The Do’s and Don’ts of Being an Effective Blogger

22 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

Here is a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts for being an effective blogger – essentially a list of things which you, as a blogger should do and a set of things which all bloggers should avoid doing at all costs:

The “Do’s” of Blogging:

DO build an email list: Email lists are one of the best, most effective tools in your blogging toolkit. Remember that your list contains email ID’s of people who voluntarily shared them with you, and would hence want to hear from you. Your email list is also a list of IDs of people who share interests that are directly related to your blog. A single email sent out to your list could bring a ton of targeted traffic to your blog!

DO put up the best content: An effective blogger will strive to put up the best content on his blog. ‘Best content’ comprises of many different elements: content that is unique (not copied), useful and informative, relevant to your target market, new and up-to-date, grammatically correct, factually accurate, insightful and well-researched, does a good job of explaining something, makes fair and unbiased points, and has the tendency to be shared. Above all, write consistently and regularly!

DO make social media an integral part of your blog: Having social media profiles for your blog on all major platforms, as well as being an active part of these profiles is essential. To be effective, it is vital to have a presence on social mediums. Facebook, for instance has 1 billion profiles, and Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest are catching up, and doing pa pretty good job of it. So at the end of the day, any effective blogger needs to use these free(!) platform to get backlinks and traffic.

DO network and connect with other bloggers: Networking with other blogs in your niche is very important. Yes, other bloggers in your niche are your competition, but speaking with these people, asking for help, networking with them and reaching out to them could help you and your blog immensely. Besides, with tons of social tools at your disposal, it’s become really easy to find, connect and network with others.

DO optimize your blog for search engines and visitors: in order to become an effective blogger and have a successful blog, search engine optimization (or SEO) is essential. Even if you have zero SEO knowledge, learning a few basics doesn’t take more than a few hours or a couple of days at max. But having that knowledge in your possession could be the difference between a good blog, and a highly-successful one! Optimizing your blog for search engines is important because Google alone accounts for 60% of the referral traffic in the world. Similarly, optimizing blog for people is essential because you want to attract as many of them as possible, have them spend time on your blog and become returning visitors.

DO a variety of different blog posts: Try adding a certain level of variety to your posts, instead of being too monotonous or repetitive. Depending on the kind of blog you have, it’s theme/subject, and the kind of niche you’re in, there are probably tons of different post types you can do: list-based posts, tutorial (how-to) posts, news posts, link-list posts, Q&A’s (ask your readers to send in their questions), interviews, previews and reviews, case studies, infographics, surveys and/or polls, etc.

DO put up social media buttons on your blog: In order to allow people to share your content easily over the internet, make sure that your blog’s pages have social media buttons, especially those for popular social mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and LinkedIn. This allows visitors to easily share you content on the internet, which means free publicity for you. You can use one of the many social toolbar plugins on WordPress for this purpose.

DO make a blogging schedule for all your blogs: …and stick to it! This is an important one. Develop a blogging schedule for yourself, and make sure that you stick to it. Use an online service such as Google Calendar, an organizer/calendar app on your phone, or do what I do and get a physical planner to plan out your posts and all the activities related to your blog for the next couple of weeks at least. Having a schedule to follow will automatically enhance your blogging effectiveness.

The Don’ts of Blogging:

DON’T skimp out on quality in favor of quantity: write less, but always focus on quality! When it comes to content, quality will take precedence over quantity each and every time. Instead of working on producing many different articles, write few but write well.

DON’T write paragraphs that are too long: Always break your content down into easily-readable or ‘easily-digestible’ paragraphs. Large walls of text don’t work anymore; instead, give people content that they can easily skimp over or scan-through easily.

DON’T underestimate the importance of headlines: Headlines are important because they are the first things that a visitor looks at when going through your blog, and they show up in search engine search results as well. Therefore headlines are critical to whether a visitor clicks on the link to come on your blog, or reads your article or not.

DON’T be inconsistent with publishing content: When it comes to building a successful blog and building your own authority through blogging, consistency is key. One of the things that I’ve learnt over the years is that being consistent in terms of putting up content on a regular basis is essential. Make sure that you’re consistent about putting up fresh content at regular intervals, which, depending on the blog you have, could be anything – from a few posts a day, a single post every day, or one post every week or fortnight.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Bloggers

21 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

Christmas is just over a month away, and shopping season’s already well underway. Here are some great gift ideas for the special-someone/blogger in your life:

1. iPad:

Tablet PCs seem to be extremely popular pieces of hardware in the blogging circles. Bloggers use them to do research for their upcoming posts, visit, bookmark or share important links, check their email, read eBooks, check their Twitters and Facebooks, listen to podcasts, and even write their next greatest blog post or manage their businesses! The reason behind the tablet PC’s popularity – the iPad’s in particular – is that it is an extremely portable device and hence can be carried around, can be turned-on instantly at the click of a button, and provides a backup time of 10 hours! The new iPad starts from $499, and Apple recently launched the iPad mini which starts at $329.

2. Webhosting

Is your significant other stuck with crappy, slow and unreliable hosting? Has their blog outgrown their old shared webhosting? Have they been thinking of an upgrade? Now might be the perfect time for them and their blog to move into a better hosting package. Good webhosting typically costs around a $100 (could be more, could be less) for a full year for standard packages. However depending on the traffic levels and bandwidth requirements of the blog, you might want to look into dedicated webhosting or VPS webhosting (excellent article on difference between all 3 here).

3. A Theme Framework (WordPress)

The great aspect of WordPress is that you can customize every single aspect of it – large or small. A good theme framework should allow you to accomplish this easily, and Thesis is one such excellent framework. The Thesis Framework is easily one of the best theme frameworks available on WordPress. It is used by a large number of WordPress users, and there’s no reason why your loved ones’ blogs shouldn’t be on Thesis as well. You can view their homepage here for a full list of features, as well as pricing plans.

