Thursday, 30 May 2013

6 Twitter Tips To Help You Build A Following

If you want to market your small business, then you need to be on Twitter.  Why?  Because everyone is using it of course.  If you're not on twitter, then your business is seriously behind the times.  If you haven't started yet, then follow these 5 tips to start building your Twitter following.

1) What are your goals?  First establish what you want to accomplish with your Twitter account.  Are you trying to build buzz for your brand?  Or maybe you want to use Twitter for customer support.  Think carefully, because different goals require different interactions with your account.

2) Leverage your existing properties.  If you have an established blog for example, why not use it to build your twitter following?  You could write a post describing how you intend to use Twitter for your business, and then ask your readers to follow you.  This works, because you are asking your already established audience.

3) Use a social sharing platform.  Sites like JustRetweet and ViralContentBuzz are excellent ways to build your following by allowing you to share your content for credits.  Take your time to learn each platform, and you'll really get some great results using them.

4) Give people a reason to follow you.  That means only tweeting out high quality content.  Stuff that your followers can't find anywhere else.  Perhaps offering deals that are exclusive to your Twitter followers would be very effective.

5) Add Twitter sharing buttons to your blog.  Adding these social buttons is so easy these days using just a short snippet of code.  And it really makes it much easier for people to share your stuff.  And the easier it is, the more likely one of your readers will do it.

6) Outsource your social media.  Don't have time to follow these tips yourself? Why not hire a social media expert on a site like ODesk.  As you can see from this review, ODesk is an excellent place to find a social media expert because it has such a deep pool of talent to draw from.

Don't these Twitter tips seem easy to implement?  You can start doing them today, and start getting results tomorrow.  It really is that fast.

Friday, 15 June 2012

How to Get Organic Traffic from Google

This is a question that I’ve been asked by bloggers, writers, internet marketers, entreprenuers and webmaster many-a-times: “How long does it take for a website to start getting some organic traffic? Especially if it’s a website that is updated with unique content regularly, and has also been submitted to all search engines, such as Google and Bing.”

This is a valid concern for many bloggers, especially those who have just started off. However before we get to the answer to this problem, it is important to first understand what organic traffic is, and why it is important in the first place.

What is Organic Traffic?

Organic traffic refers to free traffic that comes in from search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! Search and Bing. It is the traffic that you get when pages from your blog or website appear in the search results. It is referred to as ‘organic traffic’ because it comes freely and naturally from search engines, for instance if someone searches for a particular keyword (or a phrase), and is redirected to a page on your blog/website from the search, you’re getting free ‘organic’ traffic to your website.

Benefits of Organic Traffic

As you would understand, the ability to get organic traffic from search engines is extremely essential, as traffic from search engines is one of the biggest sources of traffic (and revenue) for any blog out there.

First off, organic traffic is free, and understandably, it is highly-targeted traffic. Visitors who come on your blog from Google were searching for a specific keyword/phrase which was related to the content on your website. For instance if you run a blog on the NBA, and someone looks up ‘Jeremy Lin stats’ in Google, and is referred to your blog from there, you are getting extremely targeted traffic from people who are within your website’s niche.

This is why all bloggers do whatever they can to get organic traffic – search engines get you targeted traffic for free, as opposed to PPC and other per-click, per-impression or paid advertisement campaigns.

How to Get Organic Traffic to Your Blog

Now that we’ve defined what organic traffic really is, as well as how beneficial it is, we come to the matter at hand: what can blogs and websites do in order to get organic traffic? The following is a set of points which will help you to achieve this feat:

1. Unique Content: The most important thing to be able to get organic traffic is unique content. If you don’t have unique content on your blog, Google will not even consider indexing your site for popular search engine keywords and queries. Furthermore, if you blog contains a lot of copied, plagiarized and spun content, and Google gets a whiff of it, you will in all probability end up getting de-indexed and/or permanently banned from Google.

Google has become particularly strict with its indexing criteria and policies, especially after the Panda update. Websites with plagiarized content (among other things) have all been penalized. This means that these website have stopped getting traffic from Google.

If your blog is updated with unique, well-written, well-researched content on a regular basis, Google will list your website for keywords, and visitors will be referred to your blog when they search for those keywords.

2. Provide Value, Engage your Audience: It is also important to remember that your blog exists solely for one purpose: to provide the people with solutions/information. Provide people with valuable material, valuable information, present them with solutions, and discover innovative ways to engage and entertain people with your blog so that spend the maximum amount of time on your blog reading your posts, putting up comments, and being a part of the community.

