with Social Media MBA course at a fully accredited university in Silicon Valley earlier this year. The class ran from Feb 9 – April 28. There were 73 students enrolled. Just over 50 survived to the end.

During the last day of class I asked my students, “How many of you have been angry at me some time during the past 11 weeks?”

They all raised their hands. Some raised both hands and waved them violently. Thank goodness there were no single digit waves … I think. But it was clear the students had had enough of blogging no matter what I called it – marketing with social media, content marketing, inbound marketing, whatever. They were done.

Indeed I was curious to know what would happen to the traffic to their sites when they stopped writing.

Now I know.

Take a look.

Aggregate After

This screen shot reflects the aggregate traffic to all the students’ sites.

It is clearly visible that the traffic is increasing overall.

Increasing?! When most of them had stopped writing?! And all of them are writing less!

Indeed. The traffic continues to grow.

And be sure to take note where the traffic is coming from. Organic traffic is far outperforming the biggest social network on the planet.

Case Study – Info-Nepal

A look at one of the student’s stats is particularly enlightening. Her site is dedicated to Nepal. It would be a great complement to a travel agent site dedicated to Nepal as a destination.

Not a couple of days AFTER the class was finished, look what happened.

After class

I wrote to her, “Very sudden and very nice jump in your traffic! What’s going on?”

Her reply:

“Yeah it all started about 3 weeks ago. All of a sudden I am getting a lot of traffic. It increased from 40-50 per day to almost 300 per day. I am excited. I need to write more frequently. Thanks for keeping and eye on it.

In other words, she did nothing special. Just plugging away, and even writing less than during the class.
We can see where her traffic is coming from.

Lesson Learned

The crystal clear message: Creating good content results in good residual traffic, sometimes known as the long tail.
When traffic is purchased (think adwords) or pushed via social networks and social bookmarking sites (think referral traffic from other sites) traffic will come as long as it is pushed, driven. But when the buying and pushing stops, so does the traffic.  Not so with good content that is on topic and created at the home site. It’s the content that keeps on giving, um, pulling.
Content marketing is inbound marketing. And it can’t be beat long term.
What is your experience with creating content compared to buying traffic by hook or by crook? Got case study? Wanna share? Feel free to read the students’ firsthand experiences at BillBelew.com. And by all means, reach out to me if I can help you see similar results at your site(s). See you in the comments.

What Arrested Development’s Return Means for the Web TV Community


arrested development Recently, Arrested Development returned to the air after seven years of wearing the all-too-common “cult classic that was cancelled by Fox” badge. This riches-to-rags story follows the fictional Bluth family and the cast includes notables such as Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Portia de Rossi.

What’s notable about this release, however, is not only did the show come back with its original cast after being cancelled, but also that it was relaunched on Netflix. The streaming and DVD rental service licensed the rights to a fourth season for Arrested Development as part of their new push to include original programming as part of their offerings.

Like other Netflix-only series that were recently released, Arrested Development was offered to views in its entirety when launched. Viewers can binge-watch the entire season in one sitting or choose to spread out the episodes over time based on their own schedule. So far, fans are underwhelmed. Netflix’s stock has dropped, and critics have given the season mixed reviews.

But perhaps more importantly than the success of this one series is the notion that Netflix is changing how consumers think about TV, which has a ripple effect across all forms of entertainment. Certainly, this has implications for the Web TV community.

Thinking About Entertainment Advertising Differently

The traditional way of monetizing entertainment (specially anything episodic) is to have commercials throughout. Yes, some shows also do product placement and other forms of monetization, but commercials are the bread and butter.

With a show like Arrested Development steaming on Netflix, however, you don’t have those traditional commercial breaks. Let’s be honest, ever since the introduction of DVRs, commercials haven’t been reaching as many people anyway. But Netflix’s original program forces advertisers to think outside the box.

This is great news for web series producers. Some shows have “commercial breaks,” but online, people aren’t as tolerant of any kind of disruption in entertainment. So, producers have had to be creative with monetization – and ad companies aren’t always ready for that kind of thinking.

If more big-name shows like Arrested Development force advertisers to think outside the box, they may also be open to creative deals with others in the web TV community.

I Want What I Want and I Want it Now

One of the major criticisms I’ve seen about what Netflix is doing is that it takes the conversation out of television when entire series are presented at once. And it is true that after each episode of a popular TV show, the web is buzzing with fans talking about it on Twitter, Facebook, and platforms like GetGlue. The next day, the same is true at the water cooler at work. People are talking about the latest episode and anticipating next week’s developments.

You just don’t get this with Netflix. Some rabid fans of a popular series will watch over the course of a day or two, depending on how many episode are in the series and how long each episode lasts. A good majority will finish in the first week or two, and even more in the first few months. But everyone is on their own schedule. Fans might even refrain from talking about the series at all due to worries about spoilers.

But on the other side, people have an increasing “I want what I want and I want it now” type of attitude about all things. Allowing the consumer to dictate the speed at which a show’s series is watched plays into this hand.

