Thursday, 27 December 2012

7 Tips on How to Blog Smarter

Tip 1: When it comes to content, quality > quantity!
Some of the most successful blogs out there publish a multiple number of articles every single day (Mashable would be a good example here). The important thing to note is that these websites place emphasis on quality rather than quantity. As a blogger, you should only post when you have something to say, rather than posting frequently. And when you do, make sure that your post makes a clear point. What Google, as well as your visitors really want from you is valuable and high-quality content.

Tip 2: Know your audience: This is essentially marketing 101. It is important… no, ESSENTIAL rather to know who your target market is, and what kinds of readers would you want to attract to your blog or your website. Design your marketing and publicity campaign once you’ve determined who makes up your target market, and who are the people who will read your blog, subscribe to you via RSS, leave a comment on your blog, and so on and so forth.

Tip 3: Make sure that your blog finds a specific niche for itself. Narrow the niche of your blog down to make its focus as specific as possible. This will allow you to (a) determine who your audience or readership is, (b) make it extremely simple and easy for you to create content for your blog, and (c) know which keywords are valuable in the niche, how competitive they are and what you’ll need to do to rank for them. For instance if you choose to blog on sports, what you could do is blog about your favorite team, or one of its players who you are a fan of. This will make it easy for you to create content (as you’ve defined the scope of the content), as well as make it easy to attract traffic (you will target fans of said team/player only).

Tip 4: Keep your posts short. Long posts are generally harder to read, especially in one sitting. Think about this from your visitor’s perspective; wouldn’t shorter, numbered and/or bulleted posts be easier to read for your visitors? Keep your posts short and easily-comprehensible. If you’re doing an article that exceeds a 1000 words, for instance, it might be a better idea to break it down into smaller, more digestible chunks – such as into a series of multiple posts, or maybe even split a single article into multiple page (called ‘paginate’).

Tip 5: Encourage comments and feedback on your blog. Comments and feedback helps engage readers and build a community of highly-dedicated and loyal readers around your blog. Make sure that you participate in all discussions yourself, and are an active part of the comments section.

Tip 6: Make a blogging calendar and follow it religiously! This is probably one of the best pieces of advice anyone will give you, when it comes to blogging smart, or blogging best-practices. Set a blogging schedule – one that lets you post regularly and doesn’t interfere with your professional and personal commitments as well. Determine topics relevant to your blog, and plan them out for the next 4-5 weeks. If possible, you could even create a couple of posts in advance, and put them on schedule on a date and time in the future. Make sure that you set time aside for blog marketing and publicity, guest posting, commenting, etc. A blogging schedule will allow you to stay on track and stay focused.

Tip 7: Create dedicated/separate Facebook and Twitter pages for your blog(s). These are two of the most popular social media platforms on the internet, which means that it is essential for you to have a strong presence on all these social networks. Make a totally separate page/profile on these social networks for each one of your blog, and make it a point to keep those pages updated (follow the 80-20 rule when it comes to updates: 80% external links/news, 20% of your own/your blog’s). In addition, use a social media dashboard such as the excellent HootSuite to manage all your social profiles from one single window. I mentioned Facebook and Twitter only, as they’re two of the most popular social networks on the internet right now, and hence applicable to blogs in just about any niche. There are plenty of other social websites out there which might be applicable to yours (as a little research will reveal), and it is imperative to have an active presence on each one of them.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

SEO and Linkbuilding Tips for 2013

If 2012 was anything to go by, 2013 looks to be another eventful year as far as SEO goes!

The world of SEO continued to change and evolve this year – something which will continue to happen for many years to come. Developments in the SEO industry meant that the people associated with this industry – such as internet marketers, webmaster, and bloggers, to name a few –also continued to change and adapt with the changes in the industry.

And while there’s simply no way of knowing what 2013 may hold for us, here are some essential things to consider, as far as search engine optimization in the year 2013 is concerned:

1. Content

Content was, is and in all probability will remain ‘king’! In fact, if anything, the emphasis on quality content will become even more important. Despite Google’s updates and algorithm changes aimed at providing users with quality content, and pushing highly-valuable and quality-rich content on top of its search results, there is still a lot of spam and low-quality content on the internet. Google will continue to place more emphasis on the creation of excellent content, and will rank sites according to their quality, and not how good their SEO is.

The best SEO technique for 2013, in terms of ranking on top of the SERP, will be to create unique, engaging, useful, informational, and highly-valuable content that is actually worth reading!

