How I Became a Guest Writer On One of the World’s Most Popular Blogs

Note From Matt: LearnToBlog.com has a thriving private Facebook community for members. Recently, one of the members, Jenish, told us of a success story where he was featured on the popular site, ProBlogger. This story peaked the interest of our members, and we asked Jenish to write an article with his story on how he was featured by such a well-known blog.

Enjoy Jenish’s story, insights, and action steps for getting seen on one of the world’s most popular blogs…

Enter Jenish:

Imagine yourself as a blogging newbie, only blogging for 6 or 7 months, and the first ever guest blog post you write gets published on ProBlogger (one of the largest blog on the subject of blogging).

Think about how excited you would get… What it would mean for your blog… How much extra traffic you would receive… And most of all, how many other doors it would open for you…

You may be thinking that it’s impossible, but guess what? That’s exactly what happened to me. A post that I wrote titled “ProBlogger in Perth: 10 Things Darren Wishes He Knew About Blogging” got published on ProBlogger (PB) and here is the story of how I got featured.

Before I tell you the whole story, I would like to remind you that “ProBlogger is not currently accepting any unsolicited submissions at this time”. So please keep that in mind before you get any crazy ideas.

Perth Mini ProBlogger Event

Jenish Pandya and Darren Rowse ProBloggerIt was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Perth on the 23rd of February and the time was around 1:45 pm when I entered the venue where the Perth mini ProBlogger event was being held.

This was the first time Darren Rowse had come to Perth and the event had sold out within hours of the tickets going on sale.

Upon entering the venue, I spotted a few people chitchatting near the main hall entrance and decided to join them. One of them was Darren himself. We began talking about blogging and his journey around it.

I was quite surprised by how down to earth and honest this guy was. My respect for him increased ten fold after meeting him.

In the presentation, Darren covered two topics “10 things he wished he knew when he started blogging” and “7 Quick Blogging Tips“.

After the presentation, we went for drinks where I continued to build upon my initial conversation with Darren. We both shared a few interesting stories, and I also met quite a few other business owners.

The Blog Post “7 Quick Blogging Tips”

Darren Rowse's 7 Quick Blogging TipsDarren was a celebrity in my mind and in the “I can’t believe it’s him” excitement, throughout his presentation, I was taking photos of him with his slides. The photos were meant as simple “memory joggers” for my personal use.

On the way back home, a brilliant idea hit me. I could convert these photos into a blog post! This would not only help me, but it would also provide an inside look for those who weren’t able to attend the event.

Once back home, I was so excited that I started putting the blog post together. I quickly realized that it was going to be a very long post if both topics were put together. Then another genius idea struck me. Why not publish one of the posts on ProBlogger and the other on my own blog?

After another 4-5 hours, and not getting to bed until around 2 am, I had finished a draft of the post that I was going to publish on my blog.

On the 24th, after returning from work, I reviewed and tidied up my post and hit the publish button.

The Magic Email

After Publishing the post, I contacted Darren through the contact form on ProBlogger and sent the following email:

Hi Darren,

Cheers for coming down to Perth and sharing some awesome tips.

I know you have stopped taking guest bloggers but was wondering if you would accept me publishing a slightly different post than normal about the main presentation you did at the Perth Mini PBevent.

I have published the 7 tips you talked about at http://jenishpandya.com/darren-rowse-7-quick-blogging-tips/ and would like to do a similar one about the “10 things he wished he knew about blogging” on ProBlogger but with more detail and linking to all the old PB posts that talk about each specific thing.

What do you say Darren?

Regards,

Jenish

I was aware that ProBlogger wouldn’t be taking new guest bloggers (especially newbies) but I gave it a shot anyway, relying on these three things:

  • The rapport I had built with him in person.
  • The uniqueness of my content.
  • The example of what it would turn out to be.

The Green Light

After waiting for three days for a reply, I thought that’s it, no one is going to reply to me, I’m not at high enough standards to get published on ProBlogger. Silly me!

On the morning of the 28th I received an email from the editor of ProBlogger saying:

I love the idea of the topic you’d like to write about, I think it will work well. The sooner you get it through, the sooner we can look at getting it up!

I jumped up and down a few times and probably would have shouted like crazy if there weren’t people staring at me already.

I was super stoked to receive such a reply, I just couldn’t believe it. They liked it, and they wanted to feature it on ProBlogger. I read the email another four or five times to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.

The 2,500 word Epic PostScreen Shot 2014-08-25 at 12.13.47 PM

After realizing that I was really invited to guest post on ProBlogger, it hit me; I had a lot of work in front of me and I wanted this to be something that would stand out and provide incredible value to the readers. I did not want to disappoint Darren or the editor in thinking that they made the wrong decision.

The other important thing was that I had never written a guest post before. So think of that for a second. A guy who has never published a guest post has to write for one of the leading blogs on the topic of blogging.

I was nervous and happy at the exact same moment. It was a weird feeling but in a good way.

It took me roughly three days (a long weekend) to get the post ready.

First day: I researched how to write guest posts (lol), wrote a draft, added all the images, formatted it and made it look pretty.

Second day: I spent time researching ProBlogger for all of the articles that were related to this post and then did a bit more editing and reviewing.