When people are engaged, they actually spend some time on your blog and your bounce rate is low, Google immediately ranks your better for your keywords.

To provide value, you need to have passion for whatever you are writing about.  Pat Flynn wrote an awesome post titled Do You Need Passion to Profit Online? which really summarizes this.

3. Backlinks: If you are updating your websites with unique content on a regular basis, but you don’t have a lot of relevant backlinks, your content might be of interest to some people, but Google probably still won’t list it in the search results.

Without relevant backlinks, and particularly those from authority sources, Google has no way to know how credible your information really is.

Even if you’re getting traffic from social mediums and other forms, having backlinks and link juice is extremely essential, especially from relevant, authority and high-PR websites. Each backlinks counts as one vote in your favor in the eyes of Google, the more ‘votes’ you have, the better. When Google discovers that your blog is getting traffic from authority sources, it will try to list you as high up as possible for your keywords.

And unless you start getting some link juice from these sources, you’ll never receive a large amount of organic traffic, even if you’re putting up fresh content on your blog regularly.

To see how you're doing with your efforts, spend some time every month checking your backlinks using services like Google Webmaster Tools or Majestic SEO.  That way you can see if what you are doing is working or not.

Concluding Words

Basically, what you’re aiming for is for Google and other search engines to take notice. Once they do, they will start ranking you better for your keywords and traffic from these search engines will start flowing in.

It is unrealistic, however, to expect any miracles immediately. But if you’re updating your blogs with fresh content, and establishing a network of quality backlinks, organic visitors will soon start flowing in. It might not be a very large amount of visitors in the beginning, but at least you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction.

Lastly, the purpose of all this is to be ranked on the first page of the SERP, or as close to it. It is a well-established fact that visitors rarely go beyond the first page when the look something up in a search engine (according to a statistic, 80% of search engine visitors never go beyond the first page!), therefore it is important to be able to rank as high up the SERP as possible for your keywords. Aim for that first page!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

10 Kickass Blog Ideas

In the past 10 years or so, blogging has come a long, long way. From being a little known word, to becoming the hottest buzzword out there, what started off as a platform for keeping an online account of the happenings and events in one’s life (aka. personal blogging) has now expanded to corporations using blogs to connect with their clientele, individuals and companies using blogs to market and sell, people running businesses, as well as blogs which provide assistance, aid, advice and breaking news from all over the world, to name just a few!

Yes indeed, blogging has evolved and taken off big time in the last decade or so. And now, the possibilities are endless! All you need is your laptop, a little bit of commitment, passion and desire!

As for blogging ideas, there is a ton of stuff that you can do. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Personal Blog – Yup, the good old ‘traditional’ form of blogging. A personal blog is like your online journal or a diary, published and maintained on the internet for everyone to see and read. You can use it to simply detail stuff happening in your life, or post pictures and videos of your travels, post reviews about your favorite TV shows, movies or sporting events, share ideas or dreams, post celebrity news, and do a lot more!

2. A Business/Corporate Blog – The thing about blogging is that it is extremely simple, easy and straightforward - thanks to publishing platforms like Wordpress and Blogger. Other web-publishing platforms might be difficult for most to use or come to grips with, making it difficult to maintain websites on these. However platforms such as Wordpress have made it easy to run full-blown corporate websites, and this is why a lot of corporations have started doing precisely this. Just about anyone with even the most basic knowledge can now build and maintain professional-looking business websites, thanks to Wordpress!

3. Question-and-Answer/Advice Website – Quite a few bloggers and websites want their readers to be able to ask question and get advice and asnwers, in a way which is similar to Yahoo Answers and Quora. This is pretty doable on Wordpress, especially if you pair your blog with a theme such as the AskIt from Elegant Themes. Once done, you can start posting advice, tips and tricks, DIYs, manuals, take questions and provide all sort of help to your readers. Remember to use this blog with your corporate website or spread the word if you don’t have another website – you need to get the word out so you can start taking reader questions or interact with people. It also helps if you’re already an authority blogger in your niche and have a strong group of followers.

