If you have been in the link building business over the past years, you must have noticed that things don’t work the same way any longer.
Generating tons of search engine traffic by slapping a few reciprocal links on your page simply does not work.
Before you embark on your SEO link building quest, it’s useful to understand what strategies DID matter a while ago, but are merely obsolete today – learn from the history, you know.
#1: PRECISE ANCHOR TEXTS
Previously, SEOs used to optimize their sites by using the same anchor text for all their links.
Well, this strategy is not that hot these days; as a matter of fact, you can be penalized by Google for doing it and not even know it.
Natural anchor texts are the key today.
But what is natural you might ask?
Basically, a natural link looks like it was built by a user, not an SEO. Normal users would not use a precise anchor text in their links, and neither should you – ALL the time, anyway.
In practical terms, when working on your link building, don’t just use your high value keywords in your links, but throw in a few “natural speech” words in there as well, like “cool site”, “click here”, etc.
#2: GOOGLE PAGERANK
I can’t believe there are still so many discussions about the validity of PageRank in the SEO world these days. I suppose if so much is written about it, somebody wants to read it, right?
As far as link building is concerned, PageRank is not the best indicator of the page strength.
The famous green bar has been a JOKE ever since Matt Cutts of Google confirmed that Google “takes care of people querying the PR data too much or too heavily.” (The source is a bit old, but if anything changed since then, it would be the fact that Google tried to downplay PageRank even more.)
Sounds like Google returns random page rank data if they feel like it – just because it’s fun to fool SEOs.
But why did I list PageRank as one of the factors I look for in a perfect link?
Simply because we don’t have too many alternatives to measure page authority aside from PR and maybe SEOMoz Page Authority metric, which I use quite a bit as well.
Either one of those metrics can be used as an indicator of the page strength, but not the primary factor by any means.
#3: ALEXA RANK
This metric is geared towards online marketers and does not truly measure ALL the traffic that might come to your site.
It’s based on the sample of Alexa toolbar users, is browser-specific and can be easily manipulated (from what I’ve heard anyway).
Plus, the formula Alexa uses to determine its page rank is overwhelmingly debated.
Once again, it’s a good indicator of the site authority, but should be used along with other factors to determine if any given site is truly a good link building candidate.
#4: GOOGLE BACKLINK DATA
Referring to the link:somedomain.com Google query.
Don’t ever trust Google to really tell you how many links a specific website has. Plus, when you do a Google search on your links, random samples are returned, so you might see the spammiest of all the links you have.
Yahoo! Site Explorer used to be a great backlink research tool, but alas, it’s out of commission.
I’ve done a lot of research on the alternatives, and so far my two best suggestions for link research are:
1. Market Samurai: if you already own Market Samurai, look no further.
I love their SEO competition section. It used to be powered by Yahoo! Site Explorer, but was recently changed to Majestic SEO – another great backlink checker that otherwise requires a monthly subscription to use.
Here’s a video on how to use the SEO Competition module of Market Samurai:
2. SEOSpyGlass: this software goes a few steps further than Market Samurai as far as backlink analysis is concerned.
My favorite part is the fact that it measures the VALUE of a link, plus the fact that their free version is free for life.
#5: GOOGLE CACHE DATE
This metric has also been used and abused by SEOs to the point that it can’t be relied upon. Juicy pages that rank are often returned as having no cache set.
So forget about the cache date as well.
Simple: if you are heavily relying upon any one of the above metrics to determine whether any given site/page is a good one to get a link from, stop it.
Effective link building is all about diversity.
I recently stumbled upon a search engine ranking report from Chitika, an online advertising network, that focused on answering one question: how valuable prime search ranking positions really are.
Although the report was published a while ago, I believe that little has changed since then, and the following results are definitely something to pay attention to.
Of course we all know that it’s great to have #1 Google search engine ranking for your keyword.
But how much is it really worth in terms of traffic generation?
According to the data from the Chitika network, it’s worth a great deal – double the search engine traffic of the #2 spot, to be precise.
Let me put it another way:
The #1 Google search engine ranking spot gets as many visitors as positions 2-4 combined!
To come up with these impressive numbers, Chitika analyzed a sample of 8,253,240 impressions across their network.