4. Aweber

Aweber is a market leader when one speaks about email marketing solutions. It is the best email, autoreponder and subscriptions service out there, bar none. Personally, I’m a huge fan of list-building and email marketing because it is one of the best ways to get targeted traffic for any blog, and frees blogs of reliance on organic traffic. And choosing Aweber to manage a subscription list, set up an auto responder, or create and send newsletter is a no-brainer. Monthly plan costs $19, and their yearly plan costs $194.

5. Storage Space for Backups

For bloggers, regular and periodic backups are essential. Too often, bloggers skip out on this simple practice and end up losing their blogs, or parts of their blogs when something goes wrong. Save the blogger in your life a lot of hassle and many sleepless nights by getting them an external storage, and urging them to back their data up regularly. You could get then an external hard drive – 1 Terabyte of storage should be more than enough for many backups, and a 1TB external drive can be had for less than $100 on Newegg. Alternatively, you could buy additional storage on a cloud-based storage service such as Dropbox – where $500GB additional storage costs $499.

6. A Comfy Desk Chair

Since bloggers tend to spend a large amount of time on their desks in front of their computers, on upgrade that they would really appreciate would be a better place to sit! Get a comfortable desk chair for the blogger in your life, which will instantly make the process of working on (and creating content) for their blogs so much better! Here is a list of best office chairs, courtesy Lifehacker, and a list of the top-rated office chairs on Amazon (here and here).

7. A Laptop Upgrade

If there’s one thing a blogger would really appreciate, it would be a better machine to work on! A laptop is a blogger’s best friend, something that they rely heavily on to do all their work. Therefore, a machine with more processing power, more memory, better multitasking capabilities and generally more horsepower under the hood would make for an excellent Christmas gift! My recommendation? One of the new retina-display Macbooks by Apple (who else?). They’re stylish, light, stay on forever, and the Apple store has some pretty great set of apps for the Mac OS.

8. A Weekend Getaway

Even the most avid blogger needs to take time out every now and then. And what better time and opportunity to do that than during the holidays! Go spend the new years away from work and take a much-needed breather from your hectic and busy routines. Booking a spa-getaway-for-two somewhere nice would be an excellent place to start!

9. Amazon Gift Card

If all else fails, what could make for a better gift than letting your loved ones choose what they’d want! Get them an Amazon gift card, so that they can choose from thousands of products and get anything that they might need during the holiday season!

A Breakdown of the Costs of Starting a Blog

20 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

This is one of the most commonly-asked questions from people looking to set up their own blogs and kick start their online journeys. If you’re thinking of setting up a blog, you might have thought about the costs involved in doing so.

First off, kudos on your decision to start a blog! Joining the ranks of millions of other bloggers out there is easily one of the most fulfilling things you can do, and above all, you might even be able to turn your blog into a legitimate source of income!

Free Blogging

Before we get to the costs, I feel that it is important to tell people reading this about free forms of blogging, which cost nothing to set up and use. Two of the most popular free blogging platforms include WordPress.com and Blogger (Blogspot). Signing up and setting up a blog on these costs nothing, and they even offer bloggers a host of free features such as some basic themes, plugins and widgets, and basic levels of customizability. You will of course have to live with a dot-Wordpress or a dot-Blogger domain (such as YourBlogName.wordpress.com) instead of the ability to get a personalized TLD for yourself.

Costs of Setting Up a Blog

The following set of points provides a breakdown of all costs that are involved in the process of starting and setting up a blog, arranged in order.

1. Domain

Cost: $10 per year

One of the first things you’ll have to do is purchase a domain name: something like a YourBlogName.com or a BlogName.biz/org/us or any other top-level domain that you would want. Some of the popular domain name registrars that I’ve personally used and would recommend include Namecheap, Name.com, and GoDaddy. In fact here is a list on five best domain name registrars, courtesy Lifehacker.

You can go on any one of these sites in order to search for a domain name and register one if it’s available. Domain name typically cost around $10 for one year (give or take), although domain name prices are currently on the rise. For this reason, it might be a good idea to register a domain name for a longer period of time, such as for 3 or 4 years, especially as some registrars offer discounts when you register for more than one year.

TIP 1: Speaking of discounts, head on over to this website for domain coupons for many major registrars!

TIP 2: Most webhosting services (see point 2 below) offer a free domain. Refrain from using that, as if it could cause problems if you decide on moving to a different host.

2. Webhosting

Cost: $50-$150 per year

Choosing a reliable and a proven webhosting is just as important as choosing a domain. As with domain registrars, there are hundreds of webhosting services available out there. Once again, here is a Lifehacker.com article on the best webhosting services – voted for by the people.

The one’s I’ve used (and would recommend) are DreamHost, HostGator and BlueHost – all 3 are quite popular and are generally considered to be very reliable as well, however I urge you to do your research before settling for a webhosting service.

What you’re looking for in a good webhost is reliability (in terms of up-times), good hardware (hence good speeds), bandwidth offered, ability to add limited/unlimited number of domains, and of course, customer support.

Stay away from extremely cheap, basic hosting plans. Similarly, avoid choosing extremely expensive plans such as dedicated or VPS hosting that might costs hundreds of dollars, since a newly-setup blog will rarely get a large amount of traffic initially.

3. CMS

Cost: $0

CMS, short of Content Management System, can also be defined as a publishing platform for your blog. Popular CMS include WordPress, Joomla Blogger and Drupal, to name just a few. However the best all-round CMS by far right now – and one that I would personally recommend as well – is WordPress.

WordPress, first off, is totally free and the latest version can be downloaded from WordPress.org (or alternatively installed using the ‘SimpleScripts’ feature offered by webhosts). It provides the easiest way of managing the content and the appearance of your website (among other things) especially for newbies, is highly customizable (and open source!), and provides many advantages from an SEO-perspective as well.

WordPress comes with a very powerful Control Panel, this is very easy to use for new bloggers who might be unfamiliar with its interface. You can use this CPanel to control, change, and tweak many different aspects of your blog.