4. A Classifieds Ad Blog – Using Wordpress and the plugin ‘Another Wordpress Classifieds Plugin’, you can easily create a blog that rivals Craigslist, or you could simply choose to complete with local classified advertisement websites. There are tons of ecommerce plugins out there, which not only let you run your very own buying-and-selling business easily, but manage each and every aspect of it – from orders, to payments, to shipping and delivery, to after-sales support! A lot of corporate and home-based businesses have set up online stores in order to sell their wares. If you plan on doing so, it would be a good idea to check out the WooCommerce plugin for Wordpress.

5. Online News Website (Newspaper or Magazine) – Oh yes, extremely easy and simple to set up your very own online news website, such as an online publication in the form of a newspaper or a e-magazine, or just about any other news website like a sports news website, celebrity news, etc. If you’re into journalism or the media, having such a website might be a good addition to your resume and get you a ton of exposure (not to mention , potential job offers). However before you do so, it is important to set up your blog, especially in terms of the look. I recommend going for Wordpress, and once again, pairing your blog with a mag-style theme for Elegant Themes, or Theme Junkie – both of which have a nice collection of news-styled themes.

6. Affiliate Marketing Business – Affiliate marketing is another popular form of blogging. To put it simply, affiliate marketing requires people (affiliates) to market and sell a merchant’s products. It does not involve any direct selling, all the affiliate has to do is market the products and/or services on the merchant’s behalf, and in return the affiliate gets a cut of each sale made as a result of the affiliate’s marketing efforts. It’s an extremely effective form of earning online, and one that is extremely straightforward since the affiliate is not responsible for actually making the sale or anything else involved in the process of selling (such as shipping), apart from the marketing.

7. Review Website – This could also be used in conjunction with your affiliate marketing efforts. Starting a review site could see you review products and services from different manufacturers and vendors. Often times, many businesses which sell stuff are looking for people to test their stuff out for them, to check and see how their products perform under real-life usage and real-world conditions. This ‘beta testing’ is often done before the product ever sees the light of day. You could become a beta tester for a game studio such as Activision or Electronic Arts, or a software manufacturer such as Microsoft. Not only doing such reviews gives you access to some cool gadgets and products way before anyone else, your reviews can also help you establish yourself as an authority in your niche. You might even have some gadgets and hardware sent right to you, for free!

8. Online Resume/Portfolio – On Wordpress, themes such as the ‘MyResume’ theme from Elegant Themes allow you to create an attractive-looking, single-page online resume. These online resumes are usually one-page websites, however you can add additional pages to create a brilliant-looking online portfolio for yourself and your work – particularly useful if you’re a freelance web designer, photographer or a journalist. Or even if you are simply looking for a place on the internet to showcase your work!

9. Property Listing Website – This is another great business idea. A lot of property dealers and real estate agents are getting onboard blogs and social media in order to reach out to potential customers and clientele. A well-designed website on Wordpress (using a theme like the real estate WP theme by Domestica) would enable you to get your listing under one roof, including locations  of the properties very easily (and of course, the ability to woo your clients by posting images of the property!). This is sure to leave a lasting impression on your customers. For inspiration, be sure to check out the website.

10. Bookings and Reservation Website – And finally, if you’re the owner of a hotel, restaurant, B&B, spa, or even an airline, you could set up a blog and have a fully-functional booking-and-reservations system in place for the easy and convenience of your customers. Most internet-based booking systems are expensive to set up, and probably unfeasible for a lot of small and medium businesses. However with Wordpress, all it takes is purchasing a good theme and a booking-system plugin (both one-time expenses), and you’ll have your fully-functional booking and reservation system live in no time! Check out the awesome Hotel Booking theme for Templatic, and use it in conjunction with a plugin like the WP-Reservation plugin.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

5 Things To Do Immediately After Your Blog-Post Goes Live

No matter how good a blogger you might be, or how long you might’ve been in the business, it’s downright frustrating when there’s no traffic. You spend hours creating and crafting the perfect post, doing your research, adding images and spending hours on it, only to find that you’re the only one reading it!

And even after a good amount of time has passed, you wake up in the morning and are able to count the number of visitors on one hand. 

If you want people to read your blog, it is important to let them know that it exists! It is important to spread the word, and while this might be glaringly obvious, a lot of bloggers forget to do it, or lazy in doing so or simply choose to ignore it. 

Writing a good blog post is only half the job, the remaining half is about telling people about it – something which is as important (or arguably, even more) than writing the blog itself.

If you have a checklist of things to do after your blog post goes up, you’ll not only have an idea of the things that you should be doing immediately after posting, it will also allow you to get massive amounts of traffic and readers very easily.