This also allows more people to become fans. I don’t know about you, but I often watch the first episode or two of a series, then forget it’s on. If my DVR is full, I might never watch it again, even though I liked what I saw originally. This kind of “all at once” presentation avoid the problem of people forgetting about a show between weeks, so more fans may develop over time.

Is it the right choice? I’m not sure. But if you’re a web series producer, it’s a question you should be considering. Arrested Development has such a big built-in fan base that it’s a great case study for presentation methods.

Bigger Deals for Smaller Shows?

As Netflix continues to experiment with presenting shows in a non-traditional way, you can bet that everyone will be watching. Could this be the start of a wave of bigger deals for smaller shows?

Or, will it mean that big-budgets shows will invade the web space?

Or maybe a combination of both?

If you produce web series, be part of the conversation instead of just allowing it to happen around you. The silver screen entertainment world is changing drastically, so now’s the time to try new techniques for presenting your content and thinking outside the box when trying to attract both viewers and advertisers.

What do you think launches like Arrested Development mean for the web TV world? Leave a comment below.

Image: Netflix.com

Struggle to Juggle: Three Marketing Kickstarters To Do Right Now


Multi-tasking Business Woman

National Small Business Week celebrates its 50th anniversary this June on a high note:  According to the Small Business Administration, half of Americans own or work for a small business. While this is a glowing testament to America’s entrepreneurial spirit, one of the biggest conundrums small businesses still continually face is marketing: knowing they need promotion to grow and thrive but often lacking the time, money, and people to do the work. “Of all the classes we offer during San Francisco Small Business Week, marketing courses are the most popular,” said Jane Gong, a City coordinator of the nation’s largest such event.

So what can small businesses do lickety-split to get started, brush up, or recommit to a marketing program? Here are some ways to start or reboot your  efforts: After that, it’s up to you to make it a habit.

#1 Ask, Don’t Tell (When it Comes to Social Networks)

News flash to small business owners: social media is no longer a “trend” or “sexy”– it’s a reality of an integrated marketing plan. “Small business owners need to stop complaining about having little or no understanding of social media and no time to learn it,” said Brian Moran said in an article interview. “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘If you don’t have the time to do something right, when are you going to find the time to do it over?” Gong said, “When people are starting a business, the questions we get asked most about are social media. They think they need to be on social networks to increase their returns, but if you’re a mom and pop corner store, they are not sure it makes sense.”

Kickstarter: Go where your customers social-ize: Though it seems intuitive to get your target audience’s input to help drive marketing decisions, many businesses don’t, not because of lack of desire, but preoccupation with five hundred other tasks at hand. In the end though, the time you spend upfront getting feedback will prevent wasted time later. Though Facebook appears to be the most popular social network for small businesses, get the raw data from your  customers and prospects: survey in-person, by email, or quickly and free online . They’ll appreciate that you want their insight and the input will help shape your plans.

Once you establish your social media direction, get educated for free online. Also, check out what your competition is doing and get inspiration from the  brands you admire. Start small by offering something of value to get fans and followers, such as a Facebook-only deal, a discount for Twitter followers, or showcase customer photos on Pinterest. But start something and do it consistently as you build and fine-tune your social media program.

#2 Give Your Blog Nine Lives (or At Least Five)

Chances are if you’re reading this article, you already have a blog or want to: as most bloggers will attest to, it’s one of the easiest and straightforward ways to promote your business. Did you also know there are at least five things you can do to transform a stale blog to fresh content? The best place to start is to check your stats (or tags and categories) and determine the best performing ones. If you don’t have a blog yet, come up with a popular industry topic and use that as a starting point.

Going through the stats exercise for my own blog, I found a piece from a year ago about J.C. Penney’s rebranding disaster was my third top-read post of all time. Upon further research I found out why: On a Google search of “JC Penny Branding Disaster”, my blog comes up fourth, below PRDaily and Forbes and above Huffington Post. Even though the position could change, I got great SEO by writing about a popular topic when the story was blowing up in the media. Now, to use it for my own purposes…

Kickstarter: Repurpose. Repurpose. Repurpose. Did someone say repurpose? For the J.C. Penney blog, potential ideas are: 1) Update blog to reflect the recent booting of its CEO and apology ad and republicize on all social networks; 2) Use as partial content for quick blog countdown “The Five Worst Branding Disasters of All Time”; 3) Turn blog into online story and publicize; 4) Reformat with some quick visuals and create Slideshare and blast out to social networks. 5) If I were feeling particularly ambitious, I could create a short video that tells the story of what happened (a search revealed just one interview.) People are hungry for online information in different ways to learn about big events, industry trends, and practical tips–you can be the expert, go-to source no matter which they choose.

#3 Putting the Cure in Curation: the Multi-tasker Extraordinaire

Content curation for your business can be  a great marketing Swiss Army Knife, but it’s a lot of work. There are services that  do the legwork for free, collecting relevant content in your industry, monitoring your competition, and  even prepping a targeted customer newsletter. “I use the analogy that people really are looking for water,” said Scott Scanlon, CEO of You Brand, Inc. in a content curation video.” …ultimately they don’t want to drink out of a fire-hose–they want a glass of water. If you can be there providing that glass of water on a consistent basis you’ll begin to garner their trust.” Bonus: Content curation services enable topic discovery for your blog, web site, or email marketing campaign–the possibilities are endless.