“In order to find out the value of SEO, we looked at a sample of traffic coming into our advertising network from Google and broke it down by Google results placement.
The top spot drove 34.35% of all traffic in the sample, almost as much as the numbers 2 through 4 slots combined, and more than the numbers 5 through 20 (the end of page 2) put together.”
Search engine ranking #10 gets 143% more clicks than #11.
“The biggest jump, percentage-wise, is from the top of page 2 to the bottom of page 1.
Going from the 11th spot to 10th sees a 143% jump in traffic. However, the base number is very low – that 143% jump is from 1.11% of all Google traffic to 2.71%.
As you go up the top page, the raw jumps get bigger and bigger, culminating in that desired top position.”
Here are the search engine ranking numbers:
Show Me the Money!
I admit, having a number 1 search engine ranking on Google is very exciting and all, but if you are ranking of the wrong keyword, it won’t help your business much.
How do you know when it’s worth to improve google ranking?
To determine that, you can do one of the following:
Test your keywords with Google Adwords
- Start a Google AdWords campaign for the keyword, select “exact match” and point the ad to the page on your website that is most relevant to the keyword.
- Track the impressions and the conversion rate of the ad. To get useful data, you should track at least 500 clicks.
- With that data, you can make a guess about the value of a visitor that finds your website through that keyword.
For example, your ad might have had 10,000 impressions during a week and 200 visitors have come to your website. Six of them purchased something of your website and the total profit was $500.
That means that the average single visitor who finds your website through that keyword is worth $2.50 to your business ($500 / 200). The 10,000 ad impressions in a week can create a click-through rate of 34.35% (see table above) if you have the number 1 ranking for that keyword.
That means that you would get about 3,435 visitors per week. Based on the average value of $2.50/visitor you would earn $8,587.50 per week or $446,500 per year just with a single keyword.
Getting Market Value figures in Market Samurai
If you already own a copy of Market Samurai, the task of gathering all this info becomes even more of a breeze.
This data is gathered under you Keyword Analysis Data in Keyword Research tool.
Here are the numbers we are interested in:
• SEO Value (SEOV) – This is the maximum total value of traffic that the #1 ranked web page for this keyword (based on search results) is likely to receive – per month.
• Adwords Value (AWV) - This is the maximum total value of traffic that the #1 ranked advertiser (in Google Adwords) is likely to receive – per month.
In both cases, Market Samurai is taking the Market Value benchmark to the next step…
…by breaking down the Market Value number into how much #1 ranked web site will bring through organic SEO and Google Adwords respectively.
If you don’t have Market Samurai, I would recommend you get a copy – it will save you a lot of time (and money) doing market research and give you access to a lot of really powerful keyword research tools.
Image credit: ICanHasCheezburger.com
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never liked doing keyword research.
Let’s face it: it’s tedious, time-consuming, and overwhelming, and that’s not even the biggest problem.
The core aspect of keyword research that many webmasters get wrong is finding keywords that THEIR readers search for when looking for information about their niche subject.
There’s a huge difference between THINKING you know what your readers are searching for and KNOWING what they are searching for, wouldn’t you say?
The following keyword research method is the easiest way I’ve even found to identify such search terms.
Oh, and did I mention it’s entirely hands-off, apart from setting it up, and entirely free?
Google Site Search
Chances are you have a search box on your site, and it’s most likely used by your readers to look up the kind of information they would expect to find on your site. Also, chances are your search box is powered by Google Site Search.
If you DON’T have a search box, stop right here and install it immediately! There’s nothing more frustrating than being on a site and not being able to find the information you are looking for. Search boxes keep your readers happy and your bounce rate low.
So, now that you definitely have the search box on your blog, have you ever checked what your readers are searching for?
If not, you are missing out on a vital piece of information that could tell you exactly what kind of content your readers want to see on your site.
In other words, TARGETED keywords.
Now let’s get down to business and set up a way for you to tap into this valuable information by tracking it in Google Analytics.
How to Track Site Search in Google Analytics
Setting up this process is very simple.
Note: since the new Google Analytics interface will soon become the default one for everyone, that’s the version I’ll use in the instructions below.