1. Send out an update on all your social networks: this includes Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest and any other social networks you might be a part of. If you’re not on one or any of the social mediums, you’re missing out on probably what is the largest source of traffic after Google!
Post an update on Facebook, Tweet about it, share the link on your G+... the whole shebang.
Use a plugin for the purpose if you want, something like Cliqset which automatically send out an update to all your social media profiles on auto-pilot. In addition, use the popular Wordpress plugin by the name of WP Socializer that put share buttons on your blog, allowing your visitors to share your content easily as well.

2. Submit your post on content sharing websites: I’m talking sites like Digg, Propeller, Mizz, StumbleUpon, Newsvine and ShoutWire. These content-sharing websites exist for the sole purpose of content sharing, sharing blog posts with the world. And the number of bloggers who don’t use these is surprising!
When doing your submission, write catchy titles, try relating your content to a popular buzzword, a popular trend or something happening in the media, or you could even try being controversial. It will increase your chances of a front-page appearance. If your story is good enough, your content gets enough votes and makes it to the mainpage of these sites, your visits and traffic are pretty much guaranteed to go through the roof!

3. Hit those forums: Posting on forums in your niche can be a good idea, especially if you put a link to your blog in your signature. This is as effective a method as commenting and could get you some excellent high-PR backlinks very easily.
The internet’s filled with a ton of active forums where people come together and speak about certain topics with other like-minded folks. Be a part of the community. Share and add some value to these forums. If you do, with the passage of time you will establish yourself as an authority figure on the topic and people will start looking at you as one. This will make it more likely for them to click on that link in your signature, in order to find out what you have to say.
If you’re unaware of any such ‘big’ forums in your niche, try to Google it up, with the query “<your topic> forum” and you’ll probably find a whole bunch of good forums to start posting!

4. Comments: Like forum posts, comments too are a great way to build up some valuable backlinks. Post comments on other blogs in your niche and leave a link to your post or your blog when you do so.
In order to find blogs similar to yours, just do a Google search on the topic, click show options and under that, click blogs. You’ll probably stumble upon a goldmine of blogs that are blogging on exactly what you’ve been blogging on as well.
Read the posts there, leave a comment or two, and above all leave comments that are valuable and add something to the post. AVOID SPAMMING AT ALL COSTS! Not only will spam comments ensure that your posts are never approved, they will almost always guarantee you getting banned from the blog. And don’t forget to link back to your blog by leaving the URL in the ‘website’ field.
Similarly, Youtube offers an excellent ‘related videos’ feature, which lets video bloggers leave the link to their videos on someone else’s video. Imagine having the opportunity to post your link on a video seen by thousands, such as a viral video or someone who has a large number of subscribers!

5. Article Marketing: In addition to all of the above, it is also a good idea to submit your blog post on article sites, especially high-PR sites such as EzineArticles and AssociatedContent. This allows for your content to be published by other in their own blogs, websites or publications (newsletters for instance).
If someone reproduces your content on their own blog/website/publication/anywhere else, he or she is required to accredit the original source, which means link back to you.
If you’ve written a post that is good enough, it could potentially be picked up by blog owners, or newsletter publishers that have thousands of subscribers or visitors, and might even get put up on their front page (as a featured post, for instance). This would give you a LOT of exposure, and a nice traffic spike as well.
In addition, it will also get you that all-important backlink to your website, and Google seems to love backlinks from high-PR sources! Once those backlinks start racking up, it would almost guarantee a healthy ranking for you.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Great Tips for Building a Profitable Blog

Let’s all be honest with ourselves and admit it, most of us (if not all) will certainly have making money on our list of priorities when it comes to blogging. Yes, there is a significant chunk of folks out there who are not in it for the money, especially the aid and charity blogs, and a few personal blogs as well. However there is no shame in admitting that making money is an important aspect of blogging, among other things.

This is particularly true for businesses which exist for the sole purpose of profiting from their blogs. Especially those businesses which are selling products and services online, or intend to do so in the future.

Reaping profits and making money from your blog(s) can only be a good thing. If you’re not doing so, it means that you are doing things the wrong way.

At this point, it is important to note that profiting does not simply refer to making extra money. Profiting refers to building a sustainable business that not only covers its own expenses but earns you money after doing so.