Kickstarter: Max out a free curation serviceScoop.it paper.liCurata, newcomer Swayy and other services specialize in online curation from thousands of online sources to slash time and effort. Take advantage  to get information compiled, organized, and leverage for your own purposes. If you use a curation service for customer newsletters, put your own brand stamp with commentary or tweaking a headline for your audience.

Too pressed for time to try any of these? Break down kickstarters into baby steps and do one part each week.

Image Credit: Bigstock

5 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned at NMX


new media lounge at nmx

You might suspect that I’m biased when I say that NMX is the best conference in the world. But I can honestly say that I would attend this conference even if I didn’t work for the company. The networking is great. The show floor helps my business. But more than anything, I love NMX for the education.

I’ve been blogging since 2006, and I highly disagree with advanced bloggers who say there’s only beginner content at NMX. Even in some of the 101-sessions, I end up learning new tips because this industry is changing so quickly. However, there are a few MAJOR lessons that stick out in my mind. Life-changing lessons, even. Today, I want to share with you what I’ve learned.

(And Pssst…did you know NMX 2014 tickets are available? Learn more here.)

Lesson #1: Not every piece of advice is right for every person.

At my first NMX (BlogWorld back then), I took notes at an alarming rate. Each session was filled with tips and tricks that I needed to implement on my blog immediately. I walked away from many sessions feeling like a failure. Why wasn’t I putting more effort into Facebook? Why didn’t I write more list posts? Why didn’t I have an ebook to sell? Why did I have no plans to start a podcast? Why did I ignore my site design? Why…

You get the picture.

But what I came to realize is that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. What’s important is that you’re prioritizing and testing all advice so you do the things that are most important for you.

Even more importantly, two pieces of advice can be in direct opposition of one another and still both be correct. I walked into one session where I was told that I absolutely need to have pop-ups on my blog because they convert well. I walked into a session immediately afterward where the speaker said pop-ups are horrible. That specific debate still rages on, and you shouldn’t fall on one side of the debate or the other just because someone else makes a case for it. Do your own testing, because your results could be very different from someone else’s results.

Lesson #2: Education means nothing without an implementation plan.

Conferences are simultaneously exhausting and inspiring. In the past, I would get home with a notebook full of great tips…and implement none of them.

I’ve found that if I truly want to make the most of NMX, I need to have a plan for getting the ball rolling after the conference. So now, on the plane ride home, I prioritize everything I’ve learned. During my first week back, I try my best to follow up with as many people as possible by organizing my collected business cards, and then I make every effort to implement the top three things I learned at the conference.

Lesson #3: Techniques and tips aren’t manipulative. People are.

Let’s say two people attend the same NMX session and learn the same tip for driving traffic. The way one person uses that tip could be very white hate while the way another person uses that tip could be extremely black hat.

Rarely are tips manipulative. It’s all how you use the advice for your own needs.

At NMX we try our very best to ensure that “black hat” people never speak at our conference, but there’s a lot of gray area. What one person considers a scam, the next person might consider to be fine. So, when you’re attending a session at NMX or at any conference for that matter, realize that you can still get value from a specific tip even if you don’t agree with exactly what the speaker does.

Lesson #4: Personal growth is reflected in business growth.

Some big-name bloggers have not seen their blogs grow in the past few years. They still have huge blogs, but their traffic/conversions are no better than the year before, while a smaller blogger might have seen tremendous growth, even though (s)he still has a lower traffic numbers.Who is the real winner? The small blogger, in my opinion.

At conferences, do you hang out with the same people or do you expand you horizons and meet new people at networking receptions? Do you skip sessions unless a friend is speaking or do you attend sessions from new people who have something interesting to teach you? Do you visit the show floor to learn about new products and tools or do you stick with what you’ve always used without examining new possibilities?

If you’re not growing as a person by admitting faults, it’s hard to grow as a business or content creator. This lack of personal growth is clearly visible at conferences. Some people choose to fully immerse themselves in the conference and learn all they can from everyone, while others do not.

Lesson #5: It’s important to ask for help.

We are nothing without one another.

I have a hard time asking people for help. I always feel like I’m imposing, and my mind is constantly yelling at me, “So-and-so doesn’t want to help you! What’s in it for them? Stop bothering people!”

Those are my insecurities talking. The fact of the matter is, if you’re a good, helpful person, people will be happy to help you as well. You just have to ask. Conferences like NMX are great for connecting with others and asking for any kind of help you might need.

That’s not to say you should plan out how you can use people. Make genuine connections, rather than only giving the time of day to people who can help you in some way. Just don’t be afraid to ask people for advice, interviews, guest posts, help connecting you with their friends, and other favors, as long as you can do so in a no-pressure way.