2. Social Media

Social networking websites such as Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter (and even some of the ‘smaller’ ones such as Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc) became an essential and integral part of SEO, and hence any SEO campaign.

Google now takes a website/blog’s social signals into account when determining its ranking. Similarly, Google started displaying content from Google+, while Bing followed suit by integrating results from Facebook into its own search engine results. Furthermore, given social media’s rise in popularity, these social networks became an invaluable source of traffic and exposure for blog and websites on the internet as well.  

As a result, social media became an essential and an important part of any SEO campaign, and if 2012 was anything to go by, its importance for SEOs as well as search engines will only rise next year!

3. Exact-Match Anchor Text

Google’s emphasis on obtaining natural backlinks meant that websites with too many exact-match anchor text backlinks (or unnatural backlinks) were at a serious risk of being penalized by Google. Before this, it was east to rank for a certain keywords by having, say, a 1000 exact-match backlinks pointing towards your website – for instance ranking for weight loss tips was as easy as building a 1000 backlinks with the anchor text ‘weight loss tips’.

Now however – as part of Google’s strategy to bring higher-quality websites on top, instead of those which have good SEO – Google wants blogs and website to obtain natural backlinks rather than having pay for them or get them in another way, as that would mean manipulating the search engine results.

Therefore, as far as link building in 2013 is concerned, it will be important to have a diversified backlink portfolio – which means have backlinks with anchor-text pointing to variants of your website/ blog/company name, descriptive text, or the words ‘click here’, for instance.

4. Guest Blogging

Guest blogging and guest posting is generally regarded to be one of the safest and best methods of building backlinks and getting visibility and exposure, to name just some of its benefits. It has been a popular method of acquiring backlinks for a few good years now, and in 2012, its popularity soared – which isn’t surprising given the benefits associated with it.

As a result, it also started getting abused by many bloggers and online publishers out there. And what does Google do when that happens? Yes, it started clamping-down on this abuse – or atleast hinted that it will start doing so. Matt Cutts has recently posted two videos on Google’s ‘Webmaster Help’ Youtube channel on guest blogging, which is certainly no coincidence!

As far as guest blogging and guest posting in 2013 goes, folks who are doing it the right way have nothing to worry about. The important thing is to remember that guest blogging is so much more than just acquiring a backlink, as its benefits go beyond that. And secondly, legitimate guest blogging – which has a guest-poster write up a valuable, quality post that is relevant to the blog – is safe, and will give you the best ROI as well.

I suggest watching Matt Cutts’s two videos on guest blogging on Google’s Youtube Channel, where Cutts provides Google’s point-of-view on guest blogging for links. He makes it pretty clear that “Google is willing to take action if [they] see spammy or low quality guest blogging, [which is] basically just placing low quality articles on that site.”

Safe to say, guest blogging will come under additional scrutiny in 2013, and it will be a far different practice than it was in 2012.

5. Localisation

Google emphasis on displaying personalized results, and an increased focus on returning localized and contextual results for search queries means that this will be an area of particular focus for SEOs, SEMs and IMs in 2013.

Since search engines are putting more and more emphasis on regional and local results, it will become all the more essential in 2013 for optimizers and marketers to put more emphasis on ranking for the right local keywords.

PRO TIP: Google Plus Local might be the next big thing in 2013, if you’re not already using it, now might be a good time to do so (especially since it’s a new service right now and competition is low). Google has already started putting Google Plus Local pages in the search results, which means your local page could get a lot of traffic next year.

Your Turn

What are your thoughts on SEO and linkbuilding in 2013? What SEO tactics do you think will be important after the turn of the year, and which ones in your opinion will become redundant, fade out and die? Thoughts are most welcome!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Greatest Google AdSense Alternatives

Google AdSense is the biggest ad program out there, and understandably, the most popular one out there as well. It is backed by a large base of advertisers, which means that it can serve relevant ads to just about any website or blog – operating in any niche – with ease.  It is the most basic form of blog and content monetization for many bloggers, website owners and content publishers on the internet. Thousands of people use AdSense to earn money on the internet.