Here are 3 powerful ways of ensuring that you build a profitable blog from the ground-up:

1. Targeted Traffic

The Problem:

The ability to be able to drive targeted traffic is an invaluable asset for any firm, business or organization. Above all it is detrimental to the profitability of said business. Driving 1000 visitors to your blog who don’t care about your products/services is a waste of time and resources.

Most bloggers who fail in their blogging efforts and especially the ability to turn in a profit from their blogs fail because they choose to ignore this glaringly obvious principle.

The ability to drive in massive (or even reasonable) amounts of traffic is a good thing, but only on paper. People have certain interests, and everyone on the internet might not be interested in what you have on offer – it is simply no use to them.

But there are people out there who are interested in your services. If you’re the owner of an Internet Marketing blog, you would want internet marketers, SEOs and entrepreneurs to visit it. If you run a blog on Formula One racing, you would want F1 enthusiasts and fans on your blog. It all comes down to knowing what your niche is, and then the ability to attract people in your niche.

The Solution:
Focus your efforts on knowing who your audience is, and try bringing in traffic from that niche: make sure the ‘right’ people visit, share your posts and comment on them, buy stuff, subscribe to your list, tweet your posts and the like.

For more ideas, check out this informative post by Ana Hoffman titled: The Ultimate Blueprint to More Profitable Website Traffic.

2. List Building

The Problem:

Most bloggers fail to understand and appreciate the importance of building lists. It is one of the most invaluable and important tools for a blog that ultimately starts making some dough.

Right from the beginning, put an opt-in box either on your blog header or the sidebar. Alternatively, try getting one of those pop-up subscription widgets which welcomes your visitors and presents them with the option of signing up for your mailing list. The latter could be intrusive and annoying, but it is generally known to be an effective way to capture leads.  

If you're using Wordpress then you can use one of the many list building plugins out there.  Popular ones include Popup Domination, Opt-in Skin, WP Subscribers, and Hybrid Connect.  I've played around with each of them and the winner is definitely Hybrid Connect.  It has a very easy to use form builder, it's super flexible in terms of where you can place your forms and it keeps track of your stats for you.

There's a lot of Hybrid Connect reviews out there so I won't rehash one here.  But my favorite review that I've looked at so far is this one published here on

The cold, hard truth is that no one will really keep visiting your blog on a regular basis, however with the use of optins and subscriptions, you have at your disposal a way which lets you remind people about the existence of your blog, new posts, new products and/or services, promotions, deals, announcements and other things which could be of benefit to them.

Without such a list, you will, in all probability, fail to build up a consistent source of traffic to your blog, especially targeted, responsive traffic that is in your niche and interested in what you have to offer.

The Solution:
Do not underestimate the importance of list building and the ability to be able to get targeted traffic in the long run. Remember, that targeted traffic is the most profitable traffic. People who have chosen to be subscribed to your blog by giving you their email address obviously rate it high-enough, and have given you their approval/permission to get in touch with them. This list is a goldmine for you from a business perspective. And without such list, you’ll be missing out on an invaluable opportunity to make some real money.

3. Call-to-Action

The problem:
Even if you’ve done everything right – which includes having a good-looking blog, setting it up correctly, and the whole deal, if you don’t have a clear, strong call-to-action, you will never be able to earn a lot of money, let alone make a profit.

A strong, clear precise, well-defined and a prominent CTA is essential, for obvious reasons. A good CTA works like a good road-sign and provides a visitor with direction and lets him or her know what the purpose of your website is. This is particularly important if you’re selling something on your blog, such as a widget, plugin, a service, a tool or anything else.

The Solution:
A CTA with the aforementioned attributes will instantly call upon a visitor to easily take the required action. Your CTA should be authoritative, presenting the visitor with the same confidence that you have in your products. It should specifically tell your visitor what you want them to do (what action needs to be taken). It should never be over-exaggerated or over-hyped. There should be focus on a single CTA rather than having multiple ones. And above all, it should be the most prominent and instantly-noticeable object on your blog!

The text that accompanies your CTA tells your product’s features to your customers (why your product is worth your visitor’s time and money).

If your CTA is good enough, it will encourage people to make the purchase. The more the purchases, the better it is for you and your blog’s profitability.

As a concluding note, this is a great 7-pointer on how to build a profitable blog, by the good folks over at ProBlogger.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Conducting a Backlink Audit

After Google’s latest update to its search engine algorithm (titled the ‘Penguin), a lot of websites and blog started getting the now-infamous ‘unnatural links’ warning message. This has forced everyone in the industry to conduct a review of their backlinks. For some, it has been an eye-opener, especially those which have been in the industry for a large period of time.