Remember always: You get what you give. Be helpful to others and that karma will circle back around when you’re the person in need.

I hope you’ll join us at NMX 2014, which is going to be a great show filled with even more life-changing lessons. Have you been to NMX (or BlogWorld) in the past? What are the most important lessons you’ve learned? Leave a comment!


Small Town Business Values in an Online World: Yes, It is Possible!


small town business values

Growing up in a small town of fewer than 100 people (yes, you read that right…fewer than 100!) was not always the easiest, but one thing I will always treasure is the values I learned growing up and working in a small, family-owned business. We worked hard and we played hard. We helped our neighbors. We knew our customers by name.

A lot of people will tell you that these things are not scalable as your business grows, especially if you take your business online. But you know what? Those lessons I learned during my high school years at the corner of Main Street and the cow pasture have stuck with me, and they shape how I choose to do business to this day. I attribute my greatest successes to the fact that I bring small town values to a world-wide scale.

People are People are People…and We Want Others to Care

I have friends and colleagues from around the world and guess what? People are people, no matter what color or gender or nationality or education level or worldview. There might be cultural differences, but the fact of the matter is that we all want others to care about us. When I worked at my neighborhood deli as a teen, I would pride myself in knowing the regulars. As I was preparing their order, I would ask them about their families, suggest items I knew they’d like from our shop, and call them by name.

There’s no reason you can’t do this online as well. As your business grows, get to know your “regulars” – they people who always retweet you or comment on your Facebook posts. Thank people by name. When someone has a complaint, address it personally instead of sending a form letter.
You hate it when you feel like a number. Others do as well. This is true whether you have one customer or one million customers.

The advantage is that when you get to know your customers on a more personal basis, especially those who are your biggest fans, selling to them is much easier. You can make personal recommendations based on what you know they’d like and you can ask for their feedback on new products. This isn’t just about getting cozy with customers to make them feel good. It actually helps your business.

Putting a Face to the Brand

No one wants to do business with a logo. On a small-town level, you as the owner might be regularly available or even working at your store. You probably have employees that are “faces” to your brand as well – those who are naturally customer favorites. When my dad has a doctor’s appointment, for example, he will go out of his way to see his favorite nurse, Brittany, even if it means walking to another wing changing his schedule so he can make an appointment when she’s working.

Online, the same is true. People want to interact with other people, especially employees they enjoy. Get your face out there as much as possible online and make real connections. Encourage your employees to do the same by interacting with people via social media. If you’re worried about how an employee will represent you online, that’s probably a good indication that he or she shouldn’t be working for you. Hire people who can be the faces of your brand, whether it’s in person or online. Give them training, create a social media policy, and then give them the freedom to get out there and talk to people.

Love Your “Competitors”

It’s important to love your “competitors” online…and I put that word in quotes because in actuality, you don’t have competitors as much as you have colleagues.

Let’s say you own a seafood restaurant, for example. There are probably several other places in town where people can get a meal, plus you’re competing with local grocery stores since many people will also eat at home. But does that mean you put up big signs that say “Eat Here! Joe’s Pizza Place Sucks!”? No way. You all have to live in the same town together. Joe’s Pizza Place might be a competitor, but it’s in both of your best interests if the relationship is friendly.

After all, you might both be serving food, but you offer different products for different tastes. There’s no reason you can’t agree to refer people to one another. Maybe Joe’s Pizza Place recommends your more upscale establishment for an upcoming wedding reception. Maybe you recommend their restaurant for the Little League team’s post-game dinner. Maybe you even partner to offer coupons to one another’s patrons.

Online, the same small town rules apply on a world-wide scale. Rather than hating on your competitors, think about how you can work together. At the very least, you can learn from one another. What cool Facebook promotions is that seafood place from three states over doing to bring in new customers? How are they using their blog to reach would-be diners? What can you learn from their failures? Know your colleagues and work together to build both of your businesses.

The Take-Aways

No matter what the scale of your business, I hope you never lose your small town values. Here’s what I hope you take away from this post:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people online the same way you would in a face-to-face situation. Get to know your customers, especially your biggest and most devoted fans.
  • Train your employees and then let them represent you online the same way they would at your brick-and-mortar store. Don’t be a logo online. Be real people.
  • Get to know other business owners and learn from one another instead of ignoring your competitors or creating a bad relationship.

No matter how big your business grows, these things are possible. At NMX 2013, Dana White, who is president of UFC and now has millions of fans and followers was saying the same thing: this is all scalable if you really want it to be! Connecting with people individually takes more time the bigger you are, but bringing the small town values to a world-wide audience will set you apart and ultimately help your business grow.

10 Tips for Discovering New Blogs


discovering new blogs

We all tend to get stuck in our own blogging cliques from time to time. I’m as guilty as anyone. But getting out there and finding new blogs to read can be really inspiring. It can give you ideas for your own blog, introduce you to new people who have something to teach you, and give you a new perspective on the same old topics.