However AdSense does come with its flaws, and we spoke about some of the program’s drawbacks in a previous article on this blog. So here are some of the best Google AdSense alternatives available to blog owners and content publishers looking to monetize their blogs:

1. AdBrite

AdBrite has been around for a while now; it is one of the oldest and the most-closest competitors of AdSense – and hence the most popular AdSense alternative. It is actually pretty similar to AdSense, in its function as well as its application. Like AdSense, it brings advertisers and website publishers together; but what it does is it places a ‘Your Ads Here’ banner on your website, which allows advertisers to put their ads up your website. Advertisers can purchase ‘ad packages’ on CPC-basis, and have their ads placed on their website(s) or blogs. Like AdSense, the ads are CPC, which means that you get the money when someone clicks on the ad – the more clicks, the more money you get.  Simple to use, easy to set-up and free to sign-up for.

2. Chitika

Chitika’s motto is ‘turning page views into profits’ and that is precisely what it does. Chitika lets you display ads on your website or blog from their network of advertisers that are targeted towards your blog’s traffic. It can be used in tandem with Google AdSense, because (a) Chitika ads are non-contextual and (b) they do not look like AdSense units at all. The ads are extremely relevant and highly-targeted, which means a higher CTR for you. Payout rates are $10 for PayPal and $50 for checks. Highly recommended if you’re looking for relevant ads for your blog, and may even want to look into putting these up with your AdSense ads.

3. Clicksor

Another great service, not to mention a reputable one, offering contextual ads is called Clicksor. One of the best aspects about Clicksor is that they have a large network of advertisers, as well as the third-largest network of publishers of all advertisement networks. Clicksor scans a publisher’s page for keywords, match and cross-reference them with advertiser-provided keywords and then display extremely-targeted ads – strictly related to the content – on the page. They get over 1 billion ad impressions from all over the world every month. In addition, their ads are based on no less than 9 different targeting methods (geographic-, time-, keywords-, device-targeting, to name a few), and use different payment methods such as CPC/PPC, CPV/PPV, CPM or CPI. Once you’ve signed up for Clicksor, the process is simple: simply use the ad-codes to choose from different kinds of ads, and have them displayed anywhere on your website using the code. Payout rate is $50, and they also have a affiliate/referrals program that you can sign up for.

4. InfoLinks

Tough choice between InfoLinks and AdBrite when it comes to determining which is the biggest of the two, since both are big and pretty popular AdSense alternatives (call it a draw?). Infolinks has a network of publishers of over 100,000 websites, from 128 countries, generating over 1 trillion impressions every month! Unlike the other services, however, InfoLinks is an in-text advertising platform – what this means is that it serves contextual ads, on the CPC model, in which specific keywords within the text/copy of a webpage are matched with advertisement units. These words are hyperlinked and have a different color (and are often double-underlined) in order to differentiate them from the rest of the copy. In-text ad models such as InfoLinks hence have a pretty high CTR. Getting approved however, is a whole different ballgame, as the service approves each application individually. Once it’s been integrated, bots crawl your website and display matched-keyword-ads in your copy, according to your blog’s content. Minimum payout rate is $50.

Monday, 24 December 2012

11 Big Myths About SEO

The world of internet marketing and search engine optimization is evolving and changing at an alarming pace! What was true yesterday might not be so today. Similarly, many of the things that you think you know about SEO, or those which were very much true a year or so back might not be true today.

And then of course, there are things that were never true to begin with!

In this article, I’ll attempt to separate fact from fiction as far as the IM and SEO industry is concerned. So without further ado, here are 11 SEO myths that have been well and truly debunked:

Myth # 1: Meta descriptions help rankings

Well, they used to, but not anymore. Metatag descriptions are no longer indexed by Google (or even Bing, for that matter), so they have absolutely no effect on your rankings. However they still do serve an important purpose: meta description is the text that accompanies your link whenever your website shows up in the SERPs. Which is why it is essential to write a compelling description.

Myth # 2: It is vital to rank one

No, it isn’t. Allow me rephrase that: it is essential to rank on the first page. Despite popular belief that search engine users tend to favor the top search results – specifically the first 3, studies have shown that the CTRs of the subsequent results are as good as the top 3. In addition, the integration of rich snippets into Google’s search results has meant that results with author profile-boxes have better CTRs than the results on the top!

Myth # 3: When it comes to SEO, the more the better

Incorrect, especially since more SEO almost always refers to over-optimization, and with the recent Google algorithm updates – Google Penguin in particular – it means that over-optimization (or as Google refers to it: ‘too much SEO’) could land you in some serious trouble with Google. You can read more about the different aspects of on- and off-site over-optimization and its perils on this link.