Third day: I called in a favor from a friend to review the post and advise me on any mistakes. Then I reviewed it once more.

The Scare

Stressed businessman at computer

Once I was happy with the final version, on March 3rd, I sent it to the editor for review and then waited…

After waiting a few days and receiving no reply, I was concerned that they hated the post and that it was so bad that they wouldn’t even spend the time to reply back.

You know that feeling that you get after deciding to do something and then once complete everything starts going pear-shaped, and you start asking yourself “Why did you even bother?”. That is exactly what I was going through.

But I pushed through that feeling and decided to continue following up. I knew the whole ProBlogger team was busy with the launch of their membership site so I didn’t want to be too pushy about my post. I followed up every other week through email.

I didn’t hear anything back the entire month of March. Imagine that… Here I was, I had spent three days meticulously crafting this post and I had no idea what was going to happen with it. The uncertainty is tougher than rejection.

Finally, in the first week of April, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I received a reply from the editor.

The Waiting Game

We went back and forth a few times due to some technical issues with the viewing of my draft but, after everything was sorted, I was told to wait for it to get published. Their calendar was quite full and my post would need to be slotted in somewhere.

Everyday, I waited eagerly for the post to be publish with no such luck. After May, I just stopped worrying about it and patiently waited. Lesson learned from the Scare I had received in March.

After a long wait of almost three months, without any knowledge of when the post would go live, it finally popped up at the end of July.

All is Well that ends Well.

Lessons Learned (Action Steps)

This whole guest post experience was an emotional roller-coaster filled with very important lessons along the way. I would love to share my top 5 lessons learned:

Go to live events and meet/network people

Anyone who has gone to an offline event and networked properly can guarantee you that it is one of the best ways to grow your business. In my case, if I had missed that event, I would have never been published on ProBlogger and I would have never written this blog post. You never know what opportunities might come up.

Create Unique content

One of the most important reasons that I think my post was published was that it was unique. The post was nothing like previous posts published on ProBlogger and it also borrowed some credibility from Darren himself.

The other part that was unique was that I had added my own takeaway on each point. It was not just a recap of what happened at the event, it was from the angle of how I saw it. ProBlogger readers found that really useful.

Have Samples

Since I had a similar post already published on my blog, the editor could see my writing style along with an idea of what my guest post would be. This helped me overcome the typical guest post barriers of whether “I am good enough or not” in the eyes of an editor.

So make sure when you are approaching people that you send them your samples along with your email.

Follow Up

Popular blog editors are busy people. It is possible that your guest post might get missed due to their workload. It is your responsibility to remind them about it. Following up is key!

Have Patience

This would be my biggest lesson learned through this whole process.

Things never happen the way we want or at the time we want them to. It took roughly four months to get the post published but, once it got published, it was all worth it.

Never give up and be patient.

Get those guest posts cranking and you never know what opportunities will pop up.

Just keep in mind “Even if all the doors are closed, there is a chance that a window is still open – Jenish Pandya“.

The Guest Blogging Snafu: Critical Info for Blog Owners

 The Basics:

guest blogging penalty flag

Accepting guest blog posts might soon result in Google penalties.

Google’s anti-spam chief Matt Cutts started an explosion across the SEO and Blogging worlds when he announced in mid-January that ‘Guest posting for SEO is dead.”  Since then, other Google officials and Cutts himself have revised this assessment – but it is still clear that Google is getting ready to pay a ton more attention to blogs that host guest posts – and it is clear that there will be SERP penalties for blogs that intentionally or unintentionally allow spammy backlinks in guest posts.

If you own a blog that gets requests involving offers of guest blogging – this could obviously be a huge problem, especially if you do not understand the nature of the problem from Google’s eyes.

At the core, this is a dispute about backlinks, so you will need to understand how links work and how to respond to requests post-Google’s Guest-blogging crackdown.

This post will:

  • Review what happened to get Google so fired up about a seemingly innocuous practice (guest blogging)
  • Explain all the details about how to understand and police your backlinks (especially from Guest Blog Posts)
  • Explain why you should still allow guest bloggers/blogging with conditions
  • And, explain how you should answer requests from potential guest bloggers.

What Got Matt Cutts so Grumpy?

You may be saying to yourself,

“um….self, why in the world do I need to understand anything new about guest blogging – I have a blog, I sometimes get someone new to post on it….it seems to be good for my blog and for the guest poster – right?”

Sadly, the answer to your question may often be – “wrong” – even when your heart is totally in the right place about why you want to accept guest blogging posts.

In theory, and for many people in practice, guest blogging is a mutually beneficial activity contracted between a blog owner and a guest writer.  Guest posts add additional content from a new voice – they potentially bring in new readers – and they can add to your blogs search engine rankings.

And therein is the rub…

That last point – helping SEO – is what has created this massive amount of new drama.

Black-hat SEO geniuses are in many ways like hackers – they keep probing until they figure out holes in Google’s anti-spam policies and then exploit those holes to help their clients SERP – often at the expense of people unintentionally in the crossfire.

We have seen all kinds of tools go from good SEO strategy to possible SEO penalization as a result of these tactics (for instance blog rolls, comments, Wikipedia, etc.)  In the series of posts that Cutts has posted on guest blogging he broke it down like a frustrated parent – he said basically that SEO’s are not capable of having nice things.