Below, I’ve listed several ways to find new blogs to read. My challenge to you is this: at least once a month, use one of these tips to expand your feed reader (and purge any blog you don’t absolutely love – life is too short to read crap).

1. Ask your mailing list to email you recommendations.

Lots of people will reply with their own blogs, some will reply with others’ blogs. In either case, you have the potential to find some gems.

In order to avoid slamming your inbox, which is possible if you have a big email list, ask people to submit their favorite blog via a Google Doc form. Ask for the name of the blog, the URL of the blog, and a one-sentence description of the blog. That way, you can easily sort through submissions to find blogs that truly seem interesting.

2. Ask for recommendations via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Yes, you’re going to get a lot of self-promoters, but you’ll also get some good recommendations as well. As with asking your email list, however, keep in mind that these are already people in your circle of friends and fans. So many of the recommendations you get will likely be for blogs you’ve already heard of or already read. It’s a start, because you will probably get some new blogs named as well, but keep going down this list to really get our of your circle and find brand new blogs. PostPost is also a tool you can use to easy dive into social recommendations without even flat-out asking people to send you links.

3. Discover new blogs on Pinterest.

You don’t need to be a Pinterest user to get benefits from Pinterest. Even if you aren’t interested in creating a profile and pinning, you can browse through the Pinterest categories to see what other people are pinning. Go to the category that most closely reflects your own niche, click through some of the most interesting-looking pins, and discover some new blogs. Now every pin will lead to a blog you want to follow, but some will.

You can also use Pinterest’s search function to find interesting pins, but be aware that this platform doesn’t have the best search out there. It’s okay, but you do have to wade through a lot of crap and duplicates. It’s better than it used to be, but it still needs work.

4. Do a Twitter search for some main keywords in your niche.

People love sharing links on Twitter. Use this platform’s search function to find the links others are sharing. Simply type in a keyword relating to your niche, and check out the links others are tweeting. These could lead to some awesome blogs you never knew existed.

5. Browse blog directories.

Blog directories aren’t as hot as they once were, but they can still be helpful if you’re trying to find new blogs. Here are some places to search since blogs are categorized:

You can find even more blog directories listed on TopRank (this list is periodically updated).

6. Check out who else is attending an event.

NMX is the obvious example, but you could do this for any tradeshow or conference you’re planning to attend. Some events have attendee directories, but even those who do not give you this access can help you find new blogs to read. Simply find the event hashtag on Twitter (ours is #NXM) and see who is tweeting about the event. This works especially well in the 1-2 months surrounding the actual event.

If someone else is attending the same event as you, they probably have a blog or website that is interesting to you. As an bonus, this also will introduce you to others before the event, so take advantage and set up interviews and meetings with people you find interesting.

7. Use Google Blog Search.

Many people never realize that Google has a special type of search just for blogs. When a topic interests you, try using this search instead of the main search. It will help you discover new bloggers instead of the same old news sites that everyone reads. Other search engines have a similar function (in case you don’t use Google).

8. Use Paper.li.

With Paper.li, you can easy create a “newsletter” of sorts that includes your favorite content. I’m sure you’ve seen some of your Twitter friends broadcasting their Papers. However, even if you don’t use this service to create your own Paper, you can use it to discover new blogs. Just click on any Paper.li link that someone tweets to see what content they’re reading.

If you want to get out of your circle a little, though, try instead going directly to the Paper.li site to see what people are curating. Simple click the “newstand” button at top right and then type a topic into the search bar. You’ll see tons of Papers about your topic of choice, each with lots of links to blogs where you’ll find content about this topic.

9. Sign up for Swayy.

Although relatively new, Swayy is a great way to discover new content. It’s still invite-only, but head to their website and request one and you’ll get in pretty quickly. Swayy allows you to sign up for topics that interest  you, and then it will display content in those categories. you can browse through new blog posts, read what interests you, and (my favorite part) instantly share the best content. You can even see analytics – they’re very basic, but you’ll be able to tell which of your shares were most popular. Like I said, Swayy is the new kid on the block, but so far I’m loving this tool for discovery.

10. Visit commenters’ blogs.

If someone comments on your blog, they are highly engaged with your content. Check out their blog in return – you might be interested in their offerings as well.

I like the comment plugin CommentLuv because it allows your commenters to link to their most recent post, instead of just linking to their blog homepage. That way, when you are perusing comments, you can click on links that catch your eye instead of randomly clicking through to blogs or websites that might not interest you. A post title is easier to understand than a blog name.

You can also use this technique on other blogs you like, especially if they use CommentLuv. It doesn’t have to be your own blog. Make sure to tell people how you found thing – it’s a great endorsement for a blogger you like.

So there are my ten tips. How do you find new blogs to read?

Image Credit: Altered, from Bigstock

The Top 12 Sites in the Marketing with Social Media Course


speaking-workshops Below is a list of the top 12 sites by unique visitors, visits and page views (they are different) upon completion of the Marketing with Social Media MBA course taught by Bill Belew (that’s me writing about myself in the 3rd person).