And of course, as you’ll find out in the following points, it also provides an advantage from a functionality perspective.

4. Themes, Plugins and Widgets

Cost: $150 (Realistically, anywhere between a few dollars, to unlimited!)

One of the best aspects about WordPress is that you’ll have a really large selection of addons to choose from. This includes themes, which will provide your blog with a complete visual overhaul, as well as the ability to have it look precisely the way you want it to. These addons also include widgets and plugins, which can be used to enhance the look for your blog, or greatly add to its functionality.

WordPress comes with an extremely basic, simple-looking theme. However you can go to WordPress’s repository of themes to browse their free selection of themes, or buy an after-market or a third-part solution. Simply put ‘Wordpress themes’ into Google, and you’ll get thousands of results containing some of the best themes on platform.

Bear in mind that most third-part themes are premium, paid-for themes, which usually cost anywhere between a couple of dollars for a single theme, to around 50 bucks for a theme package, to a few hundred greens for a good theme framework and skins.

WordPress also offers more than 20,000 free plugins, and like the aforementioned themes, you can find thousands more as third-party solutions all over the internet. There’s a large selection of free and paid-for plugin available as well.

5. Development and Maintenance Costs

Cost: Depends

Like I said before, WordPress is so simple that just about anyone can use it. However if you’re looking to outsource this, you can get a developer to manage your blog for you. Similarly, if you want to have certain aspects of your blog changed, and you’re unfamiliar with CSS or HTML, you’ll need to outsource this to a developer as well.

You can find a large number of people offering such services on websites like Vworker, Elance and Odesk. The costs, well it all depends on what work you’re looking to get done, how much you’re willing to pay for it, and what the market rate for it is.

Advantages and Benefits of Guest Blogging

19 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

In one of the earlier articles on ZenSEO, we spoke about some of the best link-building methods out there right now. One of those – and a pretty important one at that – was guest blogging.

Indeed, guest blogging and guest posting has started gaining a lot of popularity, and the trend is on the rise. You’ll probably find tons of blogs out there which accept guest posts, and a quick Google search on some of the popular/authority blogs in your own niche will probably reveal that many of them accept guest posts as well.

The reason behind guest blogging’s massive popularity seems to be the fact that it is easily one of the most powerful methods of link-building and getting exposure, while being one of the only few Google-safe and whitehat methods of doing so.

Here is a list of advantages and benefits of guest blogging – both from a blogger’s perspective as well as from the point-of-view of the blog owner’s.

Benefits of Guest Blogging from a Guest-Blogger’s POV:

1. Link-building Opportunity: Guest blogging allows bloggers to build authority backlinks to their own blogs. A large percentage of blogs that accept guest posts will allow you to include a link back to your blog as well – mostly in the Author Bio section, sometimes in the content as well. A single backlink on an authority blog can be extremely beneficial, as you can imagine.

2. Exposure and Traffic: For me, one of the biggest advantages of guest blogging is the exposure and the influx of traffic on my own blog that comes with it. Think about it, one single post (with a backlink to your blog of course) on a blog that gets over 10,000 pageviews-per-day could bring you a ton of traffic, and quite literally, open up your blog to a whole new audience. Not only will you get a nice boost in your traffic stats, you might also get a nice boost in your email subscriptions!

3. Build Authority: Guest blogging gives you a great opportunity to build authority. A single, or a series of well-written, well-researched, high-quality post on a blog with a good PR could just be the thing that establishes you as an authority in your niche.

4. Networking Opportunities: As far as networking and relationship-building is concerned, the benefits are two-fold here: For one, guest posts open up a direct avenue of communication with authority bloggers (the blog owners), and secondly, guest posts allow you to share thoughts and speak with many like-minded individuals, professionals, and bloggers via the comments.

5. Opportunities: If you’re knowledgeable and know your stuff, and if your guest post reflects that, people will notice. An outstanding, well-written and detailed guest post comparing the strengths, improvements and weaknesses of Apple’s new operating system with the old ones, on a blog that gets a large amount of traffic, might have other authority bloggers get in touch with you to do a similar post, or a post on an Apple product. Merchants might even send you a product and ask you to do a paid-review! The possibilities are endless.

Advantages of Guest Blogging from a Blog-Owner’s POV:

1. Free Traffic: Well, for starters, how about the free traffic that will be brought to your blog through the guest blogger’s marketing efforts. When someone does a guest post on your blog, chances are that they will also post an update on their blog about it, or send out an email to their list about the post. What it means for you: free traffic, more exposure – all with zero effort.

2. Free content: Probably the best thing about accepting guest posts on your blog. Instead of paying someone to produce content for you, you get it free-of-cost! In exchange for a link (and perhaps other incentives), you get a quality, relevant post on your blog – without having to pay for it.

3. A Breather: A team of guest bloggers on your blog will allow you to take time off from producing content for your blog, allowing you to concentrate on any other projects that you might have in the pipeline.

4. Enhance Blog: An influx of quality content from guest bloggers will allow you to fine tune many other aspects of your blog, such as give the blog design a much-needed overhaul, or work on the marketing and promotion sides of your content.

How to Reignite Your Blogging Creativity

18 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

One of the biggest assets in any good bloggers arsenal is his or her creative skills, imagination, a creative spark, and of course the ability to convert that creativity into written words.

In order to produce quality content on a regular basis, you need to have a certain level of creative skill, however even the most creative ones of us suffer from the occasional dip in creativity. Losing the creative edge that makes bloggers who they are can be quite demoralizing, however it is important to understand that it is completely natural, and happens to the best of us.

Here are some simple things that you can do to recharge your creativity and imagination, and get some great blog post ideas and inspiration:

1. Take a Break

Can’t seem to write as well as you usually do? Suffering from a serious dip in creativity? The words just don’t seem to be coming as naturally as you’d want? Take a break. Try getting away from your blog for at least a couple of weeks. Take a road trip, go somewhere, try working on some other project(s) to simply use this time to get a bit of a breather and recharge your batteries. Have someone cover for your while you’re away. You might be surprised how mentally-fresh and motivated you are when you return!