Many in the industry were of the opinion that other websites linking to yours couldn’t possibly be harmful in any way. Penguin, however, has changed this notion forever. Now, websites that have built an unnatural looking backlink profile have received Google’s spam alert. 

This has forced everyone in the industry to run a complete and thorough review of their backlinks – even those who haven’t been affected by Penguin (yet!). 

Regardless of which of the two groups of people you might belong to, it is extremely important to do a backlink audit. Whether you have someone do it for you (outsource it), or do it yourself. Whether you’re one of the unfortunate ones who has been adversely affected by Penguin or even if you haven’t (always better to be safe than sorry!), a good ol’ backlink audit will let you know exactly which places link to you. Chances are that there are a lot of links that you probably have no idea that you have! Some might be good quality, which are accepted by Google, while others might be of the poor quality, termed as unnatural, suspicious and/or negative SEO – and these are the ones you need to get rid of. 

The first step, however, is actually knowing what sort of links you might have. Once you have that knowledge, you can easily go about getting rid of the ones deemed unnatural by Google. A word of warning: it won’t be easy!

In order to evaluate your backlinks, I recommend using either the SEOMoz Open Site Explorer, the Ahrefs Sit Explorer or the Majestic Site Explorer. All three would provide you with detailed and comprehensive reports on your backlinks, the sources you’re getting your traffic from and even anchor text distribution. 

Here are the 4 most common type of backlinks that you might have, which might also fall into the unnatural category:

1.                   Article Directory Links: Article marketing is used by a lot of internet marketers for exposure as well as SEO. And generally-speaking, it’s a fail-safe method, especially if the submissions are handled manually. If you’ve made submissions in a semi-automatic manner, there is a high chance that your links might have ended up on low-quality directories. Unfortunately, there’s only one way of removing such links, apart from doing it one-by-one and manually from each directory.  

2.                   Forum Profile Links: You might also have unannounced links show up on forums. This could include profile created by you, or someone else entirely. For the former, you can easily log into the forums and remove the links (manually, once again), however for the latter, it gets a bit tricky since the profile is someone else’s and there’s no way you can remove the links yourself. In this case, send out a message to the forum administrator or the owner, asking to remove the profile, or at the very least, the links.

3.                   Authority and High-PR Links: If you keep an eye out on your traffic and the analytics, you’ll find out whenever a high-profile source links to you (what a feeling it is!). You’ll also notice a spike in traffic in a relatively short amount of time. However for websites which are already getting a high amount of traffic from many different sources and/or you don’t watch your traffic sources too carefully, such high-profile links might go unnoticed. Upon running a backlink audit, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover these authority backlinks. Some you might know, others you might not have heard of. Regardless, it is a good feeling to know that you are creating quality content that is being picked up off social media and is also being shared on social mediums.

4.                   Spam Blog Comments: This tends to be a big problem for some people – blog comments, mostly spam, that link back to you. Most of these are done through automated programs, with generic text in the comment which means that the person who commented never read the post, but in all probability put one comment in a program and blasted it over the internet. Spam comments might even go into hundreds and could mean negative SEO for your website. Unfortunately, there is no real way of removing these, other than getting in touch with the administrator (also asking him to install Captcha or an alternative on the comments section). On the bright side, if a site has too many of these, Google will probably ban and de-index it the next time its bots crawl the page, rendering all spammy comments useless.

5.                   Listings: There are numerous website out there which build and maintain a catalogue of all the other websites on the internet. These website usually use bots to create a page for your website (including description, stats, other data and of course your URL), and create such directory pages linking to other websites. These are natural links, since you had nothing to do with creating them. The more actively you promote your website, the more likely it is that these website will find your site and catalogue it. You’ll find plenty of such links when doing the audit.

6.                   Hidden Links: Even if you’ve been extra careful with your link-building practices, exercising the utmost caution, never paying for links, been involved in any link exchange problems or used any such grey- or black-hat methods, you might still have some hidden links. These links – could be trackbacks, hidden header or comments, etc – stem from your activity and promotional activities on social media, the blogging world, forums, and various other sources that you might’ve used to promote your blog. 