The course focused on content/inbound/social media marketing and was taught at the graduate level in an accredited university in Silicon Valley. Here are the details:

  • The students had different blogging rhythms – 1-3 times daily and wrote various lengths of posts – 200+ to 600+ words.
  • All actively created internal and external links and fished, legitimately, for back links.
  • The students guest posted twice each week at BillBelew.com and at a classmate’s site of their choice.
  • The students also wrote evergreen/anchor/pillar posts weekly.
  • Finally, some students actively worked their social networks if they had a presence.

For good or bad, take a look at the top 12 sites. I encourage you to let the students know what you think of their ongoing product.

Visits Uniques Page Views
Soccer Roundup 1,764 1,260 4,732
UI Design 1,134 437 3,053
Arts and Crafts* 2,789 2,393 14,691
Saumya’s Kitchen 1,887 1,163 4,329
Techno Evolution Leads Revolution 1,594 1,308 3,083
Rph at Work 1,542 1,081 5,722
Info-Nepal 1,901 1,422 4,984
Migrated Mouse 1,455 1,147 2,477
Colors n Spirits 3,076 2,115 20,907
Social Media Buff 2,453 1,726 4,855
Jinie’s Kitchen 5,332 3,419 14,284
World of Dance 2,047 1,843 3,413
 *the first month of data is missing
Course aggregate 43,599 28,376 122,680

Out of the 60 active students that finished the course, these top 12 (20%) students received:

66.5% of unique visits

61.9% of visitors

70.5% of page views. 

Where is Pareto when you need him? Indeed, 20% of the class clearly did generate the majority of the output.

Some of the questions I have at this point which I will address in future posts …

1. Does blogging pace make a difference? Multiple times/day of short posts vs one ‘meatier’ post daily? How about a combination to this approach?

2. Could the students generate organic traffic without relying on keyword research?

3. Does content have to be grammar perfect? For many of my students, English is their second and even 3rd or 4th language!

4. What about cheating and duplicate content? Does it work? Some of my students went that route and in a future post I will tell you how that worked, or didn’t work for them.

5. What is an average bounce rate? Time on site? Page view to unique visit ratio?

6. Do my instructions work in other languages? 2 of my students wrote in Chinese and one in Japanese.

7. What was the hardest part for these newbie bloggers?

8. How did they keep themselves motivated or not?

And and and …

9. What questions would you like to ask? What answers might I be able to dig out for you from this experiment?

I have a ton of data that I will share here in the coming months and at my home site – BillBelew.com and at NMX 2014. Will you be there? I will.

BTW, how’s your blog working for you?

25 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Vine


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: Vine

Vine is the hottest new kid on the block, and although people are still a little tentative about using anything that involved video, this is really helping to introduce a new medium to people in the least intimidating way possible. The thought of creating a 10-minute video is terrifying to a lot of people. A 6-second video? Well, that’s not so bad.

Using Vine can be fun, but it can also be a promotional tool for your brand or content. So this week’s Brilliant Bloggers is filled with advice on making the most of this new platform.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

craig fifield Vine App: The Ultimate Guide to More Likes and Followers by Craig Fifield

Vine is still pretty new, so if you haven’t checked out this platform yet, don’t worry: you aren’t alone. That’s why I love this post from Craig Fifield at Social Media Today. It’s everything you need to know to get started plus lots of tips for users of all experience levels. This is an especially helpful post if you are using (or thinking about using) Vine for your small business, your blog, or something else you’re trying to promote, rather than just for fun.

After you check it out on the post, you can also follow Craig on Twitter at @craigfifield.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

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

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Writing Viral Posts

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.

How to Track Conversions from YouTube Viewers [Video]


YouTube Partners can now link out to other sites within their video annotations, which can be a great way to drive new readers to a blog, ecommerce site, landing page, etc. You can also, of course, add links to your description and channel page. Very few people are creating video content consistently, so you have the opportunity to really stand out in your niche if you create videos.

But traffic (from YouTube or otherwise) is nothing if that traffic doesn’t convert. Once someone comes to your website, are they actually performing the action that you want them to perform? Are they buying your product? Or signing up for your mailing list?

In this video, Ileane Smith walks you through exactly how to set up a Google Analytics goal and track conversions. If you’re new to Google Analytics, don’t worry; she really breaks it down so you can easily understand how to track conversions. Check it out:

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fifVlpEODic[/youtube]

I loves the goals feature for Google Analytics for conversion tracking, because it helps me understand the best source of traffic according to my goal. Sometimes, raw numbers don’t tell the entire story.

Have you set up goals to track conversions?

12 Ways Blogging Would Be Different Without Twitter


blogging would be different without twitter

It’s hard to imagine a world without Twitter. It was the faster-growing social network in 2012, and 1/5 of all US Internet users are also active on Twitter.* For bloggers especially, the world would be very different without Twitter.