2. Try Something New

Matt Cutts, a very well-known engineer at Google (and the head of Google’s Webspam team), gave a wonderful TED talk in 2011 on ‘trying something new for 30 days’. You can watch the video here (3:27 in length), but the gist of it is that Cutts urges everyone to try doing something new, as part of his own personal 30-day challenge.  You can take a page out of this, and try coming up with creative ideas for different kinds of posts you can do on your blog.

3. Ask Your Readers

This is easily one of the best yet the simplest ways of getting new ideas: asking for them. If you’ve got a relatively large base of readers, ask them what kinds of posts they would like to see on your blog. You can go about doing this in 3 separate ways: (a) make an entirely new post, asking for ideas, (b) make a poll, or (c) look in the comments section for feedback and ideas on a list of things which you can cover.

4. Stay on Top of the News

This is a personally tried-and-tested strategy. Try staying abreast of all the news, events and the happenings in your industry or niche. Subscribe via email or RSS to some of the authority blogs in your niche, and above all, use Google Alerts to subscribe to important keywords in your niche, so that you get an email alert as soon as something happens, giving you the edge in terms of being one of the first ones to cover these topics, and be the first to provide your readers with the latest, up-to-date information. But perhaps most importantly, staying on top of such things will continuously provide you with something to write about.

5. Speak with People

Ask for advice, help and seek inspiration from other people working in your industry or your niche. Reach out to them through their blogs, via email, or through their social networking profiles such as their Twitter or Facebook. I particularly recommend connecting with authority and experienced bloggers in your niche; these people have been at it for a long time, and experience, as they say, is the best teacher. In today’s ‘global village’ – especially with the advent of web 2.0 and social networking, reaching out to someone is as easy as anything!

6. Brainstorm

Sit down with your blogging team, and generate ideas through brainstorming. Heck, get people to your meeting from all departments, even outside your own – from IT, HR, marketing, sales, design, R&D…the whole lot! You might be surprised where your next big idea comes from!

7. Change Your Blogging Environment

Sometimes, something as simple as moving your workspace from one place to another might have a profound effect on your creativity. Go ahead, and try it. Move your workspace to another location. Try changing things around a bit.

What do you do to generate ideas for your blog and boost your creativity?

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing

17 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

Affiliate marketing is a popular, and an all-round great way to make some serious money online! I’m sure everyone reading this is aware of the concept of affiliate marketing, but for those who are not, Wisegeek does a good job explaining what it is:

“Affiliate marketing is a revenue-sharing venture between a blog owner (such as yourself), and an online merchant (such as Amazon’s Affiliate Program). The blog owner places advertisements on his/her blog to either (a) help sell the merchant’s products, or (b) to send potential customers to the merchant’s website. The blog owner then gets a share of each sale that is made from his/her affiliate marketing efforts. There are three ways to earn money through affiliate marketing. They are called pay per click, pay per sale and pay per lead.

(You can read more about these 3 here)

So that essentially is the gist of it; you choose a niche, promote another business’s products or services, and earn a percentage (a commission) from each sale – which could be anywhere between less than 1% sale, to as much as 50%, depending on the program. It’s as simple as that.

Pros/Advantages of Affiliate Marketing from an Affiliate’s Perspective

1. SIMPLE AND EASY: For starters, it is one of the easiest, simplest, quickest and the most effortless ways of making money online. Think about it: you don’t need to create any products yourself, all that you’re doing is simply promoting your affiliate’s products. All that you need to do is market someone else’s products to the right people, and get a commission on each sale that goes through you.

2. NO INVESTMENT REQUIRED: There’s no need for any significant investment to be made, in terms of time and/or cost. All you need to be an affiliate marketer is a blog or a website, and you’re pretty much good to go.

3. EFFORTLESS: Not only does the merchant take care of product development, all other important elements of a sale – such as managing inventory and/or stock, the POS experience, managing the finances or book-keeping, paperwork, storage or shipment, and of course customer or after-sales support.

4. NO SIGN-ON FEES: Joining affiliate programs is free. As an affiliate marketer, you do not need to pay anything to join an affiliate programs. Word of caution: beware of affiliate program which require you to pay a fee in order to join up, there are chances that it could be a scam.

5. WORK FROM ANYWHERE: Affiliate marketing allow you to work from home. You don’t need to have a brick-and-mortar shop or a physical business location, you won’t need to hire any employees, pay bills, or show up at work at a specific time every day. You can work whenever you want, from wherever you want, and set your own timings. All that’s needed is a laptop and a reliable internet connection, and you could become a super-affiliate right from the comforts of your home. In short, you are your own boss!

6. PASSIVE INCOME: Affiliate marketing is a great source of passive income. A lot of affiliate marketers use it as a secondary source of income while working a 9 to 5. Once your affiliate marketing blog is up, you can earn effortlessly, pretty much on autopilot and with minimal involvement (apart of course from your marketing efforts).

7. COMMISSSIONS: And then of course, there’s the commissions. Depending on the program you sign up for (and the percentage commission the program offer), and the size of each sale, you could be making anywhere between a few dollars every day, to hundreds! Multiply that by the number of days in a month, and you might even be able to take this up fulltime!

Pros/Advantages of Affiliate Marketing from a Merchant’s Perspective

1. MORE SALES: From the merchant’s point-of-view, the advantages are quite obvious. It provides them with more exposure, recognition, visibility and a fantastic marketing opportunity, and of course the ability to drive more sales. By offering a small incentive to affiliates, they are effortlessly able to get more customers, and make more sales.

2. LESS EXPENDITURE: Merchants get more customers and drive more sales, without having to spend too much time or resources on marketing, or having to look for prospective customers.

3. VALUABLE MARKETING INFORMATION: The process of monitoring your affiliate marketers and their marketing efforts can provide the merchants with a lot of invaluable marketing data.