Myth # 4: Social media and SEO are two different things

Wrong, they aren’t – well unless you’re still living in 2006! Social media is now, in fact, an integral and essential part of SEO. For starters, Google now considers a blog/website’s social signals to be an essential part of its rankings. Then there’s Google Plus’s integration with Google search results – which means that content from Google Plus now shows up in your search results (replace Google+ with Facebook content for Bing). And of course there’s the whole Google Authorship – which is essentially search results being accompanied with thumbnail-sized pictures of the author linking to their G+ profile. And then let’s not forget that social media can be an invaluable source of traffic as well. Bottom line: social media is now as important a part of SEO as ever, and its importance will only rise.

Myth # 5: Some SEO firms are ‘Google-approved’ or ‘Google-endorsed’

This is actually one of the funnier ones! There’s no such thing as being approved, associated with or endorsed by Google, and feel free to call someone out on that. Most of the times, SEO firms will use this to lure people in, providing them with false proof about being ‘Google-approved’ – that’s your cue to look elsewhere because there is no such thing as being approved by Google and Google does not award any such endorsement(s) at all!

Myth # 6: PageRank and Alexa rankings are true representatives of your blog’s worth

False, again. While they do provide you with a rough (read: inaccurate) idea of your blog’s standing on the internet, they are far from being accurate metrics to measure your website’s worth. For instance Alexa rankings are determined by the blog’s traffic, and therefore can be easily manipulated. And perhaps most importantly, both these things (especially Google’s PageRank) have no bearing or effect on a blog’s actual search results either. PR2 websites could rank higher for the same keywords as PR6 ones! So safe to say, both are not accurate representatives of a blog’s worth.

Myth # 7: Using a keyword a certain times in your copy will allow you to rank better for it

Well, this used to be true, but isn’t any more. In fact, Google takes keywords stuffing as a serious offense now. Before the Panda and the Penguin updates, having a 5% keyword density in your copy, for instance, would allow you to rank well for that keyword, depending on its competitiveness. However after search engines  evolved, and got smarter over the years, they learnt about websites trying to manipulate rankings through keyword stuffing.

Myth # 8: Social media = Facebook. Period

One of the more interesting myths that I’ve heard recently is that Facebook is the only ‘profitable’ social medium out there, and SEOs should invest their time and energy on Facebook only. Yes, Facebook is the biggest social networking website, and yes it is the most popular one as well, and therefore (arguably) the bulk of your social media marketing efforts should probably be geared towards Facebook, however not having an active presence on other social networking websites is a mistake. And some social networking websites might even be better suited (and more profitable) for certain niche blogs (Pinterest, for instance, is dominated by the female population, and hence is an excellent fit for cooking blogs, for instance).

Myth # 9: An XML sitemap will boost your Google rankings

Total BS – an XML sitemap is an essential file that fulfills a very specific purpose – it tells Google’s crawlers about the structure of your blog and how your blog should be indexed, but ‘boosting’ your Google rankings is not one of the things that it does. Having your URL in your XML sitemap won’t give it any juice at all.

Myth # 10: Building links is more important than creating content

Any SEO or IM worth his salt would know that this is utter garbage. Yes, linkbuilding is an important… no, integral part of search engine optimization and getting inbound links are important to a website’s authority. However creating valuable and high-quality content is by far and wide, the single most important aspect of good SEO. An SEO with his priorities right would know that more links is never better than more content. Content is the heart and soul of a successful blog. And besides, a less amount of quality links are better than a large number of low-quality ones.

Myth # 11: SEO is dead (or is a dying breed)

“SEO is dead! Long live SEO!” Uh, no, it isn’t! SEO was never dead and as long as search engines and the internet is around, it probably never will be dead. It will keep evolving and changing with the passage of time, pretty much like it’s continued to do over the years.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Essential Tips to Building a Profitable Blog

SEOs and internet marketers continuously strive to get blogs and websites to rank as high up the SERPs as possible for their keywords, in order to get traffic from Google and other search engines. In addition, an integral part of SEO is to attract direct traffic, and come up with ways to  keep visitors on your blog through various different means.

However in most cases, all this is easier said than done. Here’s how you can have a profitable blog that ranks well on Google, gets plenty of traffic from search engines and remains Google-safe:

1. Choosing a Niche

One of the first steps towards having a successful blog is identifying and choosing a niche for it. Your blog’s niche defines its purpose, and what you want to achieve through the blog. It provides you with direction – in terms of the kind of content you’ll create, as well as were your marketing efforts will be directed.