1. From “Profiles” go into “Profile Settings”.
2. Scroll down just a bit till you see”Site Search Settings” and set up the parameters like you see them in the screenshot below:
Note: set “s” as the Query Parameter.
Just in case you are wondering why, “s” stands for “search” and is found in any search URL.
For instance, when I do a search for “web traffic” on my blog, this is what the URL for the search looks like:
4. Click “Apply” and you are all set.
I told you it would be easy, right?
Site Search Results
Depending on how busy your blog is, it might take some time to accumulate any actionable results.
My blog gets about 400 site searches per month, which is plenty enough to determine what kind of content my readers tend to search for.
Here’s where to find these stats in Google Analytics:
And there you have it.
Not only do you know now what content you need to write about, but also what content you might need to make more accessible to your readers, for instance in your sidebar.
Easy, perfectly targeted, hands-free keyword research – check.
I am sure Gerald is sick and tired of hearing about this, but since it’s my post (never mind that it’s on his blog), he’ll have to bear with me one more time.
Allow me to give you some background on the issue.
One of my favorite product releases of the year was CommentLuv Premium by Andy Bailey.
The free version of the plugin has been floating around the blogosphere for years and loved by both blog owners and commentators (aka “link builders”) alike.
Don’t ask me why, but the minute I heard Andy was working on the premium version of the plugin and all the features he was adding to it, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.
Anyway, this post is not about how great this plugin is, but about Google rankings.
Or how I felt like I was beating against the brick wall trying to rank my CommentLuv Premium review post on the first page of Google for “CommentLuv Premium“, to be more precise.
I am pretty good with SEO. Not great, but good enough. Plus, I’d like to think of myself as a creative link builder – I have to be since I don’t have much time for it.
So I wrote the review post, optimized it to the “T”, built a few links to it, and then ran a giveaway for a free copy of the plugin in exchange for an in-content dofollow backlink with exact anchor text back to my review post.
I told you I was creative, right?
So I got about 50 links from other blogs and, considering that my competitors for “CommentLuv Premium” keyword didn’t have many backlinks to speak of, I sat back and waited for the SEO traffic to start pouring in.
Only it never happened.
My post showed up on the first page for a brisk day or two and then disappeared into the neverland of page 4.
You can imagine my frustration. Poor Gerald heard all about it…
Assumptions and Observations
1. My post was very well optimized for the keyword.
2. It had a good amount of quality in-content links coming in, as well as some low-quality links like social media, social bookmarking, etc.
3. Thus, as far as Google is concerned, it should’ve been found extremely relevant to the keyword.
Side note: the way Google determines relevancy is by the keyword usage on the page, including your title, description, etc, and the anchor text of the links pointing to the page. Of course, this is a very simplistic explanation; take a look at how Google works, if you’d like to go more in-depth on this one.
4. The posts ranked on the first page for the keyword at the time had but a handful of low-quality links.
5. On the upside, thanks to Google+ and all the connections I made there, most of my readers saw my post on the first page because of Google personalized search, even though I wasn’t technically ranking for it.
Considering my existing domain authority and a few quick links, they both showed up on the first page that very day (I didn’t take a snapshot of the video rankings, but the post was in position 7 in 4 hours).
Both stayed on the first page for a while, but left without much link building, my CommentLuv Premium YouTube video eventually moved to page 2 and the post to page 3.
HOWEVER, guess which post finally showed up (and is staying there so far) on the first page position 5?
Besides being brilliant (I need to keep saying it to believe it – you should try it sometime), I am also very stubborn and never gave up on ranking that very first CommentLuv Premium post of mine.
So How Did I Do It?
I made one big change to the post, which I believe did the trick.
Of course, one could argue that Google simply came to its senses, saw all those links, and decided to give credit where credit was due (huh!)…
However, the ranking came about very shortly after I decided to turn my post into a page.
What’s the difference, you might ask?
- Pages are static; posts are dynamic.
- Posts are displayed in chronological order on your home page, archives, category and tag pages, etc.
- Pages are not sorted by date; they are not classified by categories or tags.