Cutts sometimes comes across like that guy that holds his anger in and lets it build until finally it explodes.  He is like a tea kettle that builds to a good boil then makes a TON of noise.  He started posting about spammy link practices in 2005 – introducing the nofollow and dofollow concepts for links (we will talk more about this in a few minutes).  Since then, he has slowly identified, warned, grown frustrated with, and exploded on most of the spammy SEO practices mentioned above.

His current annoyance is spammy guest blogging for SEO and he has reached his breaking point – it seems clear that there will be Google consequences for spammy guest blogging.

But, how is Guest Blogging spam?

Over the last few years black hatters have exploited popular blogs by offering to provide to those blogs with guest blogging services –even often offering to pay for the privilege of providing guest posts.  This offer is, of course, a Trojan horse – allowing black hat firms to pass page rank to their client sites through backlinks in the guest blogging posts.

One of the ways Google determines the importance of a site is by evaluating the backlinks that it generates.

If you have a popular site and you link to another site, Google assumes that means the other site is important too.  When you bless another site by linking to it you are giving it your seal of approval in the eyes of Google.  Google calls this “passing page rank.”  As in you pass the rank of your site on to the other linked site.

One of the primary no-no’s in Google’s list of webmaster guidelines is paying for, or accepting payment for, passing page rank.

Google does not like paid links.  They feel it corrupts their ability to determine which sites actually are quality sites that provide valuable information to Google searchers and which sites are unhelpful sites that provide spam filled nonsense.

web-master

Google wants webmasters, and if you run a blog or website you are technically a webmaster, to alert Google’s bots (or Googlebots or spiders the algorithms that determine site value crawling the web looking at sites) to links that are really advertisements (spam) as opposed to legitimate organic links.

So what is the scam?

Black-hat SEO experts offer their guest blogging services – and even pay you to provide this guest blogging content.  They then load these posts up with spammy links that pass page rank to their clients.  The posts that they deliver might be well written and even have decent content germane to your readers – but they are done to pass page rank from your popular site to their clients sites through the spammy backlinks contained in the body of the post.

For any of you who once received phishing scam emails offering to “gift you” a large portion of a distressed Nigerian Princes wealth (only under the condition that he could be given basic access to your bank accounts) you may have smelled something “phishy” when you got your first guest blogging offers.  But for many blog owners, these guest blogging offers have been taken as both a way to earn a bit of extra money and a way to get more content to their blog.

Google thinks that the whole purpose of what they do is to identify value through providing search results that matter to the searcher.  It is easy to see how Google gets mad because often the links will attach to a site that has nothing at all to do with the subject in the post itself (Cutts has detailed a litany of examples – once he gave the example of a post on linux with links to online casinos).

Ok, but how do links work for Google exactly?

There are two kinds of backlinks in Google’s eyes.  The first kind is called “dofollow” and it is the default – in other words, any link unless noted otherwise is considered a “dofollow” link.  This just means that the link creator wants bots to be able to follow the link when they try to determine where the link goes and the value of where the link goes.

The second kind of link is called “nofollow.”  If you do not want bots to follow your link to determine where the link goes and the value or where it goes you can add a “nofollow” attribute in the html coding (links are set off in the htmll by the href attribute – so the nofollow goes after the href attribute and the link url – you add the text rel=nofollow> at the end of the string).

A dofollow link would look like:

<a href=www.imadethisup.com>I Made This Up </a>

A nofollow link for the same thing would look like:

<a href=www.imadthisup.com rel=”nofollow”> I Made This Up </a>

Googlebots examine the text and determine what they should or should not follow by examining the html.  Google wants webmasters to treat the bots like newspaper editors treat readers when they explicitly identify areas of the text as “advertising.”  Nofollow links identify to Google bots that a link is advertising and should not be followed.

What you should do – Part One – Policing your Backlinks

guest-blogging-police

As a general rule, you should get in the practice of making all links in your guest posts “nofollow” links.  You should start to go back through your back catalog of posts and add “nofollow” to any guest blog links.

This is really important to you!

Once Google gets rolling on policing Guest Blogging spam they will punish webmasters not the writers.  In other words, the site that hosts spammy links through guest blogging will be the sites that Google penalizes.  And the Penguin update to Google’s algorithm was all about being able to identify exactly these kinds of spammy links.  In other words, it is in your interest to start protecting yourself.

What you should do – Part Two – Continue to Accept Guest Blogs but With Conditions

In Cutts’ addendum to his original outburst he explicitly mentioned the potential benefits of guest posting, “I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water.  There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community etc.).  Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future…I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I think Cutts over-generalizes all SEO into black hat SEO but given that he spends all his time dealing with creative black hat trickery – he can certainly be forgiven.

Even if Guest Posting is not done for the reason of passing page rank – it can still be of SEO value.  For instance, if linkage between two popular sites creates more reader-ship for both that will eventually convey an SEO benefit.

Guest posts can also be directly beneficial to your blog. A nofollow link is still a way to connect two popular sites and create increased readership by linking two popular sites.  Readers are not Googlebots – clicking on “nofollow” links does not stop their journey.  Links still create visibility for both sites.