Drawbacks of Affiliate Marketing

1. FALSE ADVERTISEMENT: Some merchants may make false promises, and/or engage in misleading or false advertisement in order to entice and trick affiliates to join their program, only for the program to turn out to be a sham, or the commission rates, payout rates or the terms-of-partnership to be vastly exaggerated.

2. REPUTATION AT STAKE: Remember that any false advertisement, malpractice, scam, or a bad buying experience on the merchant’s end will have a negative effect on your reputation as well. This will result in a very low number of returning customers, as well as small commissions.

3. NON-PAYMENT: Some merchants may also engage in other dishonest activities, such as the non-payment of commissions.

4. LINK-HIJACKING: Link-hijacking remains a serious threat. Basically, link hijackers hijack someone else’s affiliate links and use it to get paid for each sale made by someone else.

5. HARD WORK: Its actually hard work! You might think it’s easy, however it actually takes a decent amount of work and effort for an affiliate marketer to start making at least a decent amount of money. You need a really large amount of targeted traffic on your blog, and even then, the number of people who actually go through with a transaction remains very small.

6. TAKES TIME: Things can be quite slow in the beginning, and it actually might take you time to build a good amount of traffic, get things rolling and start making at the very least a few dollars in the beginning.

7. COMPETITION: There’s a lot of competition. Depending on your niche, you may be playing with some big players and may face some stiff competition from other authority and established affiliates.

Thoughts are more than welcome in the comments below!

6 Ways of Speeding Up Your WordPress Blog

16 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

Before we begin, here are a few resources where you can check the load times and the site speed of your blog:

Alternatively, you can visit Google Webmaster Central Blog for more such link, view a list of site speed tools here, and visit this link in order to get suggestions on improving your blog speed.

Right, moving on. Site speed is as important a metric as anything else, especially as far as traffic is concerned. Coupled with the fact that Google will rank quicker websites higher up the SERP – and vice versa – it means having an optimized blog which loads up within seconds is essential.  If your blog’s on WordPress (which it should be!), here are a few things you can do to speed things up (in no particular order):

1. Use a Quick Theme

Extremely efficient and quick theme frameworks such as Thesis Theme (link here) not only provide great customization options, they significantly speed up your blog and provide you with quick load times. Thesis is a very popular and a solid, strong WordPress theme framework, and one of its main features is fast load speeds. Thesis claims to be extremely efficient (more details about this on their website), and this in turn means that your WordPress blog loads quicker. Another similar and equally good – if not equally popular – WordPress framework is Genesis.

2. Use Caching Plugins

Perhaps one of the best aspects about WordPress is its ability to easily install plugins, and of course the fact that there is a large selection of plugins available on the platform. I recommend using one of the many caching plugins available on the platform, that will great increase the page load times on your blog. What these plugins do is serve static HTML files from your blog, instead of processing the heavier WordPress PHP scripts. What this essentially means is that a large number of your visitors are served the static, quicker-loading files. This process will also significantly reduce the load on your server. Two of the best caching plugins available on WordPress at the moment are W3 Total Cache and Super Cache.

3. Get Rid of the Clutter

I’m talking about plugins and widgets that you don’t use (or rarely use for that matter), spam comments, images that you don’t use, as well as post revision (more on this in point no. 4). For starters, one of the most simple things you can do here is get rid of the plugins/widgets you don’t use, or that don’t add anything useful to your blog. The more plugins that are installed (and active) on your WordPress blog, the slower it will become. And while there is no specific number of plugins that you should have active at any given time, it is widely accepted that it shouldn’t be more than 10. Choose plugins and widgets that you think you really need for the blog. As far as comments and post revision are concerned, it brings us to point no. 4…

4. Optimize Your Database

With the passage of time, the size of your WordPress database will increase. For one, spam comments add a useless overhead to your blog. Delete spam comments immediately instead of keeping them in your database. In addition, whenever you save a draft of a post you (or someone else) might be working on, WordPress automatically saves the post revision to the database. Now depending on the number of times a draft is saved, and the number of writers working on your blog, you could end up with hundreds of revision/drafts of the same post in a single day! All this does is weigh-down your blog. I recommend using WP Optimize, an excellent free plugin that allows you to clean up and optimize your WordPress database by removing post revision and spam/unapproved comments at the click of a button.

5. Optimize Images

Depending on the size of your blog, the size of the database and the number of posts/pages in it, you might have a lot of large-size images files on your database as well as on your pages, which would adversely affect page load times, and weigh down your blog unnecessarily. Once again, WordPress plugins to the rescue! Always optimize your images before uploading them in your WordPress, use a plugin like WP Smush.it for this purpose. It automatically optimizes your images as soon as they’re uploaded – without the need for you to do anything manually – without compromising on the image quality.

6. Move/Upgrade to Better Hosting

Tried all of the above but still suffering from poor load-times, and sluggish blog speed? If so, it might be time to look at external factors which affect blog speeds, most notable of which is your webhosting. Slow load speeds could be because of unreliable or bad webhosting, or a slow/inadequate webhosting package. When most blogs start off, they tend to do so on cheap webhosting packages, however with the passage of time, the blog will probably start to outgrow your old hosting, especially when you traffic levels start to increase. You could ask your hosting service to upgrade you to a better package (with more memory and processing power), for e.g. move from shared hosting to a dedicated package (or a VPS – a Virtual Private Server). Alternatively, you could opt to move to a better (more expensive) webhost altogether. It all depends on your blog’s needs (especially its current and projected traffic levels), and of course, your budget.

Tips and Tricks to Boost the Traffic on Your Blog

15 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

Traffic is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most important thing as far as a blog is concerned, and when it comes to traffic, the more the merrier (generally speaking).

A large chunk of bloggers out there find it difficult to get traffic on their blog. And the job gets even tougher when it comes to getting targeted traffic on your blog. There’s a lot of competition – regardless of which niche you’re blogging on.

However getting traffic on your blog is easier than you might think (yes, you read that right!)