Don’t remember where I read it at this point, but someone somewhere once said that the way pages and posts are coded in WordPress is different enough to make the pages more SEO-friendly.
Since I don’t know much about coding, I can’t support or disprove this statement.
The following factor does seem to support it though: most of the higher PR URLs on any given blog are not posts at all – rather, they are pages.
Let’s for instance take this blog and check the PR for inner pages using SEOQuake Firefox Addon.
All of those results are pages. And this tends to be true for most blogs.
To learn more about using pages to increase your rankings, take a look at my post on blog structure.
How to Turn a Post into a Page
Here are the step-by-step instructions (I’d recommend you open 2 tabs since you’ll have to go back and forth between the post and the page):
1. Create a new page.
Copy and paste the content from the post to the page; save.
2. Change post permalink.
Since you’ve already built links to the post permalink, you’d want to keep it for your page. Of course, WP won’t let you have the same permalink for more than one page, so you’ll need to change the permalink on the original post first.
Usually, I simply add something like “original” or “part-1″ or “2″ to the end of the original post permalink; that’s plenty enough for our purpose.
3. Use the original permalink for the page.
Now go back to the page and use the original permalink for the new page. Save.
4. Avoid duplicate content issue.
Now I would edit the original post SEO title, description, and change the post content – usually by simply cutting out most of the post and placing the link to the new page with “To read more, click here” type link.
Using keyword-rich anchor text is even better, of course.
5. Optional: close comments on the page.
This one is arguable; however, I’ll use any trick up my sleeve if I can.
The original post will retain all the comments that were made on the post before you “transferred” the content to the page. It’s only fair to make sure that your commentators keep their links, right?
I tend to close comments on my pages though.
As I said, this one is entirely optional.
Was it my newly created page that did the trick and pushed me to the first page of Google?
Argumentative, but logical.
This wasn’t the first time I did this either. Each time I turned posts into pages, they tended to rank higher and have better “sticking power” – most of them are currently ranked at the top of page one, if not in position one.
Thoughts? Ideas? “I have nothing solid to support my opinion, but I’ll say you are wrong just for the heck of it”s? Comment below!
A lot has been said about domain authority and its influence on your search engine rankings – whatever the keyword.
- Whiteboard Friday – Domain Trust and Authority – SEOMoz
- SEO & Link Building: The Domain Authority Factor - Search Engine Watch
The topic of domain authority has been of interest to me for a while now for two reasons:
- I want higher rankings with less work for everything I publish on Traffic Generation Cafe.
- As an affiliate marketer, I want for my reviews of products to be ranked above all others.
And who doesn’t, right?
That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today and it’s not because I have the answers, by the way; rather, I want to see what you think and if you agree with my conclusions on the importance of domain authority.
What is Domain Authority?
Domain authority represents the overall “strength” of your website over time.
What Influences Domain Authority?
- Links from established authority sites
- Social media presence (tweets, likes, plus ones, etc.)
It’s extremely important to note that authority affects the ENTIRE domain.
Any newly-published page on an authority domain has the potential to rank from day one without much link building effort.
And that’s exactly what brings me to the core thought of this post…
Trusted Domain Authority vs New Keyword.com
Let’s say you are about to start a marketing campaign for a new product you’d like to promote.
Do you set up a brand new keyword-rich (most likely product name) domain or do you set up a page within your existing authority domain with the same keyword-rich permalink?
Ranking in Google organic results for a new domain within a short period of time is just about impossible.
However, leaning on the existing authority of an established site just might give you the edge to show up on that first page very quickly.
Here’s where it gets tricky though: I’ve seen it go both ways.
Allow me to give you a couple of examples.
Keyword “list building tips“
Interesting thing though is that I never intended for this post to rank for this keyword.
As a matter of fact, I tried to get it ranked for a different keyword quite persistently, targeting all my on-page optimization for that keyword, as well as building some strong links with keyword-rich anchor text.
And yet, the post quickly ranked for “list building tips” and not really for my targeted keyword.
The only thing that connected my blog post to “list building tips” was the slug: http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/list-building-tips/
Of course, I since then reoptimized my post for the new keyword, making sure I kept my accidental rankings and my post still remains at the top of Google.