What you should do – Part Three – How you Should Respond to Guest Blogging Requests

I believe most of this whole snafu could be cleared up with one simple blog owner response – “Yes, I would love to consider posting your content as long as you do not mind that I insist on all links being “nofollow” links.”

If everyone who hosts a blog used this response – every single time – guest blogging for spammy SEO truly would be dead.

Google has stated that they are only concerned with spammy “dofollow” links in Guest blogs.  If someone is fine with all links being “nofollow” links they are probably ok.

Another good rule of thumb is to accept Guest blogs mostly from people you have a relationship with and/or trust.  If you are going to accept someone you do not know, do some research, read other things they have written and see if they are involved in selling links.

Summing it all Up

Google is going to penalize blogs that they identify as accepting guest posts with spammy links.  It is in your interest to:

  • Take control and look through all your guest blogging content – police your links and be alert to the scam.
  • Don’t pass page rank for money.
  • Learn to use the “nofollow” link in your html code.
  • Only accept guest posts that agree to only “nofollow” links in that content.
  • Be willing to play detective and look into the kind of content people offering their blogging services have provided to other sites.
  • Pay attention to what Google is saying about being a webmaster.  A great place to start is reading Matt Cutts blog.

If you are ever approached by someone offering to pay you to post something they have written (guest blogging offers) you should now know exactly what to do – ask them a simple question, “Sure, as long as you are ok with all links being nofollow.”

If you never hear from them again – you will know what they were after.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Josh

The Definitive Guide to Forum Marketing for Bloggers

Forum marketing is one of those tools that, when used effectively, can produce tremendous results. On the other hand, if abused, it’s the quickest way to destroy your online reputation — permanently. The benefits from forum marketing, though, are just to great to avoid.

When you do it the right way, you can build authority, brand your business, increase traffic to your blog, and get hundreds of free leads.

Here’s a detailed “forum marketing for bloggers” guide – how to follow the basics of forum etiquette, and how to maximize personal benefit at the same time.

What Is Forum Marketing?

In essence, forum marketing is marketing your online business by the means of an online community i.e. a forum. Simple concept.

You post on forums, and use them to gain traffic, get leads, increase sales via your signature link. You market your product, service, or website through a forum.

Why Is It (Sometimes) Considered Unethical?

Often, eager young entrepreneurs go a little overboard with forum marketing. In other words, they spam the stuffings out of forums just to get their links out there.

They use a keyword stuffed username, write one-liner trash posts, and link to their blog posts in every single reply and thread they post. Needless to say, their stint on forums is usually relatively brief, once the mods catch on.

They never add any sort of value to the forum. It’s just take, take, take.

Their post devalues the forum, devalues the community, and even devalues themselves.

How To Do It The Right Way – Forum Marketing Tips

Forums are all about community and helping others – getting answers to questions, getting opinions on controversial subjects — just building relationships, getting social, and helping each other. No forum was ever created with the sole purpose of getting its members free traffic.

Here are a few tips on forum marketing to help you get started increasing your blog traffic.

High Traffic Forums
Image Credit(s): Gerard Stolk via Flickr.

Provide value – This is a no-brainer. If what you post on the forum doesn’t really provide value to anyone in any way and only restates a topic that has been used and abused, then there’s no point. You are not providing value, so there is absolutely no reason for you to post it.

Dropping trash one-liners like “great post” and “thanks!” will help you lose your reputation faster than you can say “Jack Robinson”.

Post on threads you know about – If you don’t know about search engine optimization, don’t post a thread/reply about it (unless you’re asking a question or sharing a personal experience).

When you post in categories that you actually know about, you mark yourself as an authority in the subject. Since you know your stuff, people click on your signature link to learn more.

Be relevant – If your signature link leads to a recipe blog, then you should be posting on recipe forums, NOT on an Internet marketing forum.

If the forum is not relevant to your niche, your link won’t get very many clicks. Whatever traffic does happenstance to make its way to your blog will be untargeted, and won’t actually convert and make you money.

Post threads as well as replies – Comparatively, new forum threads will get you considerably more traffic than replies would. That’s for a simple reason – everyone who views the thread is guaranteed to see your post (and thus, your signature link as well).

When you reply, your post often gets lost in the already-present sea of other commentators. No one sees your sig link, and no one clicks on it.

That said, don’t post new threads too often. Nobody likes to see five recent threads on one page of a board all by one person.

Get there first – If you’re gonna reply to a thread anyway, do your best to get there first. The first reply always gets the most exposure (after the original post).

The 1st or the 51st reply – which do you think gets more traffic? It’s the same with blog commenting.

High traffic forums – Another no-brainer. If the forum you post on gets 10 visitors daily, chances are that you’ll get 10 visitors yearly as a result. The higher the amount of traffic to the forum, the higher the amount of traffic to your signature link. Simple equation.

Most of the popular forums will show up on the first page of the SERPs for their respective niche keywords. Just type in [your niche] + forum, and you’ll find high traffic forums to get started on in the blink of an eye.

How To Format Your Signature For A Higher Click-Through Rate

Forum Signature
Image Credit(s): Scott Ableman via Flickr.

Conversion rate optimization is one of my favorite pet peeves. My belief is that you should start testing everything (that includes your blog design, your landing page, your sales funnel, and your autoresponder series) as soon as possible. That way, you don’t miss out on potential traffic.