Here are a few tips, tricks and ways which you can use to boost your Google PR, exposure and visibility, get more visitors, decrease your bounce rate, increase your Page Rank, get a great little boost in your traffic immediately, and have the best blog out there.

1. Use a good webhosting service. It all starts from your webhost, if your webhost is reliable and offers a great service, your website will load up quickly and will always accessible. According to Google, site speed and page speed play in important part in Google’s web search ranking, and Google takes site speed into account as far as search rankings are concerned. You can check your blog’s site speed in Google Analytics (under Content > Site Speed), or using this online tool. Conversely, websites hosted on cheap and/or unreliable webhosts suffer slow load speeds and frequent downtimes so make sure you choose a good, reliable webhost right from the get-go. HostGator, BlueHost, DreamHost, JustHost, and WebhostingPad are just some of the best ones out there.

2. Make sure that your blog uses WordPress, which is without a shadow of a doubt, the best CMS out there! While it does have its flaws, WordPress offers the best blogging experience for the blog owner, as well as the blog visitors. For instance WordPress comes with a powerful yet easy-to-use dashboard, a large (and I do mean large in every sense of the word!) selection of themes to choose from, an equallu large (if  not bigger) selection of plugins/widgets to choose from, and an amazing amount of flexibility in terms of your blog’s appearance. WordPress is also very Google-friendly, and WordPress-based blog tend to rank very well – which of course means more organic traffic. In addition, WordPress is quick, and since it’s an open source project, it is free.

3. Like I said before, one of the best things about WordPress is the availability of a large number of plugins – both free and paid-for. For example WordPress.org alone currently has over 22,000 free plugins (with the number continuously on the rise), and sites such as CodeCanyon offer many great free and paid-for plugins for the platform. One of the great things about these plugins is that there something for everything – from social plugins to SEO plugins. WordPress is already quite SEO-friendly, a coupled with a good theme like the Thesis or the Genesis framework (more on that below), and a few SEO plugins, your blog becomes a potential powerhouse in terms of SEO! With free plugins such as WP SEO by Yoast, you can optimize almost every single aspect of your blog, improve your rankings, improve your SERP, rank high for your keywords, and of course, get more traffic.

4. Another great aspect about WordPress is the availability of a wide range of themes. With a good theme, you can totally change the appearance of your blog, and make it look precisely how you want it to, and change many different aspects of your blog and its functionality. WordPress currently has over 1600 free themes on its website, however a simple Google search (WordPress themes) will yield thousands (if not more) of free and premium 3rd party themes; you can find just about any theme in order to make your blog look just the way you want it to. For e.g. you can look for theme packs on ThemeForest or Themify, or grab theme pack from the likes of ThemeFuse, WooThemes or Elegant Themes. Alternatively, you also have the option of grabbing a great theme framework for your WordPress blog, something like the Thesis theme. A good theme will allow you to have a great-looking blog, which will not only attract – and keep – more visitors to your blog, but will also speed-up your website significantly.

5. Social sharing is important, and social media needs to be an integral part of a great blog. Add social media sharing buttons on your blog, which allow visitors to share your content easily. This is great for exposure, and driving more traffic to your blog. And the best part is that adding social buttons to your WordPress blog is as simple as adding a one (or a few) plugins and/or widget to it. Plugins such as DiggDigg, Simple Social Buttons, and many more allow you to accomplish this effortlessly. Never underestimate the importance and the usefulness of social media. Make sure that your blogs uses the power of social to get more traffic. Like site speed, Google also takes a blog’s social metrics into account when determining its rankings.

6. Content is king, it’s as simple as that. I know this particular phrase tends to get thrown around quite excessively, however it doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the sort of content that you’re creating, and your success or failure hinges upon it. Without quality content, you cannot expect to do anything. However producing high-quality content, that is unique, relevant and useful is not easy, far from it actually. As a blogger, you’re required to have an ample amount of knowledge and insight on the topic you’re writing on, as well as excellent writing skills. Produce the best content, and people will not only visit your blog, they’ll be inclined to subscribe to you, and share your content with others as well.

7. Guest Posting and Commenting - I discussed this in great depth in one of the previous articles, however it is necessary to go over this again. As discussed before, both guest posting and blog commenting are pretty awesome ways of building backlinks – backlinks  that will allow you to drive traffic back to your blog. Take, for instance, guest posting; try finding authority blogs on your niche and submit a well-written (and relevant) guest post there. If you’re able to get a single backlink on such a blog, your blog will tons of exposure and inbound traffic. Similarly, the same applies to comments. I particularly recommend posting comments on CommentLuv-enabled blogs, as these blog give you a free backlink (a do-follow backlink in some cases) to your blog. Posting useful and relevant comments on blogs similar to yours should be done on a daily basis.

While this is far from a comprehensive or an all-inclusive list of things that you can do to get more traffic – and there’s plenty more that you can do – covering the basics and doing the list of things mentioned in this article should see you blog experience a significant improvement in traffic levels.

6 Safe and Google-Friendly Ways to Build Backlinks

14 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

Backlinks is easily the most important and essential element of a successful blog, vital to the health and well-being of your blog.

It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that backlinks are the heart and soul of your blog!

SEOs, internet marketers and webmasters therefore understandably concentrate their efforts on using many different kinds of methods to build backlinks, in order to generate and drive traffic to their blog, and rank on the top of the SERPs for certain keywords in order to get organic traffic from search engines such as Google.

Google has implemented a number of updates and changes to how its search engine algorithm functions – the biggest or the most prominent of which have been Google Panda and Google Penguin. These updates have completely changed the way how Google indexes webpages, and hence how people build backlinks, among other things.

Safe to say, the Panda and the Penguin have been nothing short of game-changers. A lot of traditional forms of link-building are now black-hat – or in other words deemed to be illegal or against Google’s terms. In short, link-building or building backlinks to your blog now requires a little more hard work and patience.