Keyword “traffic generation“
This is a screenshot from my trusted Market Samurai, which shows my blog currently ranking in spot #2 for “traffic generation”.
Which site is ranking #1?
TrafficGeneration.com. Exact match domain.
If you take a look at the stats in the screenshot, the only thing that site has on me is age; my blog looks a lot stronger for all other indicators like link building, on-page optimization, etc.
So does it mean that they have domain authority purely because it’s an older domain or because of the keywords in the domain?
You tell me.
By the way, it’s nice to see Wikipedia trailing behind in spot #3 for a change. I wouldn’t be surprised if they push me down though.
As I said in the beginning of this post: I didn’t write it because I knew, rather because I didn’t.
In your experience, is it easier to rank a page on an existing authority site or a brand new keyword-rich (or even better, exact match) domain?
Your best guess will be fine as well.
Image source: Don Moyer on Flickr
Link building is an essential part of any successful SEO campaign; there’s no arguing about that. In order to rank for any given keyword, we need backlinks – and lots of them.
However, not all links are created equal.
The reason it’s important to know how valuable your links are is very simple: the higher the quality, the fewer links you need to get ranked.
The following 10 qualities are the ones I always look for in a perfect link.
#1. High PR of the domain
High PR can be equated to more domain authority in the eyes of Google. The more authority a site has, the higher quality the links coming from that domain will be.
My ideal homepage PR is 4+.
Of course, it’s a whole lot better to have a link on an inner page that has high PR of its own.
#2. Keyword-Rich Anchor Text
Google uses anchor text pointing to a page to determine what that page is about.
If I start building links to this post with “Ana Hoffman” as anchor text (like a lot of blog commentators would do), then Google might find that this post is more relevant to that keyword than to such keywords as “link building” or “backlinks“.
It’s best if you try to rank each page of your site for one specific keyword or variations of it, but of course, this is not a must – just works better that way.
Also, try to have at least 70-80% of exact match anchor text. The other 20-30% could be naked URLs, long-tail variations of the keyword, or even a few “click here” links.
#3. Long-term Link
This is the kind of link that won’t be removed in a few days.
Forum links are one such example. You create a new profile, sprinkle it with some links, place some comments on a few threads just to learn a week later that the forum moderators decided to remove all your links.
Here’s a better way to create forum profiles (thanks to Gerald for teaching me this link building trick): create your profiles without any links in them, wait for a week or two for the moderators to check it out, and THEN go back and add your links.
The chances of them sticking are much higher this way.
#4. Page is Indexed by Google
It only makes sense to add your links to pages that Google already knows about, right?
However, there are plenty of times when it’ll be up to you to make sure that the page your links are added to is indexed, like in article marketing for instance.
I strongly suggest that you keep track of all the URLs where your new content is placed and make sure all those pages are indexed by pinging them, linking to them in a few comments – just to name a couple of ways of doing it.
#5. Link Building Consistency
This is where most sites get in trouble.
The webmasters fail to maintain link velocity, i.e. to build links on a regular basis.
So what happens is a few hundred or even thousand of links come in within a span of a couple of days and then… nothing.
Very obvious one way link building pattern that can land you in Google sandbox.
#6. No Bad-Neighborhood Links
I would never add a link to a page that already has links to sites like porn, pharmaceuticals, etc. – you don’t want your site to be associated with bad neighborhood sites in any way.
#7. Active Sites
An active site with fresh content posted frequently, with lots of signs of reader engagement, like comments, social media shares, etc. is much more likely to be crawled often, which means your links will be quickly discovered and indexed.
The following 3 qualities might raise some eyebrows; let’s talk about it in comments if you disagree.
#8. Not Sidebar/Footer Links
It sounds like a great deal to be listed by another site in their blogroll.
However, aside from branding and potential traffic generation, those links might not be worth as much, since it’s not that difficult to obtain them.
#9. Relevancy is Overrated
There’s a lot of talks about getting links from niche-specific sites only.
I haven’t seen any conclusive testing that’s been done on that.
On the other hand, I’ve heard of plenty of link builders who ranked their sites on page 1 with nothing but “irrelevant” links.
#10. Authority Outbound Links
Yet another debatable point.