Here are a few tips on how to format your signature links for more clicks with less impressions.

Use formatting – Use HTML to format your signature text. Underline, italicize, and bold your text to make it stand out. When viewers scroll down the page, your text will catch their eye.

Include a small image – Also paste a small version of your logo in your signature. This also helps it to stand out. Keep in mind that some forums may require you to pay before you can include an image in your signature.

Don’t use your keywords as anchor text – Nofollow or dofollow, remember that your signature will be duplicated across hundreds of different forum threads as you become an active member. Never use your primary keywords as the anchor text. Use a more generic “click here” or “learn more” to stay safe.

Give people a reason to visit your blog – It’s a great idea to link to your squeeze page (where you should be giving something away free in exchange for their e-mail address) in your signature. Mentioning your free report will give viewers a reason to actually click on the link and visit your site.

Wrapping Up

Forum marketing is a powerful tactic, and can be a useful engine to power your blog’s success. As with all things, do it in moderation. Never abuse a forum — always put providing value for others in front of personal gain.

When you do that, chances are that you’ll end up gaining a whole lot more, anyway.

 

10 Blog Commenting Tips To Get Traffic From Other Blogs

Probably one of the easiest (yet widely underrated) traffic strategies out there is blog commenting. The bloggers who haven’t yet latched on to this simple traffic generation method are missing out, because there are few things better than leveraging the already-existing audience of a blog and channeling it to your own.

If you think in work-to-result ratios, then blog commenting probably tops the scale by a wide margin. A simple, short comment on a popular blog that took two minutes to write can get your blog quite a few visitors — especially if you employ the following techniques.

Yes, techniques. You can’t just post one-liners all over the blogosphere and expect people to click your links and check out your blog — it just doesn’t work that way. Reading and applying the following ten blog commenting tips, though, will help you get your comments read and your links clicked.

Let’s get started!

1. Comment On Relevant Blogs

This goes without saying. If your website is all about healthy eating, cars, or funny comics, you shouldn’t be commenting on a blog about the rises and falls in the stock market.

It never ceases to amaze me — so many would-be commenters on my blog want to tell me about garcinia cambogia, home decor, or real estate in South Dakota.

Guess what well-meaning-but-seriously-misguided-commentators — I’m not gonna publish those comments on an online marketing blog. Those comments won’t get approved in a thousand years.

But there’s another downside to commenting on blogs that don’t fit in your niche — whatever traffic you get (IF your comment gets approved and IF someone actually clicks on your link) is untargeted. Simply put, the visitor isn’t necessarily interested in what you offer. And those visitors will never convert or bring you revenue.

2. Comment On High Traffic Blogs

High Traffic Blogs
Image credit(s): Gerard Stolk via Flickr.

If only ten people end up reading the blog post you commented on, then there’s little/no chance that one of them will click on your name and visit your site.

On the other hand, if the blogs you comment on regularly get thousands pageviews per day (think ProBlogger, HubSpot, UnBounce, and the like), then you can expect a lot more traffic than the odd visitor here and there.

If nobody sees your comment, nobody clicks on your name.

Simple.

3. Comment On Blogs That Use The CommentLuv Plugin

CommentLuv is a nifty little WordPress plugin that automatically displays a commentator’s latest blog post. It takes the information from the “Website” field.

Through my own research, I’ve found that I can get 10-12x as much traffic when I add a thought to blogs that use commentluv.

CommentLuv has gotten to be rather popular with blogs, especially in the last year or so. It kills two birds with one stone — increases the number of comments, and rewards commentators, all at the same time.

If you’d like to use it on your own blog, it’s got a free and paid version you can use (the free version is more than enough).

Check out this case study on NetMarketSuccess on how a newbie blogger used CommentLuv-enabled blogs to increase his traffic by 8 times, and his number of inbound links by 12 times.

4. Be A Regular Face

Blog Commenting Tip
Image credit(s): EpsosDe via Flickr.

Even though you can probably get 10-20 visitors from a single comment on a popular blog, you can get a lot more from ten comments on the same blog.

Don’t just drop in, say hi, and leave. Stick around a while. Browse the blog’s archives, and comment on the posts that interest you.

Not only does this generate traffic to your blog, but it also builds a connection with the blog owner. You’ve taken time out of your busy day to read and add a thought to one of his/her blog posts (and there is absolutely nothing we bloggers like more than that).

Here’s another scenario — suppose that a random user has just finished reading a blog post. He sees your comment, but doesn’t click on your name.

But then, he follows an in-text link to another post on the blog, and again sees a comment from you. He has been exposed to your link twice (which results in a much higher click-through rate).

5. Get A Gravatar

Gravatar With Blog Comments
Screenshot @ Gravatar.com.

If you haven’t yet signed up for Gravatar yet and added your image, do so. Right now. Absolutely no excuses.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years and don’t know what Gravatar is (just kidding!), it’s basically a tool that displays your profile image on any WordPress-managed blog you comment on.

Pretty cool, right? I thought so.

Remember: faces and logos stand out a whole lot more than some lousy default icon. You can brand yourself, build blogger-to-blogger relationships, and increase traffic.