Here are some of the ways that bloggers and IMs can (and should) build backlinks, in a safe and Google-friendly manner:

1. Guest Blogging

Guest blogging as a method to build backlinks is second-to-none. It is safe, Google-friendly, effective and efficient, and win-win for all parties involved. A lot of blogs and websites on the internet are looking for fresh content, and hence accept and encourage guest posts on their blog. Search for such blogs in your niche (tip: put your niche name followed by ‘guest blogging’ or ‘guest posting’ in Google to find such blogs), and submit a well-written guest post there. Include a single or a couple of links to your blog in your post (this is allowed by the blog you’re posting on, although you should double-check this with the blog owner). If it’s an authority blog that is active and get a lot of visitors, your article and hence your link(s) will get a lot of exposure, allowing you to drive traffic to your blog. You can also put in a link to your blog in the ‘author bio’ section. You get a high-PR backlink to your blog, while the blog owner gets quality content on his blog; win-win for all! However remember that guest blogging is not a one-off thing, and shouldn’t be treated as such; your aim is to continue writing quality guest posts and making a name for yourself. Quality content is key, since you want to be seen as an authority in your niche.

2. Comments

Comments or blog-commenting remains one of the easiest and most safe, Google-friendly (and free!) ways of building valuable backlinks. It’s all pretty simple: look for similar blogs in your niche, and leverage their comments system to get backlinks. However a few important ground-rules to consider: (a) look for blogs that are similar to your own, since relevance is important, (b) never spam the blog’s comments section – especially with mundane stuff like ‘thanks’, ‘nice post’, etc., (c) always post comments that are relevant to the blog’s theme and more importantly, the content of the post itself, and (d) post a (short) comment that adds something constructive and useful to the conversation and takes it ahead. Doing so will increase the CTR of your backlink significantly. Some blogs offer a do-follow backlink which shows up with each comment (such as those using the CommentLuv plugin). Try becoming a top commenter on blogs which have the ‘Top Commenter’ widget installed; that will put your name and your one of your article link on the homepage of that blog (massive exposure!).

3. Social Media

Social media is a fantastic tool for building backlinks. It provides you with a great platform to drive traffic to your blog. Social mediums and social networks have really blown up in the last couple of years, and continue to do so at a massive pace – Facebook crossed the 1 billion (yes, billion with a ‘b’!) users mark a few weeks back, and the likes of Youtube, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram continue to see massive amounts of growth. Each social network represents an enormous ‘market’ where people interested in quality content, solutions, information and something which interests them come together. Use this amazing platform to drive traffic to your blog. A single link on Facebook, for instance, has the chance to be liked, shared, retweeted, +1’d and hence be seen by a large group of people. What this essentially boils down to is that a single link in the right place on a single social networking website has the power to drive in a massive amount of traffic; think of what you can do with multiple links on multiple social networks! On a side-note: do no underestimate the power of Youtube and video, it could be your best ally in terms of building backlinks.

4. Content

Content, as they say, is the best form of SEO. Once your blog is up, you should be putting the maximum amount of energy and effort into creating the best content out there. Creating compelling content that is unique, relevant and is informative, interesting, helpful and insightful to people will automatically have them become returning visitors (aka. returning customers). In other words, the quality content that your produce will become your best link-building strategy – people will automatically link to your content on their blogs, websites and publications, and share it over their Facebook and Twitter profiles. No matter which niche you’re working in, try creating content that is worth linking to, content that is useful and helpful to the readers in your niche. This, as you’ll soon find out, is the best link-building strategy out there! Content marketing is an important cog in this; it involves ‘creating and distributing valuable content to attract your customers without ‘selling’ (more info here).

5. Products and/or Services

Developing products or offering a service is another great way of building backlinks. For instance you could offer a free eBook on ‘how to make money online’, or ‘how to double your traffic’, or even a ‘learn the guitar in 120 days’ eBook-based course. You could choose to offer this for free, or charge a small fee for it. Depending on how useful and unique the information is, and how well you market it, a single eBook (or a course based on several eBooks) with a few backlinks to your blog could prove to be an invaluable source of traffic. You could do something similar by developing apps, software, or widgets. For instance developing an app for the iPhone and offering it for free is an extremely profitable way of getting exposure and driving traffic to your blog. Other ideas include podcasts, flash-based games, wallpapers, internet memes, infographics, or developing a free toolbar.

6. Sponsorships and Promotions

Sponsorships and promotions also have massive potential as far as building links is concerned. However bear in mind that most of these methods will require you to spend some money. For starters, you could sponsor an event – online or offline – in partnership with a similar blog, such as a blogger’s conference in your area. You could also partner with a blog and do a giveaway of sorts, for instance you could partner with an authority sports blog in your niche to give away a vintage Chicago Bulls MJ jersey, and ask the blog to link to you. You could even run a similar promotion on your own blog, or its Facebook page, asking people to ‘like’ and ‘share’ your post in order to be chosen for the draw. People love to win free things, and spending money on such a promotion could turn out to be very profitable for you in the long run! (Slightly unrelated, but you could also look into opportunities to speak at your local college or university (or sponsor a conference, for that matter) in order to earn some valuable ‘.edu’ backlinks for your blog.

Questions, comments, thoughts? Do leave you feedback in the comments!

Developing a Social Media Strategy

13 Nov 2012 Uncategorized

The advent and emergence of social media is arguably Web 2.0’s biggest success story. Social networks have taken over the world by storm. Everyone is one Facebook – and that includes your grandma! More and more people are starting to warm up to Twitter, and relatively ‘newer’ networks such as Pinterest and more recently, Instagram have seen an amazing amount of growth as well.

Unsurprisingly, the statistics are staggering, and quite telling: Facebook, for starters, just crossed the billion users mark, which means that 1 in every 7 people in the world uses Facebook! Twitter, another extremely popular social-media/niche-blogging website now has over half-a-billion users, making it the second-largest social network, and Twitter users send out a staggering 750 tweets every second! The stats are equally impressive when you look at the likes of Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtube (and up to a certain extent, Google Plus).