However, I, among many other SEO’s, believe that it helps to have your links on a page that links out to authority sites relevant to the topic in hand.
Here’s a good example of this train of thought:
And yet another one:
- Link Intelligence: What Goldilocks Can Teach You About Linking Out (Traffic Generation Cafe)
And there you have it.
Boxing gloves on?
Comment to show me that you’re alive!
When Google comes up with a new algorithm change, all the webmasters hold their breath trying to figure out if this is the one that would send their site into the neverland of the search engine rankings.
I bet it wasn’t any different with the last week’s update that focused on pushing the freshest results to the top of the search engine pages.
Google tried to make us feel warm and fuzzy, as they announced their new update:
“Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh. Even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent.” Source
“Relevant and recent”.
Not sure what happened to the “relevancy” part (after all, relevancy is supposed to be the cornerstone of how Google works), but we all noticed the “recency” factor.
So how would this latest update affect you and your site?
Should you start posting every day now? Are you expected to compete with websites that have full-time writers constantly churning out fresh content?
The answer is a definite NO.
Although this update will affect about 35% of all searches, its scope is quite narrow, in my opinion.
It zooms in on the following information streams:
1. Current events or hot topics:
It only makes sense that when you search for “occupy Wall Street protest”, you expect to find the latest information on the topic immediately.
2. Topics in need of frequent updates:
A good example of this type of information would be products constantly coming up with new models.
If you are on the market for the latest Volvo XC-90, you are not interested in reviews of 2010 models, right?
3. Regularly occurring events:
Conferences, political elections, sports, etc. – all these events fall under “if I am searching for them, I am looking to find the info on the latest one” category.
“Different searches have different freshness needs. This algorithmic improvement is designed to better understand how to differentiate between these kinds of searches and the level of freshness you need, and make sure you get the most up to the minute answers.”
Reactions Around the Web
Barry Schwartz of SearchEngineLand.com talks about the potential problems this update might create, referring to them as “freshness spam“:
“There are potential downsides. Sometimes you do want to reward fresh content. But what’s fresh? If someone simply makes a small change to a page, does that give it a fresh boost? If someone reposts exactly the same content on a new page a day or two after initially posting it, is that fresh? Is when the page was first found define freshness, or is the first modified date used?
Does this open Google up to an even worse situation than can already happen with Google News now, where publishers file and refile stories in an effort to win the freshness race there, since the latest versions of stories often get top billing.”
Ben Wills of MarketingPilgrim.com doesn’t just talk about it, but offers 7 suggestions to rank higher in Google’s new fresh results:
- Cover Your Bases by Getting into Google News
- Use Proper Time-stamps in Your Content
- Add Forums
- Add Question and Answers Section
- Add Your Own Social Network
- Add Your Own Social News section
If you think your site might be affected by Google Fresh changes, I strongly recommend you check out his post. Even if you don’t, still take a look at it: Bill mentions a good number of tools to help you implement his suggestions above.
Well, that’s it, folks.
As it’s always the case, we’ll talk about Google Fresh for another week or two, then the topic won’t be fresh any longer and we’ll get back to business as usual.
Until then, let’s try to milk the news for all it’s worth; who knows, maybe your site will show up under “Google Fresh” search tomorrow?
Last week, I got all teary and vulnerable as I spilled the beans on how I miserably failed with my first blog.
Admitting defeat is the first step in the “12-Steps to Getting Over a Blogging Failure” program. Step 12 is to learn from your mistakes and start all over.
Last week we talked about failing to pick the right niche, do your keyword research, and pick the right domain.
Now let’s move on to the final three reasons I committed my first blog suicide.
4. I Failed to Make My Blog Look Professional
Yes, blog design does matter, especially when your readers have a sea of other blogs to choose from.
Most of your first-time visitors will spend but a few seconds on your blog, deciding whether they should read on or move on.
The last thing you want your blog design to do is to scream out “I am an amateur!” in the face of your audience.
When I say “professional design“, I don’t mean to make it sound like you need to spend an arm and a leg hiring a professional designer, which could run you about $1,500 to $2,000.
No, you don’t need to spend MUCH money on your blog design, but you do need to spend SOME.