This blog commenting thing gets cooler all the time!

6. Get There First

Which comment do you usually read – the 1st, or the 51st?

The 1st? You got it.

On any and every blog post, the first comment ALWAYS gets the most visibility.

Only a small percentage read the comment section in any case. A lot smaller percentage actually scroll all the way down and read all the comments (including the 51st).

Getting their first and being the first one to add a comment to the blog will usually result in huge exposure for you and your blog.

To stay on top whenever a blog post gets published, subscribe to their RSS feed (nearly every blog worth commenting on will have an RSS feed).

7. Reply To The First Comment

Here’s a sneaky lil’ trick.

If, for some reason, you weren’t able to beat whats-his-name to the first comment space, then just reply to his comment.

Your comment will get just about the same visibility as the first commentator did.

However, this might not always work out so well, as some comments are really the type that can be replied to (think comments like “Great post!” or “I wish my blog could be more like yours!”).

Make sure that whatever you say when your reply actually says something. “Good comment!” doesn’t cut it. Oppose one of his thoughts (explain why he’s wrong), add to what he said (explain why he’s right), or answer his question.

8. Answer A Question

Answering a question is probably the greatest tip I could give you.

Answering someone else’s question puts you on the same level of knowledge as the blog owner.

For example, if someone needed to know something about SEO, and you stepped in and quickly answered his question, you’ve basically told everybody that you know the niche, which makes them a lot more likely to click your link, browse your blog, and subscribe to your newsletter.

For a bit more on answering questions in the comment section, check out this YouTube video by Ana Hoffman from Traffic Generation Cafe.

9. Add Some HTML In

Bolding (<strong>), italics (<em>), underlining (<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>) and otherwise formatting your text goes a long way towards generating more traffic with your blog comments.

Formatted text always sticks out (which is why you’ve read all the bolded words on this page). If a viewer scrolls down the comment section, your comment is likely to catch his/her eye.

10. Remember: Long, Helpful Comments Always Get More Clicks

Period.

Blog commenting is great, but if you don’t have something to say, then don’t say anything.

If your comment doesn’t add value to the discussion, answer a question, or express appreciation for the post, then it doesn’t need to be (or shouldn’t) be there.

It’s the commentators who write lots, add value, and sincerely try to help who are the ones who end up leveraging the most traffic to their own blog (even if that wasn’t their primary motivation in the first place).

Summing Up

Blog commenting is a vastly underrated free traffic technique that (believe it or not) does work in 2015. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s easy.

In short, there’s no reason not to do it.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think of blog commenting as a traffic tool. Who knows? You might even get a few visitors back to your blog! 😉

How To Use Google Hangouts On Air To Promote Your Brand

With the steady and significant uptick in algorithm updates since 2004, Google has notified the internet of the importance of quality. The king of search has always set the standard when it comes to search engine etiquette, and its search facility still serves as a major gateway for website traffic. Although the avenues available for large-scale traffic have widened to accept social media authority and activity, gaining traction with as many mass market distribution vehicles as possible is paramount to creating a well-known digital blueprint.

Many of the methods for online customer acquisition have changed, but there are still some free workflows that deliver as much value as many of the best paid solutions. The common ingredients to making them work are a little knowledge, and a bit of elbow grease. Once you get over the shallow learning curve, rinsing and repeating becomes routine.

Google Hangouts has proven to be a disruptor to the online web conferencing scene, in that it provides a free solution with many of the same features that were previously only available for a steep monthly price. While there are many advanced ways to integrate this technology, including utilizing flash media servers, Amazon EC2 hosting, and multiple premium WordPress plugins to take advantage of the technology, we will show you how to get up and running with the essentials.

A setup of this nature is not only feature-rich and cost-effective, but very powerful when it comes to organically attracting, engaging, and converting new visitors into clients, customers, fans, and sales.

Upsides and Downsides of Google Hangouts on Air (GHO)

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Streams live on your Google+ Profile and your Youtube channel (with most accounts)
  • Recorded content shows up prominently in search results (at the moment)
  • Highly engaging, trusted format that builds credibility, and allows for “selling without selling”

Cons:

  • Video resolution is not always the best
  • Need to be creative to promote your event beforehand (no pre-event permanent URL)
  • Takes a few dress rehearsals to understand the workflow
  • While viewing is unlimited, only 10 live producers can present the event at the same time

Basic Layout

On the left side of your main GHO dashboard, you’ll see a few icons that you will use to make the user experience ripe with collaboration and interactivity. Keep in mind that only users who access the Hangout through your Google+ profile will be able to take advantage of all of the features.

The top icon is for inviting friends to your Hangout. If you are inviting people who are already in your Google Circles, then it’s easy to copy the URL at the top of your Hangout window, and paste it in an email, or wherever. If invitees are not already in your circle, then there may be issues with signup, reminders, and the like.

The next icon down is used to popup a chat window, in the event that you need to have a moderated conversation with an attendee or attendees while the event is going on. Here, you can paste relevant links and resources that you deem useful for your audience in real-time. Another icon allows you to share your screen.

Near the bottom of the menu is a Google Drive icon that allows you to share documents during the live session. Attendees can collaborate on active documents without writing over the work of other attendees. The sky is the limit when the live video aspect is combined with the collaborative documents feature.