The niche that you choose needs to be something that you’re interested in, have plenty of knowledge about, is popular enough, will  continue to be popular in the foreseeable future, is not very competitive, and of course, is popular.

Choosing the right niche sets up a great foundation for a blog that gets plenty of search engine (as well as direct) traffic.  

2. Quality Content

Quality content is the name of the game when it comes to getting organic traffic, and building a base of highly-engaged readership.

Try providing people in your niche with information that will be valuable to them. Some of Google’s recent algorithm updates have meant that websites that provide the best, highest-quality information rank on top of the SERPs.

Remember that you need to give your visitors a reason to stick around, and return to your blog in the future as well. The best (and arguably) the only way to do this is through your content.

3. Traffic over Links

Concentrate your efforts on getting more traffic, rather than building links. Yes, you build links in order to get more traffic however focusing on getting traffic, through various means – including those other than simple link-building, is usually much more efficient and fruitful.

For instance you could try your hand at guest posting, blog commenting, press releases, and sharing links to your articles on social media. Try engaging and interacting with people on the blogosphere and building a rapport and a name for yourself. As get more exposure, you build authority. With the passage of time, you will start getting more traffic as well!

4. Be Regular with Updates

One of the secrets to success, when it comes to blogging, is that it is essential to be regular with updates. This is essential, because your visitors expect fresh content and regular updates from you, and it is unrealistic to expect that an inconsistent blogging schedule or irregularly updated blog can build a base of loyal visitors, followers or traffic.

If it is important to produce quality content, then it is equally important to do so regularly. Whether you choose to do it on a daily, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly basis is your call. My advice would be to develop a blogging schedule and stick to it.

Remember that (depending on your niche) you are probably in direct competition with many different big (authoritative) blogs. The only way you can get there is by providing readers with quality content regularly. If your readers expect a new post form you every day, make sure that happens. If you update your blog on Saturdays, for instance, your readers will expect a new post on Saturday.

Regular updates will also allow you to rank well on Google, as Google prefers to rank regularly updated blogs higher up the SERPs.

5. A USP

A USP refers to a Unique Selling Proposition – it is a marketing term that refers to having a certain something in your arsenal that no one else does. Something that sets you apart from the competition and the other blogs in your niche, something that is your strength, and defines your blog and what it does.

For many blogs, it might be essential to determine their USP before starting off. For other blog, they might discover where their strengths lie along the way. Whatever the case, having a unique proposition, along with quality content that is regularly updated is a sure-shot recipe for success!

6. Avoid Blackhat SEO

Using blackhat SEO techniques to either manipulate Google’s rankings, or in an attempt to get a large amount of traffic or visitors overnight is never advisable. It will almost certainly land you in trouble, and once you’re banned from Google, it’s pretty much game over for you!

It is instead advisable to build links and traffic as naturally as possible, using legal and white-hat SEO techniques only.

7. The Interface Matters

It might or might not matter to you, but how well and how attractive (or not) your blog looks to an average visitor actually has a big bearing on the visitors and the traffic that it gets.

Understandably, a blog that looks good and has an attractive and a user-friendly interface will be more appealing to a visitor. They would want to browse through the blog, spend time on it, and if the content is useful, bookmark the blog as well. If the interface is designed well, and your CTA is laid out the right way, it will also give you a higher CTR.

Some of the most successful blogs out there are also some of the most well-designed ones, and that cannot be a coincidence! As a blog owner, what you could do is either have someone design your blog for you, or use Wordpress and pick up a good theme for your blog, depending on the niche it belongs to.

8. Social Media Integration

This is a two-part process:

(a) The first part involves actually having a presence on social media. As a blogger, you should have a totally separate page/account for your blog. Set up a Facebook and a Twitter page for your blog, and maybe even a Pinterest or a LinkedIn page, depending on the niche of your blog. It is essential to keep these pages updated and send out updates regularly.

(b) Simply having a presence on social media is not enough; social media needs to be integrated with your blog. What this means is to add ‘share buttons’ (Facebook ‘share’ and ‘like’ buttons, Twitter ‘retweet’ button, and so on and so forth), and perhaps a Facebook ‘like’ box on all your posts and pages, allowing your visitors to share your content easily.

Doing so is great for exposure, and it lets you drive more traffic from social mediums as well.

Over to You

What are the things that you think are essential to having a profitable and successful blog?