Here’s what I recommend you do to take your blog design from lame to polished:
- Stop using free themes. You don’t want to look like any other blog out there, plus you don’t want to ruin any chances of getting search engine traffic because of poor coding.
- Get a premium theme. They usually cost under $100, are SEO-ready (some better than others), and are fully customizable, even if you want to do it yourself. I personally use Thesis theme on my blog for those specific reasons.
- Customize the theme. You’ll have 3 choices here: A. do it yourself – once you have a good theme to work with, it’s not that difficult to make it look custom; B. buy a semi-custom skin – theme skin customizes your out-of-the-box theme and allows you to add personal touches to it; C. Hire someone to do it for you – with premium themes like Thesis, there’s no shortage of freelancers that will be over-joyed to help you.
5. I Failed to Find my Voice
Now that you have a professional and inviting blog design and get your readers to actually scroll down to see more of what you have to offer, you REALLY have to show them what you are made of.
What’s your hook?
How are you different from thousands of other blogs out there?
With my first blog, I tried to write what I THOUGHT my readers wanted to read. I sounded sweet and fluffy and made myself nauseous and ready to throw a white flag pretty quickly.
I made a much better choice when I started Traffic Generation Cafe: I decided to use the voice I ALREADY had.
Be myself – what a novel idea!
Turned out that was exactly what made my blog successful: no fluff, no rose-colored glasses, just plain-looking bulleted posts that contained nothing but actionable advice.
If your blog is voiceless, then you need to find an angle that sets you apart from the rest of the herd NOW.
Here are some possible ideas:
1. If you have a great personality already, look no further; just be yourself.
3. Create a multi-author blog and share different views on a controversial subject.
4. Have a reader-driven blog, where readers ask questions and you answer them in blog posts. In the beginning, you might have to browse other blogs to find questions you could answer or come up with your own.
5. Create a video-log, communicating with your visitors via videos exclusively. Many readers learn much better from video, but for those who don’t, plus for SEO purposes, I’d publish video transcripts to go with each video.
6. Failing to Choose the Right Blogging Platform
This wasn’t one of my mistakes, but I think it’s important to mention it here since I see so many bloggers take the wrong turn on this one.
It doesn’t take a brainiac to do a quick research on Google and learn that a self-hosted WordPress.org blog is the way to go.
Sure free blogging platforms like Blogger.com, WordPress.com are much easier to set up and don’t cost you a penny.
HOWEVER, consider this:
1. MONEY: free platforms are definitely not huge fans of you trying to make an income off their sites, which means no AdSense, no paid ads, no affiliate links.
If they catch you do anything against their TOS, they’ll shut your blog down in a jiffy without any warning.
2. FUNCTIONALITY: most of the cool internet marketing tools like plugins, themes, and support are for self-hosted blogs only. Without having access to such tools to enhance your blog, you are giving your competitors everything they need to take over your niche.
My grandmother was right when she said “Learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Did you do it? Of course, not.
But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made. It’s up to you.
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Since this is my first guest post for Gerald’s blog (thanks for having me here, Gerald, by the way – I am honored!), I somehow find it appropriate to start this post with bragging about myself.
I run a very successful blog that primarily focuses on increasing your website traffic by all (mostly free) means possible: TrafficGenerationCafe.com.
My blog is just over a year old, yet it has achieved a lot of recognition in the internet marketing niche. If you haven’t heard about it, you must be new; let’s quickly fix it by you visiting Traffic Generation Cafe as soon as you finish reading this post.
Now that I opened this post with a good amount of blowing my own trumpet, let me tell you something that not too many people know: TGC wasn’t the first blog I started.
As a matter of fact, my first blog miserably failed. Just goes to show that the path to success is paved with failures, right?
Well, the good thing that came out of all of this is the fact that I learned from my mistakes, avoided them when I created my present blog, which turned out to be a success, and now feel qualified to tell you what I did wrong in the first place, so that you can hopefully learn from my mistakes.
1. I Failed to Pick a Niche
I see it over and over again in the blogosphere – people who blog about everything under the sun.
Even they don’t know what their blog is about. Where does that leave their readers? Or better yet, Google?