GHOA-basic-layout-1

Google Hangouts on Air Pre-Event Flight Check

Just as an airplane goes through a flight check, you’ll want to follow a routine with your GHO workflow for maximum efficiency. While snags are a part of technology, each delay dilutes the effectiveness of your live and post-event efforts. Keep in mind that as the number of presenters grows, so do the logistics, including different time zones, microphone setups, and internet speeds, to name a few.

The first step in synchronizing producers is making sure that each presenter has a Google+ account from Gmail. It’s a good idea to email presenters a screenshot of the Gmail dashboard, and direct them to the Google+ signup link that appears in the top right or left corner:

GHOA-pre-signup

If they haven’t already, it is a good idea to make sure presenters have filled out their name and avatar profile information. Other essentials include a photo, a tidbit on their personal background in the description area, and their display name.

HOA Presenter Setup

Whether you opt to do a dress rehearsal or send setup instructions to your group of presenters, the professionalism of your GHO presentation is directly related to your preparation. Coming off as unpolished does lend itself to authenticity to an extent, however, large gaffes will decrease the trust and credibility that comes with this presentation medium.

Here are a few general tips to remember when aiming for nice-looking presentations:

  • Maintain ample lighting (computer cameras have a habit of producing dark video)
  • Mute your microphone (unless you are speaking)
  • Choose a quiet area (even computer “humming” can be loud on camera)
  • If possible, angle your camera down on your face, and position yourself so that you are visible from the shoulders up

Combining Google+ Events With GHO

Creating a GHO event is a great way to leverage the search engine power of Hangouts, and increase awareness of your product or service long after your event has passed. Take these steps to integrate Google Events, and Hangouts:

  1. Create a Google+ Community
  2. Share your event from the share box
    GHOA-event
  3. Clicking on the “Text” icon will create your event
    • Name and write a description for your event (as mentioned earlier, no pre-event Hangout URL is available)
  4. Under your event advanced settings, click the “On Air” button (this alerts event attendees that your event is a virtual one rather than a physical one)
    GHOA-event2-1
  5. Just prior to starting your event, navigate to the Hangouts menu, and click the “Start a Hangout on Air” button
  6. Get the Youtube URL from the embed link located at the top right of the Hangout dashboard, navigate to the Google Community you just created, and click on the Video icon
    GHOA-video-button

    • Share your Youtube URL in the share box (now it is automatically shared in your Google Community and Google+ pages)
      GHOA-YT-URL
  7. Press “Start” to begin recording the broadcast, and “End” to finish

Your Google Community followers can now see which events are being live-broadcast, and view them even after the event. If you wish to delete the recording, you can do so from your Youtube Video Manager associated with its respective Google Plus account.

This should give you the tools you need to start running successful Google Hangouts on Air. Regularly doing so will give you consistent access to a pipeline of new potential customers and fans of your products and services. Combined with their increased shelf-life due to organic search, GHO can be a vital part of a comprehensive new media outreach campaign.

How to Get A-List Bloggers to Promote Your Blog

Imagine this: you wake up tomorrow morning and ten of the top bloggers in your niche decided to promote your blog. If that’s not enough to put a smile on your face, now imagine that they, along with hundreds of other bloggers, promote your blog every time you write a new post.

Despite what you may think, the key to getting this kind of promotion for your blog isn’t quality content. Yes, you do have to write quality posts, but more importantly, you have to write relevant content if you want a-listers sharing your links. (Note: In my below tips, I often include examples from Twitter, but these techniques can be used to get promotion on any social or bookmarking site.)

Types of Relevant Content

Writing relevant content isn’t about using a formula; it’s about tapping into what top bloggers want and need. Here are some examples of relevant content that can entice others to share:

  • Posts that Quote, Interview, or Mention the Blogger

One of the easiest and fastest ways to get someone to share one of your posts is to make them part of the content. People love to read about themselves. No matter how new you are, most people would be happy to give you an interview, as long as you aren’t asking for too much time. Even quoting or mentioning a top blogger can get them to promote your blog. For example, one blogger wrote a post that named Chris Brogan’s blog one of the top business blogs, and he shared the link with his 267,000+ followers:

twitter with chris brogan

Would he have shared if the list didn’t include his blog? Maybe, if it was spectacularly written, promoted his friends, or written by someone he knows. But the fact that he was named on the list meant that it got some promotion love no matter what.

  • Case Studies Involving a Blogger’s Tips

Want a top blogger to promote your post? Test out one (or several) of their tips and write a post outlining your results. Not only is this a great way to stroke an ego, but assuming the tip helped you, it is also an awesome testimonial for the blogger. You don’t even necessarily need to write a case study about your own blog. Instead, profile someone who used a tip from a top blogger and interview them about their results. Two for the price of one: a case study and an interview!

  • Solutions to a Problem

No blogger is without his or her struggles. If you help a top blogger with one of their challenges, not only will they share your post, but they’ll also start to consider you a peer, rather than a newbie. One blogger who did this extremely well was Derek Halpern, who reviewed sites for a-list bloggers (such as Amy Porterfield) to help them get more traffic and increase conversions. Be helpful and you’ll reap the rewards, just like Derek did.