From an internet marketer’s perspective, the really encouraging fact about all this is that if the numbers aren’t good enough already, they’re continuously on the rise! More and more people are joining the social networking bandwagon, and things look quite encouraging for bloggers and internet marketers. The potential for bloggers to get the word out, and drive sales, for instance, is enormous.

Blogs need a support mechanism to function; they simply cannot grow on their own. Social media provides a perfect opportunity for bloggers to grow and expand, get attention and recognition, and get noticed in a big way.

For this purpose, you’ll need to devise, develop and launch a social media strategy – a roadmap which will, to put it simply, allow you to be successful on social media. This roadmap can be listed down as part of the following steps:

  1. Audience – Define your audience
  2. Presence – Define your presence
  3. Objectives – Define your objectives
  4. Content – Create and plan your content
  5. Engagement – Engage, communicate, participate and network
  6. Integration – Integrate with other forms of online and offline presence
  7. Management – manage and monitor your social media strategy

Audience

Start off with defining your audience. This is all marketing 101 basically:

  • Who are your existing and potential customers?
  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • What are their interests? What are the things that are important to them, and that they care about?
  • Where do they exist (time zone-specific)?
  • How can your social media presence be of benefit to them? How can you be of help or assistance to them?
  • What valuable information or service will you be able to provide them with?

Presence

It’s all about presence. In order to be successful on social media, you actually need to be on it. Make sure that you have profiles for your blog on all popular social networking websites – including the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Youtube, Four Square, Pinterest, and Instagram.

At this point, it might be wise to choose the most profitable social mediums for your blog, brand or business – having a presence on a large number of social mediums is great, because in terms of exposure, the more the merrier, however depending on the size of your set up, it might be unmanageable. Besides, don’t expect every social website to be as ‘profitable’ as the others. Pinterest, for instance, is dominated by female users, therefore if you have a blog that you feel would appeal to the female demographic more, Pinterest should be on top of your priority list. Make sure you do your research in terms of the ROI on each social medium.

Start by making a list of all the popular and niche social mediums out there, and sit with your team to narrow them down to a manageable number. Make sure that you set up your social media accounts properly – name of the organization, what it does, website, contact information, logo and pictures… the whole deal. Fill out all important description, and make sure the page looks filled-out.

Objectives

Once again, it is essential to ask yourself a few pertinent questions:

  • What objective(s) will your social media presence be able to serve?
  • What will your presence be able to accomplish?
  • What are the goals, objectives and KPI’s (such as Facebook ‘Likes’, Twitter followers, etc.) and how will you be able to measure them? What tools will you use for this purpose?

Content

As with just about all else these days, content is central to everything. When it comes to content, there are a few things that apply everywhere: quality, uniqueness, relevance and usefulness.

Start off by determining what you want to say to the people who connect with you. Plan your content according to upcoming events, new posts that will be published on your blog, developments in your industry or niche. You should have an idea about a list of things that you will share with your fans and followers/. Content ideas include the abovementioned (blog post updates, industry news and events), as well as stuff such as relevant stories about real people, pictures/images/infographics, interesting statistics, news and updates about your organization and/or its stakeholders, videos, and so on and so forth. When it comes to content, the possibilities are endless!

Look at your competitors in order to see what kind of content they’re putting up on their social media profiles, and how they’ve been able to engage with their audience. Try emulating some of their best practices, but most importantly, try being unique and different. The best kind of content (for blogs, social media, websites, anything) is the kind that stands out from the crowd on its own!

At this point, it might be a good idea to determine who in your organization is responsible for managing the content. For instance you could delegate it to your employees by adding it to their job descriptions, hire a social media content manager, or take care of it yourself. Regardless, make sure that the voice and the sound/messages that come out of your company remains uniform.

Content, as you’ll soon find out, will be key to increasing the number of likes/follows on social mediums and growing your fanbase. The better content your post (humorous, informational, useful, valuable, insightful, informative), the more people will ‘like’ your updates, share or retweet them with their own social circles, giving you valuable exposure.

Engagement

Sending out updates is one thing, using your social media profiles to actually engage and interact with your audience is a totally different thing. For this purpose, make sure that you check back periodically for feedback/replies on your Facebook, Twitter, etc. and make an effort to respond to your fans and followers. You might not need to do this a lot initially, but once your fanbase/follower numbers start to blow up and your page becomes more active, you might be required to reply or respond to a large number of people.

Another aspect of engagement involves constantly reminding people that you’re there, and you exist. Remember, never use social media for annoying sales pitches, or forcing your followers to buy something. Instead, drive sales by sending out updates at regular intervals, which ‘remind’ them about your existence, and constantly brings your name/brand into their notice.

This has proved to be a much better technique of driving sales and/or traffic to your blog than spamming your customers with a sales pitch.

I recommend using a social media management tool such as HootSuite to manage your social profiles from a single window, and of course for scheduling updates (Buffer works pretty well for that purpose too).

Integration

Integration simple refer to integrating your social media presence with your other online and offline forms of presence. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Adding a link/button to your Facebook or Twitter pages on your website/blog
  • Asking people to like your Facebook page by giving its link on all your print material (online and offline)
  • Adding a link to your social media profiles on your merchandise, apps, software, etc.
  • Asking employees in your organization to append the link to the company’s social profiles in their email signatures

Management

At the end of the day, it is essential to manage and control some pertinent aspects of your social media marketing strategy. For starters, make sure that your organization, as well as your employees are protected legally. Internally, devise a social media do’s and don’ts for your employees, so that you can control what information goes out and what should stay in.

Furthermore, make sure that you and your social media management team understands how to tackle and deal with questions, comments, positive or (more importantly) negative feedback, internet trolls, and the like.

With the passage of time, your social media strategy will require changes, especially once your social activity starts to increase. Hopefully, this guide should help you set things up. Feel free to get in touch via the comments below!