But maybe there’s something we can lean from that. Twitter is an amazing way to reach your community, but it can perhaps cloud our vision. By thinking about what the world would be like without Twitter, we can perhaps find some new opportunities for our blogs. Here’s how blogging would be different if Twitter did not exist:

1. We’d would have jumped on the image train sooner.

Bloggers today are starting to understand the power of having good images, especially with the rise of Pinterest and Instagram. However, I believe we would have come to that conclusion as an industry sooner if nor for Twitter, which embraces text, not images. Yes, you can tweet out pictures, but it isn’t the same as an image-heavy social network. Even on Facebook, images are more important than text and links.

Are you putting effort into your images or are you begrudgingly using crappy stock photography because you “have” to? I’ll be the first to admit that I was late to jump on the boat with using images with my blog posts, and it’s still not my favorite part of blogging, but without a doubt, I get more social share and comments (on average) when I have compelling images to go with a post.

Need some advice on image creation? Here’s how I do it.

2. Reading and commenting on other blogs would be more important.

Instead of commenting on posts we like, we usually just retweet the link, even though most of us are ecstatic when we get an email saying that there’s a new comment on one of our posts.

Social shares are great for promotion, but in my opinion, actual comments are even more important. The entire point of a blog is to have a conversation. That’s what makes blogs different than newspapers and magazines–there is interaction. If your post is meant to educate, commenters can add to that knowledge. If your post is meant to entertain or inspire, commenters can share their stories and opinions to make your original post even better.

Even if you opt not to allow comments on your blog, without Twitter, I believe we’d be more easily able to build communities. Before Twitter, I remember that I had my favorite blogs bookmarked (and later added to my RSS reader) and I’d check for new content every day. I felt more like I was part of something, and I anticipated every post because I wasn’t getting 140-character snippets from the blogger every 10 minutes between posts.

I highly encourage you to think about your online activities as they pertain to other bloggers. Don’t just follow someone on Twitter, retweet their links, and call it a day. If you enjoy someone’s work, be a part of their community by being present on their blog, and encourage your followers to do the same.

3. Responding to your own comments would be more important.

Some bloggers opt not to reply to a single comment. Instead, they interact with fans via Twitter. That’s all fine and good, but it means that you’re taking the conversation away from what should be your most important platform: your actual blog.

If Twitter didn’t exist, we’d be forced to interact with fans via our comments instead. Conversations would develop, and this only adds to the value of the post for the next reader.

For those of you not current responding to comments, give it a try. You don’t have to respond to every single “great post” or “thanks for the info” message, but if someone takes the time to leave a thoughtful comment or ask a question, answer them. This is the single best way I’ve found to build a community on your blog. When you respond, you’re telling the commenter, “I see you, and I value you.” We all like to be acknowledged.

Recently, I posted about my own experiences responding to comments. Check it out here.

4. Niche forums would drive more traffic.

In some niches, forums are still hopping, but this has died down a bit since the days before Twitter. If Twitter didn’t exist, I think more blogs would have a forum associated with them or, at the least, more bloggers would be participating in general forums about their topics.

Instead, we just log onto Twitter and interact with the people we follow or the people who mention us. I bet if you look, though, you’ll find forums related to your niche. This is a fantastic way to find new readers for your blog and to make connections with other bloggers. Too few bloggers are using forums.

5. Our Google+ and LinkedIn connections would be crucial.

Every day, I see people ask for favors and make new connections on Twitter. It’s quick. It’s easy. Why not? Without this platform, we’d likely put a deeper emphasis on Google+ and LinkedIn instead.

Maybe we’re missing out, however, by not using these connections more. When you’re not limited to 140 characters, there’s so much more you can do and say. If you’re stuck in the routine of only checking Twitter, I highly recommend that you start using Google+ and LinkedIn as well. The relationships you can develop on these platforms are, in my opinion, much more meaningful.  Or at least, then can be.

This is especially true when you’re trying to get the attention of another popular blogger. On Twitter, it seems like everyone is trying to get a piece of these people. On Google+ and LinkedIn, it is often easier to build a relationship.

6. Headlines would be less important.

People send hundreds of dollars to learn how to write better headlines, and for good reason: when people share your links, the most enticing headlines get the most clicks.

On other social networks, there’s a little wiggle room to post some description with the title. With Twitter, you only have 140 characters, so the title is everything.

If Twitter did not exist, we wouldn’t care nearly as much about the titles of our posts. And maybe that would be a good thing.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t put any thought into the headlines your write. However, I do believe that some bloggers put the cart before the horse in this respect. The title of your post means nothing unless the post you’ve written is awesome. (Click to tweet.)

Most bloggers, myself included, are always looking for ways to improve traffic. It’s easy to get wrapped in what will give us that promotion edge, like writing better headlines. But it can be dangerous to spend more time on your promotion skills than on your writing skills. When’s the last time you looked at ways to improve your actual content, not just the way you promote your content?

7. Crowdsourcing content ideas wouldn’t be as easy.

Twitter is a really powerful platform for crowdsourcing ideas for your blog. Ask your community for tips to share. Brainstorm questions you can answer on your blog. Do an informal poll of your audience. Without Twitter, this kind of crowdsourcing wouldn’t be nearly as easy.

Yet, we don’t take advantage of this ability as often as we could.