Supporting Your Posts with Social Activity

Even if you write relevant content, top bloggers might not promote your blog if they don’t know you. That’s why I always recommend using social media to build strong relationships with top bloggers (which can coincidentally also help you with affiliate sales). Again, it is about relevant content and being helpful. I like to split this part into three categories: conversation, custom shares, and curation.

  • Conversation

First, it is important to actually talk to other bloggers in your niche. Pat Flynn gave me a really great tip for this, which is especially good for Twitter:

When you want a top blogger to notice you, find out who they are talking to, and tweet with those people first. Then, tweet with the blogger who’s attention you really want to attract. When they check your stream, they’ll see their friends’ names, which makes them more likely to follow you.

Conversation means more than “thanks for the link” or “great picture.” Add some value. If they ask a question, answer it. If they need help, help them. If they share an experience, share your own similar experiences.

Remember, it’s not about business. It’s about being relevant to the person’s interests. This works, no matter how popular the celebrity. For example, recently I shared a brief Twitter-conversation with Penn Jillette. Here’s part of it:

twitter with penn

He tweeted with me because I wasn’t trying to grab a piece of him with questions or promote an agenda. I was just a girl talking about a mutual interest in zombie movies. Of course, some people (like Penn) are more interested in Twitter conversations than others, but the fact remains that a-listers have people coming from them at every angle. It’s refreshing when someone simply wants to have a conversation about a shared hobby. When you become friends with someone, they’re more likely to promote your blog in the future. Sometimes, it’s about the long game.

  • Custom Shares

If you want top bloggers to share your links, it behooves you to share theirs first. But top bloggers have hundreds or even thousands of shares on every post. So, how do you get your share noticed? Simple: write something different.

When most people share a link, they simply include the title, link, and name of the writer. Instead, write something different that encourages people to click the link and compliments the blogger. Being unique will help you stand out in a sea of retweets, and people will be more likely to promote your blog if you stand out and they remember you.

  • Curation

Next, become a master curator. If you know that so-and-so likes a certain sports team, and you see an interesting article about one of the players, send them the link. Or if you know that so-and-so likes to bake pies, send them the link to an interesting recipe you found. Do not promote your own stuff. Simply promote posts, videos, and other content that the other person would enjoy. Be their own personal curator.

It feels good when someone says, “I’ve been thinking of you,” or “This reminded me of you.” We all like to be noticed and remembered.

For example, recently I saw someone send a YouTube link to an inspirational song to a top blogger, Jenny Lawson a.k.a. The Bloggess, who is extremely open about her struggles with depression. Unprompted, Jenny retweeted the link:

twitter with the bloggess

So, not only did “Miss Morgan” strengthen her relationship with Jenny, but she also got some free promotion. When someone with 365,000+ followers retweets you, you’re bound to get a few new followers.

Tools to Help Top Bloggers Promote Your Blog

The easier it is for a blogger to promote your blog, the more likely they’ll do it. Here are a few of my favorite tools for blog promotion:

  • Triberr

When I first started using Triberr years ago, I didn’t like it. My, how things have changed! Today, this is one of my favorite promotion and discovery tools, and I recommend all bloggers use it.

The concept is simple: You sign up, add your blog’s feed, and join groups (called “tribes”) filled with people who have similar interests. Each tribe has a stream filled with the posts of its members, which you can easily share. You can also start your own tribes and invite members.

Every time one of my posts goes live, I get lots of shares from Triberr. It takes some time to build your profile there, but once you prove yourself a valuable member of the community, you’ll get top bloggers willing to make you a member of their tribes so they can promote your blog.

  • WiseStamp RSS Email App

You can easily promote your blog with WiseStamp every time you send an email (there are other services that allow you to do this as well, but WiseStamp is my favorite). Sure, you can put a link in your signature manually, but an even better move is to use an app to add your RSS feed. That way, your latest post will always be displayed.

Yes, people notice. If you send an a-lister a short email to thank them or ask a question, even if they don’t reply, they might click on the link in your signature if the title is enticing. (Writing great titles is a must.)

WiseStamp actually has a huge number of email apps available. I just like the RSS one the best! If an a-lister reads your email, you might as well get the most out of it, right? It’s a really simple way to promote your blog posts without much effort.

  • Social Button Plugin

If I get to your site and can’t find a button to easily share your link, I’m probably not going to share it. Sounds harsh, but my time is limited. You’ve done all that effort to get an a-lister reading your blog. Don’t throw it away by making it hard to share.

WordPress (and other platforms…though WordPress is the one I recommend) has several plugins available to make sharing easy. My favorite is Sharaholic because it is easy to use, looks slick, and has a ton of features, but if you browse the WordPress plugin directory, you’ll find dozens of great options. There’s no excuse for not having a social sharing plugin on your blog.

A Final Piece of Advice

Any relationship is about give and take. As you build relationships with top bloggers in your niche, reaching out and asking for their help with blog promotion is fine, but those requests will be ignored if you don’t give back ten times as much as you take. Someone who tweets every link I post? I’m going to notice that person and say yes to a request to retweet a high-quality post. Someone who doesn’t help me in any way? I’m probably not going to have time.

Position yourself as someone helpful and giving, and people will be helpful and giving in return.