If you outsourced your backlinking at any point of time, it would also be a good idea to get in touch with the firm or individual it was outsourced to and speaking with them about the problem. If you’re thinking of outsourcing it, use one of the tools mentioned above to keep a check on where exactly your links are going.

Lastly, perform a link audit regularly. It would be a mistake to slack off on this, especially after the Penguin!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Things to Consider before Evaluating Guest Post Prospects

Guest posting is a great way to build backlinks, getting some link juice from authority sources, and networking with bloggers in your niche. Personally, I am a big proponent of guest posting because:

a. It is win-win for both the guest poster and the host – the guest poster gets exposure and valuable backlinks to his blog, and the host gets fresh content on his blog in return.
b. It is completely white-hat and a safe method, especially in the eye of Google.
c. It opens a whole new world for you and your blog, in terms of exposure, being able to engage with new audiences.
d. It allows you access to untapped sources of traffic.
e. It allows you to be seen as a leader and as authority in your niche. 

So in essence, it is a great practice – an invaluable link-building tactic as well – which above all, is win-win for all parties involved. However it is very easy to get wrong, because just like any other link-building tactic out there, the execution is important or you might end up doing more harm than good. Furthermore, guest blogging might be picking up right now, but what if Google introduces another update to its search engine somewhere down the road, that filters out low-quality guest posts, which in all probability will be widespread by then. This will result in blogs, who thought were building legit links, get banned, penalized, and/or de-indexed permanently.

This is pretty much what happened after the Penguin update, where a lot of blogs were penalized for ‘having unnatural backlinks’, even though they were not doing a lot wrong (seemingly), or were not involved in any blackhat or illegal link-building practices.

But coming back to the matter at hand, even if the purpose of your guest posts isn’t to build links, it is important that one considers some of its do’s and don’ts before starting off. It will aid you in making your decision easier, get you maximum return on investment (time, in this case), help you against any future Google updates, and it will also help you evaluate whether it is a high-value guest posting prospect or not.

1. For starters, check the levels of reader engagement on the blog you’re guest posting on. For this purpose, look at the traffic levels the website is getting, as well as other metrics such as the number of comments their posts get on average. A low number of comments or none at all, will in all probability point to it being a weak and/or inactive community, which will make it unlikely for your links to be seen by a large number of people or help promote your content. Similarly, stay away from a blog with too much spam in the comments section. 

2. Secondly, check the blog’s social metrics, such as the number of times the blog and each of its posts have been shared on social mediums such as Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook. 

A large number of social shares would point towards it being an active community where readers are not only engaged, they are also helping promote its content through the sharing buttons. Look at the number of people who have ‘liked’, ‘+1’ed’ or ‘RT’d’ the last 10 posts.

3. In addition to looking at the traffic and the social metrics, it is also advisable to look at the number of people subscribed to the blog. A high number of email and/or RSS subscribers is a great way to determine if the blog has been producing quality content on a consistent basis. 

Use Google Reader for this purpose, or check the website itself. However it would be a better idea to ask the blog owner to provide you with a number of total subscribers (email + RSS). If it’s a good number, he will be more than happy to oblige.

4. One of the most important things to do before you guest post is check the backlink profile of the blog. For this purpose, check the following factors: how many people are linking to the homepage, and how many to the individual posts? A high number of inbound links means that the blog is being linked by a lot of source – a clear indicator that it is a reliable and quality source of information, and precisely the kind of blog you would want to write on. 

Furthermore, it would be particularly encouraging if the blog gets a lot of inbound traffic from high-PR and authority backlinks!

On the other hand, stay away from a blog having a lot of suspicious and/or spammy backlinks, or one whose backlink profile seems suspicious in any way. Trust me, you do not want your link up on such a blog!

We spoke of how to go about conducting a backlink audit in a previous post on this blog. To check a blog’s backlink information use any one of the available tools out there. I personally recommend the open site explorer by the good folks over at SEOmoz. The free version comes with certain limitations, and purchasing the pro license is recommended!

5. Lastly, it might also be a good idea to check the content of the blog, and judge its quality your own self. Look at the posts – do the posts have clear and compelling headlines? Is the content interesting, high-value, good-quality and interesting? Is it free of spelling and grammatical mistakes? Does it incorporate images and multimedia to boost reader engagement? Is it broken down into paragraphs properly in order to make it more clear and reader-friendly? Does the website have a clear call-to-action? Does it integrate social media, and link to other sources properly, as and where required?

All these aspects are essential to the quality of a post.