Yes, Google needs to be told what your blog is about in order for it to start ranking you for your chosen keywords. Left alone, it’ll just guess what your niche is and start ranking you for some strange keywords that will never result in targeted SEO traffic.
And your readers? They need a reason to come back to your blog and the best way to do it is to provide them with information that is beneficial to their businesses. However, it’s a bit hard to do when you don’t have a niche.
Here’s another good one: “I am in the internet marketing niche.”
In my book, that falls under “everything under the sun.”
Take, for instance, Gerald’s blog.
Why do I love to come here? Because I can count on finding consistently great information on SEO link building here.
Why do my readers return to my blog again and again? Because they know that they can find everything they need to increase their blog traffic at Traffic Generation Cafe.
My first blog had no niche.
NO NICHE = POOR CONTENT = NO READERSHIP
That was the first reason why my original blog was on its way to blogging suicide the minute I started it.
2. I Failed to Do Keyword Research
This one goes hand in hand with failing to pick a niche.
Just because we THINK something might make a good niche, doesn’t mean that there will be any demand for it.
Did you know that:
- 90% of keywords will never bring you much traffic?
- Out of the remaining 10%, 90% will never make you any money?
- Out of the remaining 10%, 90% are way too competitive to consider for your niche?
I hear this a lot from bloggers giving advice on picking a niche: go with your passion. “You have to love what you do.”
This is not EHarmony; LIKING what you do and making a good income from it is good enough for me.
Picking the right niche starts with a thorough keyword research, period.
And picking the right keywords starts with exploring what your potential target market might be interested in, NOT where your passion lies.
As you can imagine, this topic goes way beyond the scope of the post, but I’ll tell you this: both Gerald and I can’t take a step without Market Samurai as our primary keyword research tool.
Picking up a copy of Market Samurai was the first thing I did when I realized that my first blog was on its last leg.
That’s what helped me to pick “traffic generation” as my niche and turned out to be one of the most profitable decisions I’ve made.
3. I Failed to Pick a Great Domain Name
I know this one will rise some eyebrows, so let me start with an example.
Let’s say you are searching for information on how to increase blog traffic.
You do a Google search and the top two results for it are as follows:
Which one would you believe provides the information you are looking for? Which one would you choose over the other?
See my point?
Sure it’s nice to have YourName.com as your domain name: it’s flattering, boosts our egos, and… well, that’s about it.
Does it make you money though?
Unless you are a household name, I strongly suggest that you let your domain name reflect the essence of your niche, your main theme.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying you shouldn’t own YourName.com. Quite the contrary, I definitely think you should purchase it.
Just don’t use it as your primary domain, that’s all.
More tips on how to pick a great domain name:
- Make it as short as possible.
- Don’t use words that are easy to misspell.
- Buy a .com domain.
- Use your main keywords in it if you can.
- Make it easy to remember – great for direct traffic.
- Stay away from hyphens and numbers.
Fun and catchy is always a plus; although this guy might’ve overdone it by a cinch – www.the-name-i-wanted-was-already-taken-so-i-used-a-lot-of-dashes.com. Did I mention not to use hyphens?
What to do if you already have a domain name, but don’t think it’s working for your blog?
Yes, it’s a pain in the neck.
But if you look at the long-term benefits, they usually far outweigh any short-term hassle this move might cause.
I did it when I killed my first blog.
Instead of creating a brand new blog from scratch, I created Traffic Generation Cafe using my first blog as a foundation. Since it already had some traffic and content, it only made sense.
My friend Jane Sheeba recently did it as well and wrote this great tutorial on how to do it step by step.
No, I am not short-changing you – just trying to give your attention span a break.
We’ll talk about the other three reasons I committed blogging suicide next week, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, let me leave you with this: if any of this struck a chord with you, don’t just ignore it.
Don’t just say “It’s too late to change it now.”
It’s never too late. Especially if your business is struggling. One of these changes just might be the push it needs.
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PS I am excited to announce that I am starting a new giveaway for CommentLuv Premium plus a free 30-minute consultation with me. Entering is easy. Just check out my CommentLuv Premium Giveaway post for more details.