My challenge to you is this: sometime in the next month, think about how you can use your Twitter following to crowdsource a blog post this week. Reach out to your followers and take advantage of this community you’ve built.

8. Email marketing would get more creative.

In my opinion, most (not all, but most) online marketing falls into one of three categories: social media, search engine optimization, and email marketing. Twitter obviously falls into the social media category and is even starting to play more into search engine optimization. Email marketing is a different beast completely. Even if you don’t spend much time online, if you’ve ever used the Internet, you probably have an email address.

Savvy marketers understand the power of email, but without social media, this way of contacting people would be even more important. The time you spend on Twitter now would have to be spent on something else, and I believe that “something else” would be email.

Maybe it would be a good thing for us to pretend Twitter didn’t exist so we actually did spend more time on email.

I’m subscribed to several so-called weekly newsletters. A very small percentage of those newsletters actually get sent every week, consistently. People get busy and the weekly obligation of producing an email for subscribers falls to the wayside.

In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. Even more than you social followers, people who have subscribed to your email list are your most engaged community members. They’re so involved that they’ve actually asked you to email content to their inbox, which is probably overflowing with junk, work emails, and communications from friends.

If you aren’t regularly emailing your subscribers, make a commitment to change this so that email becomes a priority. If you are one of the few bloggers who is very active with email, think about what you could be doing better and how you can build your list. Get creative and become an inbox standout. Email marketing deserves your attention!

9. “Engage” would have a different meaning.

I hate the term “engage.” I feel like most of the people who use it are being slimy. I guess that it’s such a sterile term that it makes me think anyone “engaging” me isn’t actually interested in me as a person, only how they can use me for their own benefit.

Twitter is place you’ll find the most “engagers” because it is easy. You don’t have to be thoughtful to engage on Twitter. You simply say thanks for retweets, promote links others have retweeted, and reply to people occasionally. Congratulations, you’ve successfully engaged people for another day. High five.

Of course, the people who really do understand how to use Twitter well know that successfully engaging means doing a lot more than the bare minimum. Still, without Twitter, I think “engage” would have a different meaning completely. It would mean thoughtful responses on other social networks, comments on other blog posts (like discussed above), emails, and maybe even handwritten cards. It would mean actually getting to know the people involved in your community.

This is what we should all be doing. You can still send short messages on Twitter, but instead of always thinking about what another person can do for you, stop engaging in order to get direct results. For example, don’t think, “if I retweet this person’s link, they’ll retweet mine.” Instead, think, “If I retweet awesome content on a regular basis, it will help my community and I’ll naturally get more followers, with some of those people retweeting my links too.” When you want engagement to give you direct results, it quickly turns into using people.

10. We’d have fewer distractions when writing.

I’m not going to tell you how many times I stopped writing this post to check or reply to someone on Twitter.

Turn it off. Write, and don’t turn it back on until your post draft is done. ‘Nuff said.

11. Guest posting would be more important.

Twitter is an amazing platform for building your audience. More so than any other social network, when someone shares one of your links or retweets something you say, it introduces you and your content to an entirely new audience.

If Twitter didn’t exist, we’d work a little harder at finding new audiences a different way. Namely, I think more bloggers would be writing guests posts. I also believe that guest blogging strategies would be tweaked a bit. It would be more important to step outside your comfort zone and write posts for completely new audiences on blogs outside your niche.

Let’s say you write food blog, for example. It is extremely beneficial for you post on other food blogs. However, those are people who may be reading your blog already, or who could come across your blog because they’re searching for that kind of information. What if you instead posted a kid-friend recipe on a popular parenting blog or a great take-along roadtrip recipe for a travel blog?

The key is to post on blogs that have audiences who would be interested in your content, but who might not otherwise find your blog.

Read more about guest posting here.

12. Content sharing would be more meaningful.

Lastly, without Twitter, it would be much more meaningful whenever someone shared content. Twitter makes it almost too easy to share links, and they have a tendency to fall into the abyss, never to be seen again. Twitter just isn’t a very effective content curation tool, and there’s not a lot of effort required to share a link on this platform.

When someone shares your content elsewhere, it’s a much bigger deal. On networks like Pinterest, that content is going to have a much longer life, because the focus is on categorizing awesome content over time instead of just blasting out links that never again see the light of day. On sites like Facebook and Google+, the person sharing your link is more likely to actually write some meaningful commentary to go along with the link, which starts conversations with their followers. And if someone emails a link to a friend? Well, that’s a huge deal. It’s more than a personal recommendation – it’s a “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS” recommendation.

Think about how you’re sharing content you love. Are you just tweeting it and calling it a day? If you actually want to support bloggers you love (and get others’ support in return), think about curating your content and going that extra mile when sharing. People gravitate toward those who share awesome content (a great example of this is George Takei on Facebook), so by putting a little more effort in how you share great content you find, you can build followers who want to read your content as well.

So there’s my list. How do you think blogging would be different without Twitter?

*Study data is available here.

Image Credit: Altered, from Bigstock

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